From the outset, architects were taught by architects who, as the city expanded in the late 19th century, were in need of trained assistants. Lessons were normally taught in the evening, as the students worked for firms of architects during the day. There was a long heritage of local architects, such as Maastricht city architect Mathias Soiron around 1800. Several architects worked in South Limburg, particularly from the end of the 19th century. Architectural approaches had to respond to new ways of thinking, as laid down in the 1901 Housing Act, to accommodate the ballooning urban population around the manufacturing industries. In the inter-war period (1919-1940) this market – particularly in the Mijnstreek district, which had become an economic powerhouse – was dominated by four architects: Jan Stuyt, Frits Peutz, Alphons Boosten, and Jos Wielders. After the war, a new generation of architects emerged, among them Theo Boosten (son of Alphons), Jean Huysmans, Frans Dingemans (who worked closely with urban planner J. van de Venne) and the more experimental Laurens Bisscheroux, who worked in the Mijnstreek.
Van VBO naar HBO
The dire housing shortage after World War II was a major factor behind the creation of a teaching programme in Limburg. In the autumn of 1945, Limburg's first intermediate vocational programme for architects opened in Sittard, at the Technical School on Rijksweg. Two years later, the course relocated to Brusselsestraat 77 in Maastricht, where it was taught at the Middelbare Kunstnijverheidsschool, later called the Stadsacademie. Among the originators and first board members were director J. Sandhövel and artist-priest Jean Adams who, at that time, was also teaching at the Klein-Seminarie at Rolduc. The programme was based on the guidelines of the Dutch federation of architects Bond van Nederlandse Architecten (BNA) and was confined to simple buildings, such as homes, living/working spaces, small schools and businesses and so on. To study further, students had to continue their architecture training in Amsterdam. This relationship – between Maastricht and the capital city – became a source of much debate in architecture circles, not least because of the distance between the two cities. In 1965 the Limburg Academy of Architecture became an HBO (higher professional education) programme, led by J.J. Stassen who gave the programme an international outlook and more in-depth content. The humanities were headed up by Jo Gijsen (who went on to become a bishop), urban planning and sociology by J. van de Venne, and the fine arts by sculptor Frans Gast.
Influenced by the Paris student riots in May 1968 and by social debate in the Netherlands, in 1970 Stassen organized a study weekend in Oteppe near Huy. This ushered in a shift in emphasis from sociology and research to, most notably, identifying course users’ needs and to study projects with social relevance. After a trial period, in 1971 the programme moved to dedicated premises in the Marres building on Capucijnenstraat in Maastricht, which had been renovated for that purpose by Bureau Satijn. From then on, the Maastricht-based programme began specializing in the reuse of old listed buildings. (The reconstruction of the old Stokstraat district made Maastricht the first Dutch city to engage in this.) Stassen was later succeeded by Piet Mertens, who made his name chiefly as a restoration architect in South Limburg (working on, among others, Rolduc and Château Sint-Gerlach).
Around 1990, a report published in 1990 by a national committee chaired by the then Chief Government Architect K. Rijnboutt caused something of a furore: the report advocated concentrating architecture programmes in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Tilburg. This recommendation, which was at odds with the findings of the 1987 report by the Herweijer commission, came to nothing. It met with protest from many quarters, not just in Maastricht and Limburg Province, but also from professionals and bodies in neighbouring countries, particularly Germany, which had close ties with the Academy. Clearly, the Randstad had yet to fully acknowledge just how much Maastricht and South Limburg – which, at the time, were labelled the Balcony of Europe in policy programmes – had developed, as evidenced by the Maastricht Treaty in 1991-92. Limburg members of the Netherlands’ House of Representatives, chief among them Minister of Education and Science Jo Ritzen, used their political influence to turn the tide in Maastricht's favour.
Everything changes. Maastricht remains.
Nonetheless, in 1987 the Bouwacademie temporarily lost its independence, but was able to keep going as part of the Rijkshogeschool Maastricht (state college), then as an offshoot of the Amsterdam University of the Arts. Under the motto Everything changes. Maastricht remains, the Maastricht Academy of Architecture changed from a six-year to a four-year programme. From 1994, J. Wevers became its director. Wevers coined the term inbreiding (infill development) for the revalorization and partial replacement of dilapidated inner-city areas in the 70s and 80s; some particularly striking examples of this are the housing complex on the site of the Maastricht Bread Factory, the EIPA building erected on the site of the squat dubbed ‘Huis met de strik’ on Hondstraat – designed by Bouwacademie alumnus Harry Gulikers -, Charles Vandenhove’s Voscour on the north side of the city centre, and the Herdenkingsplein memorial square on the site of a demolished factory. Also in 1994, the academy relocated to Tongersestraat on the corner with Kakeberg, on the site of a former print shop. It sat between the Peutz’ building of the Jan van Eyck Academie and the complex of buildings owned by Maastricht University which, since its foundation, has been dedicated to repurposing old listed buildings. Importantly, ties with programmes and colleagues in the Euregion, especially Aachen and Hasselt, and beyond were further strengthened. The Bouwacademie's recent history is worth researching further.