Studios in progress
Fall 2018
University City/ City University
Heverlee - Leuven

Bruno De Meulder, Annelies De Nijs and Erik Van Daele

An update of the master plan for the Arenberg University Campus has been commissioned. The fall urbanism studio will fundamentally question the campus model of the 1960s that created the mono-functional and exclusionary enclave. Contemporary university models that acknowledge the intense interaction and intertwinement that universities and the city have will be investigated. The studio’s hypothesis is that sterile campuses can mutate into vibrant urban environments and that universities can imbue a unique form of urbanism into cities. It is understood that respecting heritage and restoring ecologies is high on the agenda, as well is the transition to car-free mobility. Complex and mixed urban tissues will be proposed on ‘university land’ and the studio elaborates innovative development models that do not solely depend on the real estate market, but give way to shared economies, cooperatives and commons.

Fall 2018
North Side Stories 2.0
Concepts and Analysis Studio Fall 2018

Viviana d’Auria, Racha Daher, Erik Van Daele

The studio will revisit the Brussels North Quarter, a contested area with a complex history of infrastructural and social transformation linked to economics, changing visions, residential fabric demolition, vacancy, and migration. The studio will focus on the growing housing shortage in Brussels and design investigations will focus on the development of creative typologies and inclusive real-estate models that reflect 21st century living. Qualitative living entails more than shelter and dwelling and housing cannot be elaborated in isolation. Public space structure, mobility trends, and civic amenities enter into the equation. Through thoughtful integration of the multiple components and realities, as well as in collaboration with different stakeholders, the studio aims to create qualitative urban tissues for an inclusive North Quarter.

View the studio booklet via the following link:

Studios archive
Spring 2018
Guayas River Delta, Ecuador

Kelly Shannon, Bruno De Meulder & Viviana d’Auria

Olga Peek, Nelson Carofilis

Guayaquil – Ecuador’s main port and largest settlement – is a 70% self-built city located amidst the most biodiverse estuarine complex of the South Pacific. The city’s first low-income settlements proliferated in ecological fragile zones, expanding the urban frontier into the estuarine landscape.

The urban fabric and public spaces were crafted incrementally over various decades by more than one generation and through a multitude of design decisions. After living many years on stilts, piecemeal densification and basic service provision radically transformed the appearance of incipient ‘squatter’ living spaces into consolidated settlements – that today accommodate close to 40% of the urban population. The incremental tissue has an ongoing use value for younger generations and fulfilled an important role in absorbing new residential spaces, different neighborhood functions and income-generating opportunities and features a variety of block typologies, intermediate and public spaces.

The city’s rapid urban growth also severely compromised the estuarine landscape and natural floodplains exposing diverse urban communities to a number of water-related problems. In the face of climate change, this issue will only become more critical in the nearby future. Guayaquil recurrently experienced the immediate consequences of environmental hazards and is considered one of the world’s coastal cities at highest risk of damaging floods in relation to climate change.

This design studio aims to contribute to a resilient and sustainable future of Guayaquil’s consolidated riverbank settlements. The project explores the extent and the ways in which the incremental estuarine city can take up new social and environmental challenges through the construction of urban design scenarios. Students will engage in a critical exploration and interpretation of the socio-ecological dimensions of the rapidly changing estuarine living spaces across different scales: from the documentation of transformative urban morphologies and daily practices, to cartographic inquiry into ecological infrastructures combining the urban with assets of water and the natural landscape. They will serve to formulate a projective vision for enhancing the quality of urban habitats, while building resilient ecosystems.

The studio builds further on the design workshop Designing Inclusion (organized in 2015 by KU Leuven in collaboration with the University of Guayaquil and with the support of VLIR-UOS), and an ongoing partnership between the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism in Guayaquil and the ICP programmes at the Department of Architecture, KU Leuven.

Spring 2018
Zambeze River Delta, Mozambique

Bruno De Meulder, Wim Wambecq

The landscape urbanism studio Zambeze aims to investigate a future for the Tete-Moatize conurbation. Tete is the main city on the Zambeze river in Mozambique and the administrative center for the Tete province; Moatize is the center of the coal exploitation. Both urbanizations are growing towards each other flowing into one conurbation that embraces the Zambeze and its tributary Revubue, yet equally embracing the mining sites. The local population, that lives primarily and directly from their land, is most vulnerable to the alterations to the landscape caused by this growth and coal mining.

The Zambeze design studio will explore scenarios that build resilience within the local population and remediate the intrinsic tensions between large-scale development rhetoric and the local population’s subsistence; between the diverging ambitions of the PEOT (Special Territorial Planning document) and the local realities; between the impact of the mining exploration and the population’s dependence of rivers as the Zambeze, Revubue and Nhartanda. The expected growth of the conurbation Tete-Moatize can be seen as a moment to reinvent the urban landscape. Urban growth in Mozambique is often spontaneous, but not unmanageable. Settlements can be expected to appear in locations with good accessibility to basic amenities (water and fertile land, food) and good connectivity (mainly road movement so they can sell whatever surplus they produce). The landscape - with the Zambeze as its spearpoint - forms the inevitable base for this new urban realm.

The studio forms part of a series of workshops organized in the context of the South Initiative (with the support of VLIR-UOS), in collaboration with the Faculty of Engineering and Technology and the Faculty of Environmental Engineering and Natural Resources of the University of the Zambeze (UniZambeze) and in collaboration with the Faculty of Architecture of the University Eduardo Mondlane.

Spring 2018
Yangtze River Delta, China

Kelly Shannon, Bruno De Meulder, Viviana d’Auria

Stefanie Dens, Christian Nolf

China is presently one of the most aggressive countries in the world with regards to policies that are tackling climate change. At the same time, there are a plethora of ancient treatises and indigenous methods that can serve as inspiration for contemporary climate adaptation and flood management. The studio will develop a collective vision of the Yangtze (Chang Jiang in Chinese) River Delta for the near and long-term futures and thereafter individual projects, across a transect of the delta (and across scales), will be developed to strengthen the vision and more specifically create soft infrastructure strategies to respond to sea level rise and storm surge, the relation of the urban and the rural, hybrid morphologies and typologies of housing, social and private buildings in relation to productive landscapes.

Spring 2018
Climate Change & Contemporary Landscape Urbanism Strategies

Climate change poses one of the greatest threats to humankind’s future. Bold policy and political will must be matched by the precise understanding of science and creative and out-of-the-box alternatives to its future habitation. Urbanism organizes civilization according to man-made rules and the use of space, yet it is anchored to natural world, which the environmental sciences strive to unravel. In the KU Leuven spring of 2018, three studios, on three continents will focus on design responses to climate change, including water and forest urbanisms and the development of new morphologies and typologies to create new relationships between nature and culture, water/

agriculture /forests and cities, the unbuilt and the built and public and private realms. The studios will all work in one studio space, follow a common process, have joint workshops and reviews and culminate in the June/ July World Urbanisms Seminar.

Urbanized deltas—which host more than half of the world’s population and produce the lion’s share of global economic value—are amongst the earth’s most inherently vulnerable territories with regards to climate change and man has yet to figure out how to appropriately respond to the predicted consequences of increased vulnerability, which includes storm surges, sea level rise, both increased flooding and drought, and extreme rainfall. The hazard-prone areas threaten water and food security, human settlement and transport. Clearly the stakes, in terms of human and financial capital, are extremely high and need urgent attention. Design attention and creative thinking is thus part of the necessary ‘game-changers’ that must figure into a paradigm shift for such deltaic landscapes.

Spring 2017
Reviving territories of hydraulic civilization
Design explorations in the Jiangnan transect of the Yangtze River Delta

Bruno De Meulder, Racha Daher, Stefanie Dens

China has undergone major ‘catch up’ development at an exponential growth rate in the last few decades. This has come with major environmental degradation, with perhaps the most pressing challenge being water supply, as watershed volumes shrink and flood risks increase. Two-thirds of Chinese cities lack water – more than half of China’s surface water and its cities' underground water supplies are polluted. A third of China’s population faces the threat of drinking contaminated water. In the last 50 years, half of its wetlands have disappeared, and its underground water table is increasingly decreasing.

The green heart of the Yangtze River Delta is composed of a fine-grained mix of fishponds and polders, that interweave linear settlements and small industries, contrasting with the rigidly zoned towns and generic cities that were developed in the last few decades. This top-down urbanization contrasts with heritage values that were sensitive to water systems and their ecological and functional roles. Recently, an ‘East-West Ecological Wetland and Water-village Corridor’ has been proposed with the aim to conserve the described water landscape. This studio will investigate how new development pressure in this corridor can be accommodated for while still preserving the distinct qualities of the area. The role of water in the YRD is evident. Hence, how can water and ecological systems be taken into account while continuing to accommodate the most dynamic development ever encountered in the region?

Spring 2017
Tamanduateí River Basin
Water Urbanisms explorations

São Paulo´s original settlement laid beside Tamanduateí River’s banks. With the construction of the first railway network, this floodplain became one of the first axes for the city´s development, which explains the high concentration of listed heritage along the river bank and the railway axis. In the recent years, in order to re-qualify its former industrial floodplains, the municipality conceived redevelopment programs, the most recent called Urban Operation “Bairros do Tamanduateí” (Tamanduateí neighborhood).
Taking advantage of the discussions generated by these redevelopment plans, this studio proposes to envision alternative urban design scenarios, giving a wider role to the river in the floodplain´s redevelopment.
The design proposals address the complexity and conflicts represented by the superposition of infrastructure; floods and water management (river, rain and sewage waters); listed buildings and industrial heritage; productive industrial area; the need for housing and new housing typologies; the existence of informal areas; and the site´s current decay.
Differently from the ongoing municipality´s propositions - Urban Operation Bairros do Tamanduateí - this exercise attempts to focus on the river, the potentials of the floodplain, searching for a reconciliation, between waterscapes and city spaces.

The urban design explorations aim to answer the following research question:
How water urbanism and urban design strategies would be able to shift the eastern part of São Paulo, currently shaped by infrastructure?

Fall 2017
Alternative futures for the Antwerp Airport
Participatory Planning

The planning studio of 2017 focuses on the future of the Antwerp Airport, a small airport located in the southeast of the inner city. Various local activist groups, experts as well as some local politicians are questioning the future of this airport, as it is surrounded by residential areas, and emphasise the fact that the airport is essentially in a deficit, and survives solely because of subsidies by the Flemish Government. Nevertheless, recent investments have been made to enlarge the runway and build a new arrival hall. Recently, the initiative ‘Vliegerplein’ was established, a so-called ‘citizen-platform’, which aims to bring together the different voices and initiatives opposing the existence of the airport. Vliegerplein wants to start a dialogue and investigate positive alternative futures that are economically, ecologically and socially sustainable, for what could become ‘a fantastic open space of 190 ha’. This embodies a switch of strategy, as in the past the activist groups have been mostly focused on the ‘legal battle’ against the airport. In this studio we, together with the socio-spatial research office Endeavour, collectively investigate how we can support Vliegerplein in developing a vision and strategy to broaden their outreach and impact, create new coalitions, encourage others to envision alternative futures for the airport, and trigger a process of ‘re-commoning’ the space.

Fall 2017
North Side Stories
Concepts and Analysis

Viviana D'Auria, Racha Daher and Bruno De Meulder

The 2017 Concepts & Analysis studio revisits the cursed northern district of Brussels, an area that developed on the upstream flood plain of the Zenne and underwent a notorious, late modern urban restructuring in the 1970. On hindsight the area is actually the product of an amazing accumulation of large scale infrastructural interventions and upgrades: canals and harbor installations, railways and yards, trams, subway, boulevards, viaducts, express roads and the like, that continuously reconfigured the area. As it goes with big plans, more often than not, the reconfigurations remained unfinished. Today, amidst the general indifference for the doomed district, some interests for the area emerge here and there - that are however being simultaneously and increasingly abandoned by public administrations concentrated in the area. A general lack of concern characterizes attitudes that on the rebound make the area indicated for those that don’t find place in the city, such as refugees and the homeless. As specific as these groups might be, they perfectly endorse the generic lack of attachment with the area. Is there anyone in the area that does not radiate that he/she is ‘not from here’?

As in previous editions, the Concepts & Analysis studio aims to anchor the concepts and strategies it develops on a thorough and multi-faceted analysis of the area while simultaneously being on the outlook for possibilities to address the daunting social and ecological issues that are dominating our time window in a relevant way.

Since 2013, the Concepts & Analysis studio runs in collaboration with the Faculty of Architecture (KU Leuven) and various stakeholders.

Fall 2017
HH: NS / EW - Limburg

The Urbanism Studio addresses the long term livability of Houthalen-Helchteren, a municipality that, as so many in the world, is cruelly torn apart by massive traffic infrastructures of the post war era: highways and upgraded national roads. The supra-local infrastructures (predominantly NS oriented) and urban fabrics (predominantly E oriented) indeed mismatch dramatically and consequently reciprocally hinder each other.

The recent rejection by the Council of State of the last highway-bypass project (last episode of 40 years of contestation), makes evident that a new epoch for infrastructure planning, away from top down planning, but also away from one-dimensional heavily engineered motorway imageries, is urgently required. The studio ambitions to canalize the energy of this emerging epoch that embraces socio-ecological concerns and innovative mobility possibilities and considers pressing needs of today simultaneously with desired long term options while reinterpreting the resourcefulness of the territory.

Spring 2016
Antwerp 20th Century Belt
From Boredom to Urbanity

Bruno De Meulder, Racha Daher

The 20th century belt of Antwerp urbanized mostly in an impulsive wave after the second world war. Well planned for the mediocre Belgian planning standards, it simultaneously is a quite monotonous, predominantly residential area that lacks the density to generate urban intensity and is to dense to conserve suburban qualities that seem to remain the social consumption norm of the spoiled middle class. The 20th century belt is basically boring. The housing stock urgently requires reinvestment and its often oversized but simultaneously underdeveloped infrastructure. The required large growth of the Antwerp housing stock in the coming two decades has to find a place here, since the city of has no left over space and its inner city only offers limited expansion opportunities. Canalizing a new development wave that extends over the 20th century belt of Antwerp offers the possibility to rethink both housing and infrastructure, to anchor new developments on what is worthwhile and to radically alter the tissue. Otherwise said, the densification of the 20th century belt is a golden opportunity, not so much for an operation of optimalization, but for a radical requalification and redesign towards an urban environment for the 21st century.

Spring 2016
Kathmandu Valley reconstruction:
A pilot project for post-earthquake Bungamati

Stefanie Dens, Annelies De Nijs

On 25 April 2015 a 7,8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal. The hazard has destroyed most of the traditional settlements and monuments in Kathmandu Valley, leading to major displacement streams. A daunting reconstruction challenge lies ahead. Settlements require a sustainable development strategy that incorporates earthquake responsive tactics. Studio Kathmandu joins the UN-Habitat coordinated reconstruction and delivers the action plan that is developed with the local community. Urban design investigations result in re-development strategies that take into account not only the genius loci, local housing traditions and construction techniques but also (new) livelihoods, heritage and knowledge. Strategies operate on different scales and across sectors and address ecological as well as economic aspects, dealing with typological transformation as well as with water management, sanitation and waste collection. Tailor-made and coproduced redevelopment strategies are translated in strategic projects for key areas. In this framework Bungamati, a Newari town that finds its origins in 600 AD that was badly hit by the earthquake, is chosen as a pilot project for a contextualized reconstruction process. The studio is run in collaboration with UN-Habitat Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific and the Arcadis Shelter Program.

Spring 2016
São Paulo
Requalifying Infrastructure, Redefining urbanism

Eliana Quieroz Barbosa, Patricia Capanema Fernandes

São Paulo is full of dichotomies and contradictions. Regardless of sites and locations, everywhere, everything goes vertical whereas the city presents itself as an urbanized horizontal carpet. Its center is marginalized whereas its margins are occupied by booming centralities. Speculative real estate development destroys well-functioning neighborhoods and erases traditional typologies, with monotonous apartment blocks. 30% of Sao Paulo’s housing units remain however substandard. Mobility Infrastructure provision has been deficient while around 23 million people commute daily, using inefficient infrastructure that occupies environmentally sensitive areas such as floodplains. Today, however, after a decade of pervasive real estate speculation and amongst others a related collapse of the water system, the opportunity arises to reclaim the floodplains, while re-considering patterns of urbanization. The landscape urbanism studio proposes to unravel the city´s dichotomies by exploring how mobility infrastructure and landscape features could work together in the future development of the city. The studio is run in collaboration with McKenzie University and the NGOs SOS Mata Atlântica, and Parque Minhocao.

Fall 2016
Top Noordrand Brussel.
‘Exploring the northern edge of Brussels’

Bruno De Meulder, Erik Van Daele and Racha Daher

Brussels and its edge are considered as two urban systems separated by a green belt. Where Brussels is a compact dense city, the edge is a dispersed urban configuration. Yet Brussels centre and the edge function as one system, as communicating vessels. One of the important elements in this interdependence is the demographic pressure. Brussels is facing a demographic boom that will to a large extend influence the edge. This studio explores the form and the possible strategies of this extension. The main question is how to address this demographic boom in a non-metropolitan context. Do we consider the edge as an extension of Brussels or as a new urban system? A question raised by both the Flemish administration of spatial development (RWO) and in the study on metropolitan landscapes in the Brussels region.

Fall 2016
The Big, the Bad and the Ugly?
Returning to modernist utopias

During the 1960s and 70s, heydays of modernism and of the welfare state, a whole series of high rise social housing estates were realized in the Brussels region, quite a number of these operations ended up in the periphery of the agglomeration, an area nowadays commonly labeled as the second crown.

This last vast urban program of the welfare state –the massive housing projects that are under investigation in this studio-, is actually the first and only program that was set up in view of the social and economic integration and development of the poor in history, one could argue the last utopian act of modernism, appears to have been rather a dystopia. Mediocraly produced and badly received by critics, general opinion, and in the slipstream of that by policy makers, they soon were seen as a symptom of the problem of society and the city, rather than the solution. During the development decades, social housing was indeed seen as an engine of social and economic development. The last decades social housing rather became a last resort for the unfortunate.

The studio is then looking at how can their recovery be elaborated beyond the discourses of ‘dis-enclaving’ the enclave and of refurbishing architecture as to achieve sustainable building envelopes? Can the utopias of the past become the ground on which to construct contemporary urbanism? Can these complex dwelling environments become platforms to re-conceptualize the relationship between built and unbuilt, the public and the private, the individual and the collective, inside and outside?

Fall 2016
Antwerp Dam

Throughout the next years the Dam, a popular neighbourhood in the centre of Antwerp, is going to change tremendously. The city has the ambition to redevelop the old slaughterhouse site. When this project is realised, the small district around the Dam will be doubled in size and population. Together with ndvr and the local neighbourhood committee the planning studio aims to develop socio-spatial planning strategies which can improve the social and spatial impacts of the redevelopment. Through analyses, action research and co-productive practices the studio will explore in which ways these strategies can inform the formal planning process. This investigation will contribute to a reflection on the masterplan for the neighbourhood.

Spring 2016
Cyclic Urbanism
Linking Cycles, Rethinking Territories, and Imagining Futures

Bruno De Meulder, Racha Daher

As the global urban population continues to increase, cities are confronted with major challenges to provide infrastructures such as food, water, energy, waste management, mobility and public space (among others). In a time where resources for energy production are diminishing, cities need to make radical shifts in their urbanization patterns: linear patterns are no longer effective to deal with the complexity of the challenges faced.

Using an ecological frame of mind, together with cyclic systems thinking, this studio investigated three locations, Megalopolis, Charleroi and Antwerp, to explore circular logic for a productive and transforming urbanism.

Spring 2015
River and Road as Warp & Woof
Interweaving ecologies and economies in the deltaic territory of Banjarmasin

Guido Geenen, Tom Van Mieghem, Cynthia Susilo, Stefanie Dens

Banjarmasin (Indonesia) had a population of 625.000 in 2010 and is moving fast towards the 1-million inhabitants. The city is laced with waterways, influenced by the ebb tide of the Java Sea. At a certain moment it counted more than 100 canals, creeks and rivers. Following the contemporary pace of development, the existing city and its low-lying flood-prone periphery are being overlaid with a new scale of urban fabric and programs. The studio explores (and simultaneously tests) strategic projects and development visions for the Banjarmasin region that could guide its sustainable transformation in spatial, cultural and socio-economic terms. The studio is run in collaboration with the UN-Habitat Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, UNDIP-P5, the University of Diponegoro in Semarang and Lambung Mangkurat University in Banjarmasin.

Spring 2015
Connecting cycles, rethinking infrastructures

Julie Marin, Matteo Motti

This landscape urbanism studio rethinks infrastructures by testing their use as backbones for connecting (wasted) cycles of energy, water and materials. The design process will be drive by local transformations taking into account site specificity, spatial experience, construction logics, economics of organization, urban geography and morphology, industrial ecology and landscape design. The studio’s central site of investigation is the Campine Region in Flanders, which ranges from the outskirts of Antwerp to the central part of the Limburg province until Liège and the Meuse River.

Spring 2015
Water, topography and dispersion
Qualifying and choreographing the rural parishes of Cuenca

Erik Van Daele, Monica Rivera Munoz

In the specific context of middle-sized Andean cities this studio considers and investigates Cuenca as a slowly conformed and complex construction emerging from the interplay of its different layers. Characterized by planning authorities as chaotic, the relentless and spontaneous urbanization of the peri-urban and mountainous lands is only regulated through stereotypical land use planning. Generic in nature, these regulations neglect the spatial complexity and socio-economic dynamics of these proto-urban territories. The studio focuses on two aspects. On the one hand it questions the prevalent understanding of historic cities that conventionally treats the urban core and its surroundings as two distinctive, if not opposing realms. Rather, the studio focuses on the potentials of the surrounding parishes and on revealing the interplay between water, dispersion and topography as generators of scattered patterns of territorial inhabitation that generate a multiplicity of centers, urbanities and ways of life.

Fall 2015
Living on the Edge
Re-assembling the Brussels/ Flanders border by means of density and diversity

Viviana d’Auria, Tine Van Herck, Verena Lenna, Burak Pak

At the edge of the Brussels-Flanders border lays a landscape of incongruities and opportunities for designing the city of the 21st Century. Today large-scale, high-rise social housing estates of the seventies are trapped by the contradictions of their in-between position at the edge of both sides. The design studio takes up the challenge of re-thinking the role of these dwelling environments within an enhanced metropolitan condition. Five sites stretching from the 20th century expansion of Brussels into Flanders are a starting point for the studio exploration, rooted in a multi-dimensional and relational understanding of socio-spatial processes. With a focus on densification and diversification, the studio’s ambitions resonate with on-going interrogations about new ways of living together, not only in the “small world city” of Brussels, but also in the atypical and nebulous metropolis that surrounds it.

Fall 2015
Socio-spatial development strategies fro Oostende's East Bank

Frank Moulaert, Jan Schreurs, Tim Devos, Seppe De Blust

During recent years, the coastal city of Oostende has been planning considerable urban transformation in its Eastern districts, including new housing projects, infrastructural works, economic restructuring and construction of a greenbelt. These transformations will affect the neighborhood ‘Vuurtorenwijk’. The city has the ambition to empower this area to develop its assets and cope with pressures of gentrification, loss of jobs and changes of public and commercial facilities. Through analysis, action and participation and together with the planning and research office ndvr, the city and neighborhood committees, the studio will explore how socio-spatial planning strategies can inform the formal planning process.

Fall 2015
Upcycling Limburg
Samples of transition along the coal track

Julie Marin, Erik Van Daele

This studio engages with the government’s agenda to revive Limburg’s (partially) abandoned coal track as a regional ‘connector’ and ‘collector’ of soft mobility, recreational and economical connectivity, but also as ecological corridor and ‘smart’ distributor of recovered resource flows (heat, water, energy, …). Through systemic design, two local development plans along the coal track will be envisioned within Central-Limburg’s ambition to be a forerunner in the transitions towards a less resource-dependent region.

Spring 2014
Recovering the dynamism of the Belgian coast

Wim Wambecq, Erik Van Daele

The Belgian coast is the result of a continuous domestication of natural forces that until recently overpowered human capabilities. Both the intruding sea and the meandering river mouths flooded the polders while the dunes changed position continuously due to whimsical winds and sea sand deposits. Amidst these dynamic forces human presence was always volatile and nomadic. Increasing technical capacity to deal with forces of this scale resulted in an engineered urban realm: pumping mechanisms dried out polders; the sea dyke fixed human resistance towards the. Finally, it instigated the gradual disappearance of the vast dune landscape. The presence of harbors and inland canals modified the rich estuarine salt-to-sweet water gradient and broke the system into disconnected water bodies. Climate change questions the flexibility of this operational frame. It is however only questioned through its technically disguised form: are the dykes high enough? Can the pumps clear the water in the polders? Can we heighten the beaches with dredged sand? The studio shifts perspectives and, instead of considering technical solutions alone, imagines and re-invents ways for the dynamic coastal landscape to recover its ecologies while being inhabited.

Spring 2014
Cà Mau, Vietnam
Coastal Urbanism in times of climate change

Christian Nolf, Bruno De Meulder, Erik Van Daele, Claudia Lucia Rojas Bernal

Ca Mau (250.000 inhabitants) is a relatively modest town situated in the southernmost part of the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. As elsewhere in Vietnam since the 1986 doi moi (open door policy), the area undergoes a radical process of modernization and urbanization. The development of new roads, new industries and new agriculture practices are profoundly transforming the territory and urban structure. Ambitious master plans are being prepared to organize the projected doubling of the city’s population. At the same time, the region is facing important environmental challenges. As one of the lowest lying areas in the world, Ca Mau is exposed to risks of rising sea level, intrusion of saline water as well as deforestation and pollution resulting from the over-intensive development of aqua farming. In response and complement to the official master plans, the (landscape) urbanism studio Ca Mau explores alternative development scenarios integrating environmental issues. Climate change mitigation strategies such as mangrove restoration, alternative water management and more ecological productive processes are defined to simultaneously frame future urbanization. Four distinct and complementary projects focusing respectively on afforestation, agriculture, water and urban restructuring – form potential avenues for a more sustainable development of this booming and sensitive region.

Fall 2014
The next Eindhoven

Bruno De Meulder, Erik Van Daele

Eindhoven, a regional city in the Southeast of the Netherlands, is currently a superposition of different urban structures: a collection of villages, a company town dominated by Philips industries, an industrial city, a reconstructed city and, potentially, a brain port city. In all this stages of urban formation, the city was overwhelmed by infrastructure, in particular by railways and parkways, dominating the scene and dividing the city spatially in isolated neighbourhoods. Moreover the city has few conventional public spaces. Open spaces are largely the domain of cars and are usually over dimensioned. The studio focuses on the next Eindhoven and investigates the role of the dominant infrastructures in the city centre, the potential requalification of infrastructure into new public spaces and projects and into new destinations and urban quarters.

Spring 2014
Reclaiming the mining belt
A project for the West Rand - Johannesburg, South Africa

Wim Wambecq, Tahira Toffah, Hannah Le Roux, Bruno De Meulder

The Witwatersrand region is defined by its mining past and this identity and history are embodied in mounds of golden-yellow dust scattered across its landscape. This landscape is – despite the fact that most mines closed in the 1970s – under critical transformation through programs of removal, extraction of residual ores, intrusion of informal settlements and redevelopment into business parks. The processes of re-mining, fuelled by market, legal and environmental interests, are forcing the relocation of most dumps and tailings to ‘super-dumps’ on the edges of the city. For the moment, this colonial and state-supported extraction is seen as a huge reserve for re-development. Nevertheless, the memories of suppressive racial attitudes, economic exclusion and social uprooting deriving from apartheid are still manifest. The Witwatersrand mining belt has also been referred to as the “apartheid wall”, the ultimate buffer space between the historically ‘non-white’ South and the mostly ‘white’ and more affluent North. The mining belt is a third space that is somewhat shared by both sides, at least as the common economic space of work. The Witwatersrand territory suffers the bitter environmental consequences of over a century of mining, resulting in a toxic landscape polluted both above and below ground. With this in mind, the studio considered the vacant mining landscape of the Witwatersrand as one of the significant sites to fundamentally reconfigure the metropolitan landscape. The heart of the city is vacant today but could be turned into a space of commons tomorrow.

Fall 2014
Nordschippersdok, Antwerp.
Our Spot in the Dam!

Jan Schreurs, Pieter Van den Broeck, Tim Devos, Seppe De Blust

The popular and centrally-located Dam neighbourhood in Antwerp is on the brink of rapid transformation. The city of Antwerp aspires to redevelop the nearby old slaughterhouse site with the prospect of doubling the area’s size and population by two. Through a co-productive process involving neighbourhood communities, local authorities and the socio-spatial planning office of ndvr, the studio contributed to a project definition for a design and planning competition.

Fall 2014
The Big, the Bad & the Ugly?
Building the 21st century city by redesigning the modernist utopias

Viviana d’Auria, Verena Lenna, Tine van Herck, Burak Pak (Brussels) + Géraldine Lacasse, Jeanne Mosseray (Charleroi)

The studio interrogates large-scale and high-rise social housing estates as pivotal contributors to the re-articulation of the 20th Century expansion and overall urban structure of Brussels and Charleroi. Can these sites have the chance to break free from enduring stigmatization and become drivers of alternative development scenarios within a changing demographic setting? Can the rhetoric of failure be transcended to engender renewed roles? Can the utopias of the past become the ground on which to construct contemporary urbanism? The design studio tackles these questions through mixed methods of analysis combining morphological explorations with ethnographic insight. These dwelling environments will be explored as a preferred setting to redefine urban ingredients such as the street and the park; to re-conceptualize the relationship between built/ unbuilt, inside/ outside, private/ public and individual/ collective; and to help fabricate the (resilient) city of tomorrow.

Fall 2013
Brussels North as area of new centrality

Erik Van Daele, Ivan Llach

This studio explores the possibility of inserting new centralities or to strengthen existing ones in order to value Flanders as a metropolitan system based on small-scale local qualities. The zone where this atypical metropolis is most evident is the area between Antwerp and Brussels. Within this area lies Vilvoorde, a city that profited from its proximity with Brussels and was an important industrial environment, but that today is characterized by voids and brownfields. These, however, offer the opportunity to respond to a demographic and programmatic pressure, since it is estimated that 80.000 people and various large-scale programmes will have to be located in and around Brussels in the next decades. The studio challenge is to consider how these claims can be spatially organized. Will new centralities be introduced? Can the larger region become one new urban system? What is the implication for the fragile open space structure? What will be the nature of the backbones of this new urbanization?

Spring 2013
Cà Mau, Vietnam
Back from Planning to Planting

Henri Bava, Bruno De Meulder, Christian Nolf

Ca Mau is situated in the southernmost province of inland Vietnam – occupying the tip of the dynamic landscape of the Mekong Delta, one of the most productive landscapes in the world. A relatively modest town for Asian standards (250.000 inhabitants today), Ca Mau is undergoing a process of modernization and urbanization previously unseen with regards to scale, speed, scope and nature. In addition to these changes, in 2008 Ca Mau was the object of a very ambitious master plan for the horizon of 2025. In 2013 however, territorial issues that have been clarified, and questions arise as to the ability of this master plan to cope with climate change and pollution, calling for another form of planning. One of the important questions, which the landscape urbanism tackles directly, is how urban development can play with the forces of nature rather than trying to counter them. It investigates more particularly the role of (micro-)topography, of water (‘water urbanism’) and of vegetation (‘tree urbanism’). Each of these three themes leads to a hypothesis for the development of the city - the Water City, the Green City, and the Infrastructure City. Proposing and developing three distinct and complementary projects for the future of Ca Mau, the design explorations bring insight on the challenges and opportunities of an urban development model in constructive interplay with its environment.

Spring 2013
Forest Urbanism

Wim Wambecq, Bruno De Meulder

Charleroi is located in a valley between two distinct landscapes: the agricultural fields in the north and the magnificent forests (les Ardennes) in the south. The studio research was approached from the angle of Forest Urbanism as the starting point. The evolution of the relation between men and forest runs parallel to the different development stages of the city of which the dispersed industrial development marked the city most. Inside the ‘Bassin Minier’, the coal basin of Belgium, we are indeed inside a ’dispersed utopia of cities and academia’. The dispersed mining concessions led to an evenly dispersed urban structure. The studio interprets and builds on the man-forest relation and what it has meant for Charleroi by focusing on 4 themes: (1) necessity (the divine forest) shows the need for the natural element and the respect for it (creation of Charleroi); (2) utility discusses the change to an (ab)use of the forest (humans’ search for transcendence: the destruction of the forest in search for the sky), more specifically the start of the industrial revolution; (3) comfort, to deal with the forest coincides with the 19th Century science of designing the forest, mostly developed in the period of increasing infrastructure provision; (4) pleasure, where the forest becomes the desired element to interweave new urbanization.

Fall 2013
Molenbeek Underground/Overground
Oikos re-defined: infrastructuring the post-industrial resilience

Bruno De Meulder, Verenna Lenna, Christian Nolf, Florence Vannoorbeeck

Molenbeek (from the Dutch ‘molen’ (mill) and ‘beek’ (creek)) is one of the 19 municipalities of Brussels and counts 94.000 inhabitants. During the industrial revolution its growth was based on manufacturing activities around the Charleroi Canal. Today the neighbourhood is characterized by high concentrations of immigrant citizens and young unemployed people, though it also features a rich tissue of community-based organizations and other local associations. The studio will intersect the reading of the physical/ built space with the description of forms of use that are the expression of cultural imprints, social structures and consolidated / emerging organizational needs. Beyond stigmatizing statistics and biased visions, the challenge will be to acknowledge locally based socio-cultural patterns that can overcome reductionist interpretations, approximately centered on the poor/ rich and excluded/ included polarizing frameworks.

Spring 2012
Re-considering the village in the (expanding) city

Kelly Shannon, Viviana d'Auria

The Taihu and Yizhuang Districts are 30 kilometers away from Beijing and southeast of the city’s 6th ring road. The low-lying area presently has a population of 83,000, clustered in 46 villages and is expected to triple its population in the coming 10 years. The dispersed patchwork of residential, industrial and agricultural land includes wetlands and ponds that support fish farming and lotus cultivation. Within the Beijing master-planning ideal, the territory was envisioned as one of the so-called ‘green wedges’ between the first and second green rings of the city. Unstoppable urban growth has however thwarted such plans and the site will inevitably become an extension of Beijing itself—clearly reinforced by the introduction of the high-speed train that bisects the area (connecting Beijing-Tianjin). The study occupies a territory of roughly 180 km2 and is on a relatively flat ground (7.8-8.3 meters above sea level) with 14 of the 46 villages bulldozed in 2010 to make way for a planned commercial and office development south of the Yizhuang Station area. The landscape urbanism studio explorations were based on 3 main questions: (1) How can landscape be (re) considered as a spatial and productive asset in the dynamic transformation of China’s rapidly expanding capital city? (2) Can modes of resistance in the “normalization” and engulfing of villages in urban fabrics become new figures of “village in the city”, a specific and spectacular form of urbanization process in contemporary China? (3) What new housing typologies can be developed to respond to new densities and new forms of living in the rapidly evolving urban condition?

Fall 2012
A 20th century belt neighborhood of Antwerp in transition

Maddalena Falletti, Verena Lenna, Arnout Vandenbossche

Deurne North is the second largest district of the city of Antwerp. Having been developed as a residential fabric for industrial workers, servants and lower officials, today the district provides the most affordable housing for young people of working age. Many households are transiting in this part of the city with the perspective of finding more stable living conditions elsewhere. Delimited by the highways and the canal, Deurne is stigmatized as an island, unsafe and lacking in centrality. Certainly influenced in its biorhythms by the proximity of elements and systems working at the metropolitan and interregional scale, Deurne North is characterized by the coexistence of fabrics with different characters, whose average quality however is often not fulfilling the conditions of a comfortable living and social construction. At the same time it does not present extreme problematic issues that might legitimize a radical strategy of intervention. In the scenario of Antwerp’s forthcoming demographic increase, the focus on Deurne tuned the reflection on growth in terms of the pro-activity and the livability of an urban environment that is also part of a competitive and evolving metropolitan system. The studio explores issues related to mobility, climate change and social justice that concern the immediate future of Antwerp at a metropolitan scale.

Fall 2011
Antwerp North
Re-visiting the modernist city

Laura Vescina, Kathleen Van de Werf, Tom Broes

In the north of Antwerp, from the Albert canal onwards and pressed between the harbor, highway and railtrack, lies a particular heritage of the mid-20th Century urban planning. The area reads as an assemblage of large-scale and mono-functional fragments of the modernist city: an abandoned car factory, other large-scale retail facilities that have lived their best days, a multi-cinema complex and finally Luchtbal, one of the rare grands ensembles of public housing at that scale. For the rest the site channels most of the traffic entering the city of Antwerp from the north by means of the many infrastructures reflecting the spirit of the 1950s. As each of the mega fragments raises important and specific issues in itself (traffic, economic development and employment, exclusion, social and (inter) cultural questions among others) one seldom finds a reflection on the future of this ‘bottleneck’ in the north of Antwerp as a whole. This studio assumes that it is through the deep analysis and fundamental understanding of the complex interplay between the different fragment-based issues that concepts for future (re) development can be articulated. The studio applies concepts of urban design and planning and vice versa conceptualizes phenomena observed in urban analysis to overcome conventional approaches to the regeneration of post-war housing estates.

Spring 2011
Urban Frontiers

Laura Vescina

Cochabamba can be seen as a synthesis of the different landscapes and cultures that form Bolivia. Located in a confined valley at 2.570 m, halfway between Santa Cruz and La Paz, Cochabamba combines the cultural extremes that separate the indigenous capital in the Altiplano from modern Santa Cruz in the lowlands. It has always played the role of a mediating city, being the centre of national connections and the producer of agricultural goods for the rest of Bolivia. Cochabamba has also been known as the “garden city”, an appellation that refers to various dimensions of the urban imaginary. It pictures in a way, a historical relation with the agricultural hinterland and the bonanza of the climate, but it also hints at an urban quality that is the result of an early planning tradition that distinguished Cochabamba from other Bolivian cities. This is reflected in a series of boulevards, avenues and parks that made the extension of the original Spanish grid in the early XX century distinctive. It is difficult however, to recognise this urban quality today, as Cochabamba has been more and more growing as a city of contrasts. With increasing population and migration from the countryside, pressure over limited resources grows. Rapid expansion invades agricultural land and threatens fragile ecosystems. Informal settlements proliferate hand in hand with private housing enclaves, worsening social and spatial fractures. The studio proposes to investigate the by focusing on two opposite yet complementary urban edges north and south of Cochabamba. It studies the urban/rural interfaces and test strategies for qualification, densification and control of land consumption.

Fall 2011
Re-imagining a city (center)

Bruno De Meulder, Ivan Llach

Kortrijk is a medium-sized provincial Flemish city, located in the periphery of Belgium, but it is simultaneously a functional part of the dynamic metropolitan region of Lille. Today the medieval city structure of Kortrijk has the unique possibility to fundamentally transform the character of a very large part of its urban fabric. Not only various post-industrial sites, but also the voids resulting from the on-going rationalisation of the welfare state as well as the oversized and under-utilized infrastructures of the 1970s offer a multitude of potential redevelopment sites of all possible sizes and imaginable characters. Thirty percent of the inner city area could be considered vacant or becoming vacant in the coming years. This peculiar proportion and the way these vacancies are distributed and intermingled in the structure of the city gives the inner city of Kortrijk, in a certain way, a hologram-like character: a more or less coherent urban structure inherited from the past on one side, and an almost empty city centre on the other. This specific contemporary condition –balancing between intactness and erosion, between integration and fragmentation- is an open invitation to re-qualify the spatial structures of Kortrijk or to introduce new urban fabrics. It also opens the possibility – without the necessity of the modernist tabula rasa - to fundamentally reconceive, for example the dwelling environments and housing conditions for the secondary city of the 21st century. The urbanism studio proposes the development of an innovative and multi-scalar spatial strategy that goes beyond the conventional urban renewal practices concerning voids and consequently investigates the potential system value and constellational capacity of the multitude and variety of the mentioned voids.

Spring 2011
Hanoi, Vietnam
Water Urbanism

Kelly Shannon, Yuri Gerrits

Historically, Vietnam’s water paradigm was one of (1) integration of different actors, forces, aspects of life and (2) adaptation and a certain degree of accommodation of the forces of nature. Today – in a period of economic liberalization and transition from tradition to modernity – water is often regarded from a singular and dominating perspective (be it political, technical or commercial). As both urbanization and climate change challenges increase, water issues are on the rise while the plural and adaptive manner to deal with them is side-lined in the name single actors or single sector dominance. The design research focuses on Hanoi, capital city of Vietnam and its evolving relationship to water. Historically, the relation of urbanization to water holds a privileged position in the millennium-old city. Hanoi is spatially structured by water – in the form of the mighty Red River – Hong Song or Song Ca (Mother River) – and an extensive (yet disappearing) network of natural and man-made lakes. The main issue to be developed concerns the relationship of new development in relation to the river (which has water levels varying from 1.5m in the dry season to 14.13m in the wet season) and the lakes. Due to development pressures, there is an unfortunate disappearance of water bodies (filling of lakes for land speculation, encroachment along canals, rivers and lakes), resulting in the city and region’s decreased capacity for water retention, a loss of public space and an increased vulnerability to flooding. At the same time, the city’s protective dykes are being raised and extended. The main research question is what is a possible future for a renewed water network – ecologically, spatially, culturally, etc. – which goes beyond a reliance of defensive dykes and re-qualifies the lakes and canals.

Spring 2010
Landscape urbanism to respond to climate change

Kelly Shannon, Yuri Gerrits

Situated in the heart of Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, Cantho (population 1.2 million) has developed over the last three centuries in close relation to the dynamics of the region’s liquid landscape. Traditionally, the spatial structuring of the territory drew its identity from overlapping systems of water and road infrastructures, and settlements are dispersed within the productive landscape of lowland paddy and highland orchards atop dykes. This organized dispersal is tied to the intricate balance and interdependence of land and water, supported by the required hydraulic systems for water management and soil stabilization. Today Cantho is faced with the challenge to guide massive urbanization in a territory where the difference of a few centimeters is already significant. The landscape urbanism studio aims to generate an urban waterscape with a clear structural interweaving of topography, hydrology and soil conditions and a new urban morphology that works with landscape for water protection, retention, discharge and treatment – but also for productive use. Overall, design explorations are expected to nurture context-responsive imaginations about a climate-resilient and adaptable city.

Fall 2010
Water, forest and health urbanisms

Bruno De Meulder, Oana Bogdan, Christian Nolf

Turnhout is a provincial city, peripherally-located in the Noorderkempen region close to the border with The Netherlands and currently in a dynamic of growth partly due to a continuous influx of new (rich) inhabitants and the need of space for industry. The challenge that Turnhout sees for itself is to respond to these spatial claims while trying to maintain/enhance its spatial qualities. While city authorities are planning, following the structure plan of Flanders’ dogmas, to fill the last gaps of its open space in the inner city, the landscape urbanism studio tests alternative development strategies focusing on the strategic role of open space and nature. More specifically, it integrates the current water management issues of the city, whereby a new storm water retention and infiltration system should be developed and more room should be made for the surrounding creeks. Developing water as a tactical tool, the studio rethinks the relationship city-nature and re-conceptualizes notions of development. In parallel, the studio focuses on (the production of) health as a programmatic leitmotif. Present in regional socio-economic development plans, in planned projects for the city, and deeply inscribed in the region’s knowledge base and traditions in care, the theme of health meets the spatial characteristics of the region, with its abundance of green space and its stereotyped remote- ness. It is the ambition of the following investigations to provide a rich spatial and conceptual foil for the city’s ambitions to become a leading, health-oriented provincial city, be it not necessarily only the predominantly market rental modi that were envisioned until now. The design investigations on Turnhout, while looking at the structuring capacity of fabrics and canalizing flows of development in the land- scape, address ambitions to contribute to a fundamental rethinking of urbanism, transcending the stereotypes of the urban project and the structure plan.

Spring 2010
Erie Canal, Upstate New York
Liquid Urbanism

Amaechi Raphael Okigbo, Ward Verbakel

As a watermark in the landscape, the Erie Canal was one of the most significant transportation infrastructures in the world and helped shape United States by linking the Atlantic Seaboard to the previously inaccessible interior expanse of America. Today, much of this area is located at the intersection preservation of the artifacts of an industrial age and the promotion of visions of a progressive future which variations across cities due to time, compressions in the economy and complexities of land-use patterns. Has the Erie Canal therefore become an industrial artifact whose value can only be traced to it’s symbolic past? The course participants were asked to design a project with a compelling regional and urban vision that would activate recovery and new development potential. How can the historic narratives of the past translate into spatial interventions in a new water-based economy, and can these narratives be used in casting or re-casting new identities? The ultimate goal was to develop strategies to conceptualize an alternative future for the Erie Canal corridor by investigating and understanding the site’s history, the diversity of landscape conditions, and the challenges posed by de-industrialization. In dealing with large-format territories, the studio was set up as an investigation with no fixed program, no fixed site and no fixed problem statement to facilitate the fabrication of imaginative options for new interventions.

Fall 2010
Kortrijk: Structuring Fabrics
Re-imagining the provincial city

Griet Lambrechts, Michiel Van Balen, Catherine Vilquin

Due to an ongoing rationalization of Kortrijk’s hospital sector and educational systems, a substantial part of the inner city will become vacant, adding to an already large number of brownfield sites resulting from deindustrialization. This results, in a nutshell, in a vast mismatch between redevelopment potentials (of sites, of the inner city in general) and the city’s actual development capacity. However, this mismatch is a golden opportunity to re-imagine the role of the inner city in the larger promiscuous urban territory (in itself a periphery of the metropolitan conurbation Lille-Roubaix-Tourcoing across the border with France), to address the changing housing demands, to experiment with new housing forms and to conceive innovative production modes for residential environments. Kortrijk, while looking at the structuring capacity of fabrics and canalizing flows of development in the landscape, addresses complementary challenges for a fundamental rethinking of urbanism, transcending the stereotypes of the urban project.

Fall 2010
Ein el Hilweh Camp and the right to return
A refugee camp, a city and 50 destroyed villages

Ismae'l Sheikh Hassan, Laura Vescina

Palestinian refugee camps combine, among other contradictions, complex ‘urban’ and ‘camp’ oppositions. They were formed in 1948 after the expulsion of Palestinian refugees from historic Palestine and as a result of the creation of the State of Israel. The refugees would be prevented, by the new nation-state, from returning to their villages, towns and cities of origin by the closure of the borders and the destruction of over 400 of the Palestinian villages. Despite the presence of multiple UN resolutions asserting to the Palestinian Right of Return, 50 Palestinian refugee camps remain spread across the Middle-east in what is considered today as one of the longest (over 60 years) , largest (more than half the Palestinians are still refugees) refugee conditions in the world. The Palestinian refugee camp experience has been characterized by its vulnerability to different types of conflict and violence, its heightened uncertainty within a temporary-permanent condition, its extreme urban density (reaching over 140,000 people/hectare in some camps) and from exclusion and marginalization in the different host states in which they exist. The Palestinian refugee subject and camp still plays a central role to the Arab-Israeli conflict, where the ‘Peace process’ between the Israelis and Palestinians (since the 90s) have repeatedly failed and collapsed over the very issue of the ‘Return’ of the refugees. This studio is an investigation of two different approaches of dealing with the Palestinian camp that focuses on the centrality of the refugee condition to this conflict and its continued prolongation. The investigation is based on the case of Ein el Hilweh refugee camp that is located in Saida, Southern Lebanon.