I Love Belgium interviews Ugly Belgian Houses

With his tumblr full of photos of ugly houses, Hannes Coudeneys attracts thousands of viewers and followers. I Love Belgium met up with the creator of Ugly Belgian Houses and he explained the page as a means of expressing true anger about Belgian architecture and urban planning, told with a sense of humility.  Ugly Belgian Houses started a couple of years ago, Hannes had always felt very opinionated about architecture and especially Belgian architecture, which has a lot of “ugly in-your-face” houses, streets and even suburbs. It's something Hannes always hated. One day he felt inspired by all the ugliness and he started his tumblr. He admits that it's just his own opinion and that he didn't know anything about urban planning regulations in the beginning. Later on he started doing research to understand the regulations causing the urban planning mess in Belgium. However, he still hasn't changed his mind about what he thinks is ugly or not.  “The only thing that has changed is that I’m a little less angry and I try to bring the message with a smile. Funny captions that make people laugh about and not with the house (owners) for example.”   

ILB - How do you determine which house is ugly enough to be posted on the website?  

It’s a feeling. And it’s thinking about my audience. They don’t like the boring ugly houses. Too bad because those boring suburbs filled with the same utter boring houses is what I hate most. I could never live there, they would make my brain dead. Why can’t you be creative? Even on a budget. Those big firms selling those houses should be obligated to be creative.  So I go for the greatest, most noticeable ugliness in houses. It’s what I find ugly, I cant forbid anyone to disagree with me, in fact: do disagree! I like to debate. Mostly it’s houses who use a mixture of styles, renovate houses with no esthetic feel and things like that.   

ILB - How do you find the ugly houses?  

I walk and drive a lot in Belgium. I’ve been to the most remote villages and have a map in my mind where I have been. I didn’t document so I have had a lot of trouble to find them all back for the book (I needed permissions from the owner) I still have a lot of places to go to. Limburg still has a lot of secrets to me, and the same goes for Wallonia. I’ve been there, but not deep down Wallonia.   

ILB - Do you receive a lot of negative responses to your posts?  

One architect said I bully people and that one day I will be responsible for someone’s suicide. That was terrible to hear. I get 10% of negative comments from owners and architects, the rest is positive.   

ILB - Does the website keep you busy everyday?  

In fact yes, every day I do about one hour of thinking and posting, and once a week I drive around for 6 hours to find houses. So not full time but pretty heavy!   

ILB - What do you think your website says about Belgium and its architecture?  

It says that we are fun people with unique strong characters. We don’t care about what anyone says. We build our dream houses. And the fact that only 10% asks me to get their house off, means a lot of people can laugh with themselves. And that’s a good thing. It also says we have a high ratio of ugly houses. But I think that’s the image MY site creates.   

ILB - How do you think Belgian culture affects this push for independent style?  

Belgium is one of the countries with the highest amount of home owners. We all own or want to own a house. It’s our sole purpose in life. We have been taught to want a house. And once we own it, we must show we own it and do that by marking or building it in our OWN style. It’s my house and I want to show my unique character in the way I build it.   

ILB: Do you have a favorite Ugly Belgian House?  

So many, but if I had to choose one it would be this one because it has wrong proportions, a wrong mix of styles, everything's wrong.     

ILB - Do you live in an Ugly Belgian House yourself?   

 Yes I do. That was an economical decision but soon it will be demolished as the city needed the ground to build a school. Perfect.

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