Past laureates of the award, which was founded in 1968, include world-renowned Belgian academics, doctors, lawyers and engineers, but van Braeckel is the first representative of the automotive industry to be honoured; received his award on October 8th from the Governor of Antwerp in the city’s Provincial House.
Dirk van Braeckel studied electrical engineering in his home town of Deinze. He started work in Germany as a trainee designer at the Cologne design studio of Ford, which sponsored him to study automotive design at London's Royal College of Art. After graduation he spent ten years with Audi’s exterior design team before moving to Skoda in 1993. His influence came at a pivotal time for the brand and under his direction the company produced several key models, including the Octavia and Fabia.
But it is as the Design Director of Bentley Motors that Dirk van Braeckel is best-known. He moved to Crewe, home of Bentley, in September 1999 and was responsible for the Bentley Continental GT, a sleek, 560PS 2+2 coupé that re-established Bentley at the pinnacle of hand-crafted grand tourers. Under his direction the talented design team both honoured Bentley design tradition and provided a confident new design language for the 21st century. Subsequently Bentley’s design team developed the four-door Continental Flying Spur and the convertible Continental GTC, as well as a face-lifted version of the bespoke Arnage.
The Christoffel Plantin award is named after the 16th century Belgian printer and typographer who, from his Antwerp workshops, became a vital link in the development of typography after Gutenberg.