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The emanation of the commons, investing the transition of a city block

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The emanation of the commons, investing the transition of a city block

Tutor Patrick Moyersoen
Engagements : The Brussels Way, Legacy

The fabric of the nineteen century city block is generated by a way of life which is since then strongly evolved: family life, diversity, work‐house relationship, social life, notions of privacy and public life, formal‐informality, notions of ownership, amenities…
The transition towards a more sustainable and contemporary housing pattern is a necessary but obviously also a defining challenge for the urban qualities of our cities. The Brussels region for instance plans to refurbish more than 500 000 housing buildings the coming decennia. This definitively touches the architecture of the city and risks to erode the richness of the nineteen century, replacing it by well performing but generic architecture. The idea of the studio is to test by investing the scale just above the individual houses with some of these new demands, we can not only preserve and value the pre existing qualities, but also establish and give sense to a local network.

Between a single building and a neighborhood, a city block as an entity could provide a proper scale to answer some of the urgent needs in our cities. Think about the creation of commons, allowing social space, shared workspace or greenery, think how urban farming, water management, energy efficiency could be developed, or how local workshops could not only offer job opportunities but also contribute to a circular economy.

The focus will be architectural: how a more collective dimension can be installed dealing with privacy and sharing, with backsides and the architectural articulations of common facilities, between the heritage and the future, the natural and the built, to create a new organization of urban living in a qualitative urban‐scape. An architectural vocabular and grammar needs to be developed able to give form to an actual urban culture (or cultures) and able to deal with the richness the old forms.

The studio will put the architecture first. Concepts will be articulated, visualized and tested through design. Not only to experience if the proposal is operational in its programmatic production, but also to embody and communicate a proper architecture of this middle scale. The proposed architecture will give the involved community a specific presence in the urban landscape, between the private and the public, and that is probably the main challenge.

The studio is a journey exploring the existing realities and known typologies of common places, analyzing and projecting contemporary way(s!) of life in the inner city, designing new urban forms and materializing them into a significant depth, to become concrete architectural proposals that can be experienced and debated.

The studio therefore will:
‐ Work on a typical nineteen century building block of Brussels, understanding its history, qualities and actual functioning.
‐ Propose through a larger scale architectural proposal, functional possibilities allowing to create shared values and assets
‐ Take the design effort serious and push it until the architectural proposal is defined in its form and materiality, on different scale levels. Through a tectonical definition, the specific qualities of the middle scale can be tested and the architectural presence discussed.
‐ Start the design effort as early as we can, to be able to work, analyze, debate and rework, to be challenged and alter and reformulate.
‐ Stress good drawings, sketches, models as a way to invest and communicate about architecture

In the back ground:
Patrick Moyersoen is actual involved as researcher in an ambitious 4 year research called Renolab, part of the living lab call by the Brussels region. This research by the Kuleuven in collaboration with the community centre Bonnevie in Molenbeek, Kenniscentrum Woonzorg Brussels and other partners, investigates how to proceed and stimulate the renovation of houses in Brussels, whose owners are often in a precarious position and is linked with the ecological transition of the city, employment and empowerment. This allows the studio to have first hand information of the social and economical reality, together with real case studies in Molenbeek.
The research struggles with an important delivery gap between what is feasible to realize and what should be the goals (carbon neutral, affordable, adapted to actual and future living culture, valuing the intrinsic and additional architectural qualities)
Therefore this studio will investigate a different strategy by jumping scales. The urban block is an urban typology which stays out of the focus in actual policy making, probably out of fear of touching longstanding concepts of ownerships.

Collaboration with : Bonnevie, Kenniscentrum Woonzorg Brussels, the inhabitants…