The highly expressive and lyrical modernism of Jacques Dupuis reveals a forgotten story behind 20th-century Belgian architecture. Embodying lightweight structures, organic forms, perfect craftsmanship, minute decorative details, and almost no right angles—his work exemplifies a quintessential postwar modernist aesthetic while fluently blending art, architecture, and design.
Dupuis was primarily an architect of family houses; in 1948, he finished the design of Le Parador, a residence situated in the outskirts of Brussels—his first major project and an excellent example of the ways in which he freely implemented his eclectic ideas regarding decorative tradition and symbolism in architecture. In Le Parador, one of his first postwar Belgian modernist houses, Dupuis combined clean forms with the purity of raw materials. Accentuated by distinctively decorative elements referencing historical architecture, the house perfectly fuses past and present, and to this day Le Parador remains one of the most interesting examples of pure synthesis—combining modern and classical styles while drawing inspiration from Nordic classicism.
An elegant house for the family of a doctor—the architect’s own brother Paul-Victoire Dupuis—Le Parador was initially conceived as a modern château, nestled within an architecturally landscaped garden that featured both a shed and mosaic fountain decorated by a romantic sun motif. From the street, this L-shaped house is closed off from its surroundings by a façade of whitewashed bricks, heightening privacy. A glazed ground-floor living room opens into a garden outfitted with a recessed loggia.
Throughout the house, eclectic details abound: a volute portal, for example, and abstract, forged ceiling stucco. Conceived as part of a whole, all furnishings were designed by Dupuis with his fundamentally holistic approach, merging the elegance of aristocratic style with French art deco as abbreviated by modernist embellishment. Dubuis focused equally on the house’s interior and gave his utmost attention to each and every detail; he donned the hat of a decorator by crafting a sophisticated atmosphere through curtain and drapery application, devising the layout of the sitting space, and adding works of art—including a fresco by painter Georges Boulmanta and a small metal statue of a dragon whose medical motifs referenced the client’s profession. The first floor of the house was designed in a more modernist spirit, its interior lined with light wood and adorned with built-in furniture and a large fireplace. Geometrically shaped storage systems, a surprising flipping bar top, and a stucco star applied to the ceiling further enliven this unique living space.
Despite the fact that Dupuis later elevated his design ethos with the application of aerodynamic modernism, he never truly abandoned the classically decorative aspects of his craft, including his use of custom-made furniture and decorative artworks. Bedoret House, one of his most remarkable works in this sense, reflects Dupuis’s acute sense of organic shaping, both in minute detail and as a whole.
Bedoret House was built in Brussels for Pierre and Andrée Bedoret in the residential area of Uccle. During the 1950s, Uccle was a playground for Belgian modern architects; as such, many innovative houses emerged there. The clients, an engineer and ceramicist, loved avant-garde designs and gave Dupuis complete freedom to design the project as he envisioned. Bedoret House, built over the course of a year from 1956 to 1957, is a low, single-story building, devised with a richly complicated floor plan that extends to all sides of the surrounding garden. Unified by white plastered bricks and sharp angles along the house’s exterior, as well as large trapezoidal windows and a thin, overhanging roof that rests on subtle pillars, the sophisticated and spacious composition is at once practical and innovative.
The house’s interior, which is still a perfectly preserved celebration of Dupuis‘s sense for details, incorporates a living room distinguished by a sunken lounge area—an expressive and dynamic space. A brass fireplace of sharp molds stands along a mirrored wall, a fixture that offers an optical expansion of the space. A built-in cabinet serves as a multifunctional storage system, backlit by hidden light sources and decorated with an abstract painting by Raymond Robert. In the built-in library, classically shaped arches, reminiscent of Renaissance arcades, alternate with sharply cut modernist shapes. This unconventional historicism, especially during the era of high modernity, makes this library a unique example of its postmodernism predecessor.
Lined with highly sculptural built-in storage spaces and accented by a number of artful details such as a door handle from sculptor Antanas Mončys and small bedroom windows composed in the form of an abstract image, the Bedoret House—and Le Parador—reflect Dupuis’s artistic sensibility; in every space and narrow corridor, there exists the formal purity and lightness of his visionary architecture.
Adam Štěch is a Prague-based curator, editor, and a co-founder of OKOLO.
Photography by Adam Štěch