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Architecture and Territory: Brussels-Lille


Promotors: Steven Geeraert, Bart Van Gassen


In 1986,  the Italian urbanist Bernardo Secchi expressed his concerns about “the progressive loss of the importance of the ground, intended as design material: ground in regard to construction, not only building, intended as a formation, as an order with its logical dependencies and grammatical coincidences, as a composition of single different elements, or as a series, as a definition of the surface characters where buildings are based.” He plead that we  “shifted our attention from the building to ‘il suolo’, the ground: to that surface which is shared by more buildings and which cannot be ignored or reduced to a pure technical space” and that we needed “to design the ground in a non-trivial, non reductive, non technical or unarticulated way (SECCHI, 1986).” Now 30 years later, we believe Secchi’s concern is still relevant. Therefore, that’s exactly what this studio will be focussing on: ‘the project of the ground’, civic interventions in the public and the collective space. A good city has good public and collective infrastructure.

This studio is an exploration of the interface between architecture, landscape and urbanism. An engagement with architecture and the territory. In the studio we will consider the site – and not the program! – as the driver of the design. Developing a project will go hand in hand with a critical reading and interpreting of what is already there in the physical world but also in the cultural, social, economical, political and imaginary sphere. The contemporary landscape is developed as a “surface on which to inscribe the world” (Elissa Rosenberg). Landscape architecture as the “art of describing”.

The studio will focus on civic architectural interventions. The civic infrastructure of an urbanized territory is composed by a divers set of elements: roads, streets, squares, parks, bridges, tunnels, promenades, water structures, water supply and sewage systems, energy networks, public buildings, pavilions, natural areas … Cities, and hence the civic infrastructure of cities, are confronted with major challenges related to massive (de)urbanization, increasing social inequalities and social polarization, demographic changes (for instance migration), water- and resource management, decrease of public funding, climate change, food production, pollution, pressure on ecosystems, energy supply, sustainable mobility, democratic character …

The development of punctual and precise architectural interventions to transform a given urbanized territory and to improve it in relation to one or more of the above mentioned themes. 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…). 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…  With these interventions we would like to introduce new perspectives to improve spatial structures – watersystems, public space, green infrastructure, neigbhourhoods …  – and social/cultural practices in the city. 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. At the same time a speculative map of the existing and future social factors/agencies is made. Those that can function as a driver to develop the specific intervention or those that are a possible result of it. Each intervention will tackle urban challenges and address existing and new collectives in the city to transform the physical condition of the city and to boost its cultural and social imagination. Through this making a contribution to a real democratic city.

The studio is also embedded in the ADO Landscape, Ecology and Design. Over the past decades, the focus in urban design practice has broadened from the built object to the landscape scale, in order to deal with contemporary questions on ecology and design. This creates new interdisciplinary opportunities, but also risks: it might lead to an unfortunate division between approaches coming from (ecological) sciences, engineering, policy on the one hand and design on the other. This disciplinary gap can lead to an outspoken specialization of different fields and a lack of an integrated approach of landscapes, gardens, public spaces and infrastructure on different scales. In ecological design theory and practice, two challenges currently come to the fore: 1) formulating design solutions to problems formulated in (ecological) science, engineering and policy; 2) integrating social questions in these design solutions, in order to develop a holistic approach that counters the risk of reducing design to technical problem solving. The ADO has the ambition to tackle these issues.


Students will be encouraged to use their personal capabilities to express themselves, their ideas and their project. They can experiment with the plan, the section, the modals, the montage, the perspective, the text.