An interview with Lucy McKenzie

So what do you have to do to get the house you’ve bought up to speed?

Well, at the moment, it’s...livable. Some of the floors are sinking, because the ground on the coast is not as stable as it could be. So some floors have to be fixed. But there are things with the roof. We have to get the bricks remade to redo parts of the façade. It’s going to be ten years of work. But there’s one floor which is not landmarked, and at the end of all of this, that’s the one that I can turn into a permanent residency for visitors.

It sounds like an architectural embodiment of a lot of your own work, right?

Yes. But it’s someone else’s history. It’s not my history. This thing about Flemish nationalism...I really have to get my head around it. Because I’m from Scotland. We have a certain nationalism, but in a radically different form. Here, there is a clear connection between the far right, nationalism, and the avant-garde. You have to understand: in Belgium, you couldn’t study in Dutch until the late 60s. It’s really explicit, and it’s not like Germany or Italy or Holland. There’s no single book you can pick up to make sense of it; you’ve got to talk to people, and the great thing is that I can live in that house, and get a feel for it. And all these narratives are very complicated. But what carries it through, in this case, is the quality of the design.

The full interview is available in Even no. 9, published in spring 2018. Buy issue 9 now.