Book Series Architectura Moderna, vol. 13

Architecture as Profession

The Origins of Architectural Practice in the Low Countries in the Fifteenth Century

Merlijn Hurx

  • Pages: 459 p.
  • Size:216 x 280 mm
  • Illustrations:265 b/w, 16 col., 5 tables b/w.
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2018

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-56825-6
  • Paperback
  • Available
  • ISBN: 978-2-503-56826-3
  • E-book
  • Available


“In summary, this is a very important book in setting out the workings of the building trades in and around Brussels in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century, showing that these were significant enterprises and not merely individual craftsman working in a craft tradition (…) Hurx also does an important job in tracing the exact way instructions were passed down and designs were formulated. (…) Hurx’s book (…) contains much of interest to all those fascinated by late Medieval building production and will remain, I am sure an important point of reference for many years to come (James W. P. Campbell in Construction History, 2, 2018, p. 130-131)”

“The book can only be evaluated as impressive. It reveals a mastery of a tremendous amount of archival data, and likewise shows an intimate familiar­ity with the physical buildings.”(Hanneke Ronnes, in Architectural Histories, 7/1, 2019, p. 9)

“The publication of Merlijn Hurx’s Architecture as Profession marks a valuable addition to the scholarly literature on northern European architectural culture of the long fifteenth century (…) This richly detailed and eloquently written book thus deserves attention well beyond its immediate subfield.” (Robert Bork, in Speculum, 95/1, 2020, p. 261-263)

“The level of Hurx’s detailed knowledge of every aspect of late medieval and early modern design, quarrying for stone, training of skilled labor, the building process itself, and the political and social competition that spurred it all on, is truly remarkable (…) As a bonus for those who enjoy beautiful books, this one is also a stand-out, richly illustrated with a plethora of carefully explained and clearly relevant photographs, illustrations, maps, and archival documents. Even the text font and page layout design are visually stunning, making Hurx’s book a feast for both mind and eye. What better testament to his subject matter could we ask for.” (Anne E.C. McCants, in Low Countries Historical Review, 136, 2021)


Merlijn Hurx is assistant professor of architectural history at Utrecht University. He is specialised in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century architecture in the Low Countries.


Fifteenth-century Florence is generally considered the cradle of the modern architect. There, for the first time since Antiquity, the Vitruvian concept which distinguishes between builder and designer was recognised in architectural theory, causing a fundamental rupture in architectural practice. In this well-established narrative Northern Europe only followed a century later when, along with the diffusion of Italian treatises and the introduction of the all’antica style, a new type of architect began to replace traditional gothic masters. However, historiography has largely overlooked the important transformations in building organisation that laid the foundations for our modern architectural production, such as the advent of affluent contractors, public tenders, and specialised architectural designers, all of which happened in fifteenth-century Northern Europe. Drawing on a wealth of new source material from the Low Countries, this book offers a new approach to the transition from the Middle Ages to the Early Modern Period by providing an alternative interpretation to the predominantly Italo-centric perspective of the current literature, and its concomitant focus on style and on Vitruvian theory.



Professionalisation in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and the ideal of the architect

Economics and the position of the architect

Design and construction

Different sources, methods and approaches

Approach and structure of the book 

Chapter 1. The liberty to design

Defining the architect

Designs for different media

Liberal arts and the guilds’ monopoly

Patrons and guild authority

Constelyk gemaickt, artistic quality as a licence

 Chapter 2. Urban building boom

Urbanisation in the Low Countries

City walls

City churches

Trade halls and town halls

Princely residences

Urban architectural rivalry

Chapter 3. The stone trade

The need for stone

Contracting building works

Benefits of the market

Expanding markets

Innovations in the production process

Managing the stone trade

Chapter 4. Quarrying at Brussels

Stones and quarries

Commercial importance and stone politics

Brussels entrepreneurs in stone: Godevaert de Bosschere and Lodewijk van Boghem

Chapter 5. Profession of the architect

Background and training

Changing conditions of employment

Evert Spoorwater and Rombout Keldermans

Undermasters and methods of communication

Engineer, manager, designer 

Chapter 6. Communicating the design

The drawing as planning instrument

Innovations in architectural representation

The design in words

Chapter 7. Strategies for ‘prefab’ architecture

Plain architecture by prominent architects

Repeated designs




1. Money and measurements

2. Projects by Evert Spoorwater, sources of table 5.1

3. Projects by Rombout Keldermans, sources of table 5.2