The general contractor, the architect and the engineer. The contractors' path to become professional building practitioners in Belgium (1870-1960)

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Abstract

The turn of the twentieth century was a turning point for the Belgian construction sector. The emergence of general contractors enacted a re-examination of job responsibilities among general contractors, architects and engineers. This paper analyses four general contractors' periodicals in order to sketch the professionalization of Belgian general contractors, claiming their new position as organisers and executors of construction, and their interprofessional interaction with architects and engineers. The content and publication context of the contractors' periodicals is described and they are placed within the broad international research context of contemporary construction related periodicals. Their content analysis reveals the strong international embedding of the contractors' professionalization trajectory. Furthermore, it becomes clear that it took a very long time to capture the gradual shift of tasks legally. Belgian engineers succeeded first in the 1890s, followed by the architects in the 1930s and the general contractors in the 1940s and 1960s. This slow adaptation of the legislative context gave rise to many conflicts about job responsibilities, yet also collaborative actions were undertaken, by the joint arbitration committees for construction related disputes. This allows us to conclude that general contractors, architects and engineers mainly engaged in conversation with each other in order to identify and outline their changing functions and responsibilities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-37
Number of pages19
JournalConstruction History
Volume32
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017

Keywords

  • Belgium
  • General contractors
  • Interprofessional relationships
  • Nineteenth and twentieth century
  • Professional periodicals
  • Professionalization

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