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Architecture & Territory 34


Tutors: Bart Van Gassen, Steven Geeraert
Engagement: Urban Cultures

The construction of a river valley, case Stiemerbeek Valley Genk

(ADO Landscape, Ecology and Design)

Steven Geeraert and Bart Van Gassen (involvement of Georges Descombes and Bruno Notteboom)

“… designed landscapes that operated as focusing lenses for knowing the natural world, that instigated aesthetic experiences that reduced barriers between humans and the natural world, and that functioned as physical catalysts for changing social rituals affecting the natural world.Elizabeth Meyer in The Post-Earth Day Conundrum: Translating Environmental Values into Landscape Design


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…) … 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… 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.


In this studio we will explore the possibilities to (re)construct a river valley in an urbanized context. In urbanized territories rivers and creeks are key elements in the cohabitation of man and nature (or better, the human and the non-human), the interaction between water and ecology  … Rivers and creeks are crucial in the development of a more robust urban territory able to tackle major challenges as climate change, ecological decline and so forth.

A sensitive and at the same time radical transformation of a river valley is the redesign of the Aire in Genève by the design team Superpositions (lead by Georges Descombes). This project functions as a leading example for the studio. Through precise interventions  a former canal and its double – a river – are (re)created into an ecological and social corridor.

“ The restored Aire river and its landscape are made vivid by sustaining the sense of tension between past and present forms, as if to resist the temptation to create a seamless new reality. The project affirms that landscape regeneration is a profound cultural act as well as an ecological process. The site’s natural and cultural histories are critically engaged – not as stylistic or formal references but as a source of meaning and identity, expressed through the sensuous materiality of landscape.” Elissa Rosenberg on the river Aire

www.superpositions.ch ; Aire, Superpositions, Park Books; Déplacements, Georges Descombes, Infolio

We will work on the (re)design of the Stiemer Valley in Genk. A masterplan was developed for this valley in a collaboration between Bart Van Gassen (and the team of Tractebel) and Georges Descombes. In this masterplan the first outlines of the future Stiemer Valley are defined. Focusing on ecological upgrading of the valley, the reinforcement of the relation between the valley and social actores, the development of a more sustainable watermanagement … With the students we want to develop more detailed site specific design proposals for different sites along the valley. Spatial configurations transforming the public space of the river valley composed by elementary architectural devices like platforms, bridges, gardens, pavilions … and so forth. Creating an added value for the human and non-human actors and forces present on site.

Every student – or group of students – will work on a different piece of the creek. The juxtaposition of all the interventions will result in a “complete” drawing, a complete reimagination of the creek and its valley. By this stressing the importance of a transformation made of separate punctual interventions.

Georges Descombes, involved in the Aire project and the masterplan of the Stiemer Valley, will also be involved in the design studio. And also Bruno Notteboom – prof Landscape Architecture KULeuven.


Methodological elements of the design studio: 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 (Georges Descombes) | Visit to the Aire project and Parc Lancy in Geneve with Georges Descombes


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

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

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.