There’s something a little Ayn Rand-ish about this story, although you won’t see it until the end.

Just think of Rand’s 1943 novel "The Fountainhead" about hardnosed architect Howard Roark who insists on designing buildings outside of conventional norms, and you’ll have an inkling of where the protagonist of this story ultimately goes.

Ugly versus boring

And if you didn’t read the novel, maybe you saw the movie of the same name with Gary Cooper playing Roark. If you did you get the picture of Hannes Coudenys, a 33-year-old Belgian who pulls for buildings outside of conventional norms, who says things like, “better ugly than boring.” He wrote a book to celebrates freakish houses proudly titled “Ugly Belgian Houses.” But I’m getting ahead of the story.

The Guardian reports that since childhood Coudenys was bothered by the “visual chaos” in Belgium – the “misshapen building styles” that he saw on his way to school in Bruges. When he grew up still annoyed, he started snapping pictures of the supposed eyesores.

Four years later, he had the makings of the book. Particularly notable about Coudenys’ take on Belgian architecture is that he’s not an architect. He told The Guardian that he just couldn’t help noticing the “chaos…we are such a small country it is very visible how much chaos there is.”

'Architecture chaos'

Dezeen, an architecture and design magazine, quotes Coudenys further on the “chaos” of his country’s architecture. "It is as if we first crammed every square meter with buildings before then deciding to put some streets through here and there."

As it turned out, Coudenys wasn’t the only Belgian to find “Belgium an ugly country” owing to the architecture.

Before his book was published, he put his photos in a blog - Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter – and attracted a few million visitors a year/ (I should point out that Coudenys runs “a creative agency helping companies with social media.”)

Anti-establishment point of view

The big response to his blog gave him the idea for his book.

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And that’s when he decided that building outside of acceptable norms is a good thing. This is where the Ayn Rand thing comes in when Howard Roark fights against the architecture establishment’s standards. Coudenys’ book celebrates homeowners who let their imaginations run free.

How free? How about a student housing unit with windows and doors tilted at a dizzying 45-degree angle from the ground, or a house with all its windows different sizes and shapes.

Coudenys now credits his country’s “willingness to experiment.”

What’s more, Coudenys sees the offbeat Belgian buildings as part of his country’s surrealist tradition. Native son Rene Magritte comes to mind, having made history when he pictured ordinary things in unexpected contexts,

“It’s nice to know that you have this kind of freedom to build and experiment,” Coudenys said. “The credo of my blog nowadays is that it’s better to be ugly than to be boring.”