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Architecture & Territory 24


Tutors: Steven Geeraert, Sis Pillen, Bart Van Gassen en Bruno Notteboom, Jolein Berger
Engagement: Urban Cultures

Architectural interventions in the landscape, In search for a common ground in All City/All Land, case the urbanized territory of the Neerpede Valley (ADO Landscape, Ecology and Design)

“To produce comprehensive “site-space” designs that will address human needs and yet respect the constraints and opportunities of the processes of nature.” Reuben M.Rainy in “Garrett Eckbo’s Landscape for Living”


The design studio is a laboratory where possible architectures are tested and discussed. Design experiments are worked out starting from a real context. Experimentation always starts from a (first) understanding of a site, of a material, of a structure, of a system (social, cultural, ecological, water…) … Through this understanding experimentation is embedded in what is already there, in existing forces. At the same time experimentation is also speculative. A design also deals with the unknown: unknown users, the unknown future, transformation of landscapes through the effects of climate change… Through the design a possible future is imagined.

The design studio links theory to practice. The relation between theory and practice is crucial in architecture. Good architecture can only be realized through a continuous interaction between theory and practice. By reading and discussing texts in the design studio a complex and multifarious relation between theory and practice is accomplished in the studio context.

The design studio function as a collaborative team. The ambition is to combine individual and collective efforts. Students will collaborate to develop joint analyses, fieldwork … At the same time there is room for individual expression in the making of design proposals. The projects of all the students are brought together in one collective drawing to express the joint effort to transform a territory.


The focus of the studio is to develop punctual and precise architectural interventions in the (landscape of the) urbanized territory in Flanders. We will search for spatial, social, ecological, water … forces to transform the territory in a more sustainable way. Forces that can function as a driver to develop key architectural interventions. Each architectural intervention will thus tackle urban challenges – climate change, ecological decline, social polarisation … – and address existing and new collectives – human and non-human – in the urbanized territory. This to transform the physical condition of the city, to boost its cultural and social imagination and to strengthen our link with the given world (the soil, water, animals, plants…). Through this making a contribution to a real democratic and a more “terrestrial” territory.

In this studio we will explore a possible transformation of the horizontal urbanization that characterizes (large parts of) Flanders. A rich varied, seemingly chaotic, environment that is characterized by tensions, contradictions, juxtapositions, …  but also offers opportunities, possibilities and robustness/resilience for those who tend to look further. Within this very divers urbanized territory – as well spatially as socially – we will through architectural interventions search for a common ground able to connect the diversity of inhabitants and users, the human and the non-human. This will create common goals, a common understanding of a shared situation. Shared between citizens living differently in this urbanized territory. Shared between man and nature.

More concrete we will work on the urbanized territory defined by the valley of the Neerpede. Situated in the west, in the urban fringe of Brussels. 14 kilometres between Lennik and Anderlecht from which the last 2 kilometre in Anderlecht is covered. With its source in Tomberg in the outskirts of Brussels to its flow in the Zenne in Anderlecht in the heart of Brussels the Valley of the Neerpede forms a sample/transect of the horizontal urbanized Flemish territory in which a diversity of its characteristic conditions are present. In Anderlecht a collection of high density urban neigbhourhoods and a structuring public space (streets, squares, city parks). In communities as Sint-Gertrudis-Pede and Sint-Anna-Pede small concentrations of housing and the presences of larger landscapes linked to agriculture, recreation and nature. This urbanized landscape is strongly fragmented and lacks coherence, lacks a cohesive narrative. We can speak of an unproductive juxtaposition of (very) different worlds.

This research is clearly a spatial and a political project. In a context where the opposition between city and countryside is reinstalled by politicians and political programs (see elections of May 2019 in Flanders!). In the light of climate change and sustainability some (political) agents want us to believe that the only place where we can work on a solution is the city. We are convinced that the power to transform is not concentrated in the city but is – in the condition of Flanders – spread over a wider horizontal urbanized territory. The studio will give us insights in the way this spatial and political project can be imagined.


Comparative research on case studies | Discussions linked to texts of the Reader Architecture & Territory | Walks on site (individual/in group) | Talks with inhabitants and local actors | Focus on the making of key drawings to express the design (mapping, montage, “tableau vivant”, diagram, detail) | Design sessions: individual and in group | In between reviews with invited critics | Visit to reference projects


The studio is framed in the studios Architecture & Territory run by Steven Geeraert en Bart Van Gassen. It is embedded in the ADO Landscape, Ecology and Design (with Bruno Notteboom) and the research program All City/All Land. Studio Architecture & Territory focuses on the engagement of the architect with the territory. A sensitivity partly lost during the last century – although an undercurrent was always present! – and now becoming step by step again key to any relevant design practice. By using this sensitivity in the design of buildings. And in this studio even one step further, by engaging in a field of design broader than the design of buildings in focusing on public spaces and infrastructure of different kinds and nature … More concrete: the design of platforms, pavilions, bridges, streets, squares, water systems, energy networks, river banks, promenades …  We believe that an experience in this broader field of design is key in an educative trajectory nowadays.

CROSS SCALAR AND CROSS SECTORAL | Studio Architecture & Territory stands for crossing scales and crossing dimensions. From the territorial scale to the material detail. From an interest in space, construction and materials to an interest in the social, cultural, ecological…

“… the land and public space as an expression of ancient culture, or as a palimpsest that evidences all of the activities that contributed to the shaping of that particular landscape and no other. Upon the tracks overlaid by the march of time, site interpretation detects potentialities to be nurtured and passed on. The reading is thus that of an inheritance and the eventual project a bequest.” (Sébastien Marot in “The reclaiming of sites”, Recovering Landscape, p50)

SITE AS DRIVER | In the studio we will consider the (constructed) site – and not the program! – as the driver of the design. Every intervention starts from what is already there – the so-called ‘As Found’ (A. en P SMITHSON, 1990) – on the site and in the larger territory: real and imaginary, material and immaterial, physical and social…   From a close reading of the site civic architectural interventions will be developed aiming to tackle major challenges urbanized territories are facing today. Like there are climate change, social polarization, water management…

“… I like the idea of discrete, tactical operations over the clumsy “totality” of the master plan. I believe that the largest of territories can be irreducible restructured through small, laconic interventions as opposed to the unbearable excess of everything – object, forms, materials.” (Georges Descombes in Shifting Sites: The Swiss Way, Geneva)

While many aspects of the Western world’s economic, social, and political life have progressively been ‘de-territorialized’ in recent decades, the awareness that “political ideas cannot exist without the space which they refer to, nor spaces or spatial principles without their corresponding political ideas and policies” has become ever more acute” (Secchi, 2014).

PUNCTUAL INTERVENTIONS | We will design punctual and precise architectural interventions that can transform a given urbanized territory and help it to evolve in a more sustainable direction. The focus is thus not on the development of an over-all masterplan but on elementary interventions that form the translation of the most essential options. These interventions can vary from very fragile (light, temporal…) to very robust (hard, permanent…). Since we work on punctual interventions – and are not aiming for an overall transformation of a site – the overall quality of the project is developed through the confrontation, the collision between what is given and what is added. In the studio an architectural intervention is developed in a precise relation with what is already there and is given a precise character, atmosphere, materiality, detail.

“Animals, vegetals and minerals have to come into the world of art. The artist is attracted by their physical, chemical, biological possibilities (…) Among the living things the artist discovers himself, his body, his memory, his gestures, everything which directly lives, and doing so he restarts to experience a sense of life and nature, a sense which implies (according to Dewey) many contents: the sensorial, the sensational, the sensitive, the sensible, the sentimental, the sensual. The artist chooses the directly lived, not anymore the represented.” (Germano Celant, Arte povera, 1969)

LANDSCAPES FOR LIVING | These interventions go far beyond architecture as object. With these interventions we would like to introduce new perspectives to improve spatial structures – water and ecological systems, public space, green infrastructure, neigbhourhoods …  – and social/cultural practices in the city. We want to develop true “landscapes for living”.

The studio Architecture & Territory is taught in the masters of Architecture in different formats. As well masterstudios as the master dissertation. In the year 2019-2020 following studios are thaught. Studio 24GENT –Restructuring AC/AL through punctual interventions, case the urbanized territory of the Neerpede Valley. Studio 34 GENT – the construction of a river valley, case Stiemerbeek Valley Genk. Master dissertation studio 44GENT – comparative design studio Brussels (BE) /Lille (FR) will not be thaught the year 2019-2020.

Bio Studio Teachers

Bart Van Gassen is an engineer-architect and urbanist who graduated from the University of Ghent and the KULeuven. In his work and teaching he is exploring the relation between architecture, landscape and urbanism. Bart Van Gassen is leading the spatial design team of the engineering and consultancy firm of Tractebel (instagram Spatialdesigntractebel). He realised over a period of 20 years now studies and projects related to spatial design of a very different scale and nature. His main focus today lies on the design of public space,  landscape design, master planning and territorial studies. He worked on the design and execution of several parks, squares and promenades in different cities in Belgium: Muntplein in Brussels, Maria Hendrikapark in Ostend, Gentbrugse Meersenpark in Ghent, Zeeheldenplein in Ostend, Kortrijk Weide, … At this moment he is leading the refurbishment of the Gedempte Zuiderdokken in Antwerp, the Materialenkaai in Brussels… He also made several master plans for contexts where city and landscape are intertwined. Among others the master plan IGLO for a high rise quarter in Antwerp, the master plan Groenlint which is exploring the Greenbelt of Ostend, the master plan for the Stiemervallei in Genk… Further he is currently participating in territorial projects like the reactivation of the Kolenspoor in Limburg, a research project to rethink the relation between space and mobility in the city region Ghent in the framework of Labo Ruimte, research on landscape and ecology in relation to the realisation of the missing link Noord Zuid Limburg…   Since 2008 Bart Van Gassen is part-time lecturer at KUleuven. He started with teaching the Theoretical Component in different studios. Today he is leading two studios in the Masters of Architecture. One in the International Masters and the Master Disertation in Architecture. Bart Van Gassen participated in the KULeuven in the ADO All Cities All Land and is now leading together with Bruno Notteboom the ADO Landscape, Ecology and Design.

Steven Geeraert is an engineer-architect and an urban designer. He graduated in architecture (KULeuven, 2000) and urbanism (KULeuven, 2004).. Steven has a broad experience ranging from architecture to urbanism. He worked with BGK consulting (Leipzig/DE, 1995/1996), ABETEC (Dendermonde/BE, 1997), architect Kris Vos (Edegem/BE, 2000-2003), Studio Associato Secchi-Viganò (Milan/IT, 2004-2010) and AG Stadsplanning Antwerpen (Antwerp/BE, 2010-2012). In 2008 he founded MAARCH with Andrea Carlesso and Stefano Peluso. MAARCH is a laboratory for architecture, urban design and landscape. MAARCH is based in Milan/IT and Antwerp/BE. Stevens personal focus and interest mainly lies on public space, landscape and urbanism/urban design. He was, and still is, involved in (inter)national competitions and projects. With Secchi-Viganò he worked amongst others on the renovation of the Grote Markt, Veemarkt and Sint-Romboutskerkhof in the centre of Mechelen, the redesign of the Theatresquare and surroundings in Antwerp, the Lamot site incl. the Vanbeethovebridge in Mechelen, the Spoor Noord Park and the Regatta Park in Antwerp, the masterplan for the Hoge Rielen near Kasterlee, a former military site that today is used as a reception area for youth internships and summer camps, and the masterplan for Siesegemkouter in Aalst, where the landscape is guiding the layout of an industrial area. He was also involved in the project for Hostel Wadi at the Hoge Rielen, a project that was nominated for the Mies van der Rohe Award 2015. With MAARCH Steven recently developed a vision for the village centre renewal of Dilbeek and a vision for the Immerzeeldreef and surroundings in Aalst where the present landscape defines ‘living rooms’ in which can be built. Nowadays he is working on a neighbourhood development in Lendelede, where MAARCH maximally tries to intertwine the village and the surrounding landscape; on the design of a landscape parking in the protected area of the Hof Ter Linden park in Edegem and on a study for the city of Sint-Niklaas investigating the implementability of the Tjallingii’s green lobe theory on the Baensland neighbourhood. MAARCH also contributed to the XV Venice Architecture Biennale with the project PM800 Post Metabolic City. The project presents a remediation-landscape strategy as base for the new future of the heavy polluted port of Marghera, the port of Venice. Recently the team Studio Paola Viganò – Grafton Architects – MAARCH was selected as one of the five teams that studied the capping of the Antwerp Ringroad. Since 2013 Steven is teaching at the Faculty of Architecture of KULeuven. He is involved in the International Master of Architecture and in the Master dissertation Urban Architectural Design.

Sis Pillen is a Doctoral Candidate in Architecture at the University of Leuven (Faculty of Architecture), Belgium. He graduated as an Architect from the Faculty of Architecture in Ghent at the University of Leuven (2014). He worked from 2014 until 2017 for Architecture Workroom Brussels. Architecture Workroom Brussels is a think-and-do tank for innovation in architecture, urban planning and other fields relating to spatial development. He worked in this period on projects ‘Atelier Utrecht – The healthy city’ and ‘Atelier Brussels – A good city has industry’ for the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam 2016 – The Next Economy. Further he collaborated on the projects: Revitalization Zeebrugge and the exploration of the trajectory ‘Oost-Vlaams Kerngebied’.
His doctoral research ‘Waterscapes in Transformation’ is a continuation and expansion of his master dissertation ‘a new Belgian coastline, rethinking the existing’. The research will give insights on the role of architectural design in the transformation of landscapes under pressure. And will approach water as a protagonist of the architectural intervention at the intermediate scale.