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The Radicant



Tutors:  Caroline Sohie, Cecilia Chiappini
Engagement: Urban Cultures

To be radicant means setting one’s roots in motion, staging them in heterogeneous contexts and formats, denying them the power to completely define one’s identity, translating ideas, transcoding images, transplanting behaviours, exchanging rather than imposing’ (Bourriaud 2009).

Source: Art in Ruins


The studio responds to our society in flux and explores how migration influences stories, objects, cultures and the ecosystems of cities. Migration is also interrogated as a function of the mind as migratory history is inscribed in our consciousness and informs how we perceive, reason and act within social settings.

The studio will look through the prism of radicant[1] cultural production, a concept Bourriaud (2009)[2] introduced to frame the emergence of a global modernity. He views twentieth century modernism largely founded on the idea of radicality and purification, in which society attempts to return to the origin with the aim of rediscovering their essence and rewriting their manifesto.

Countering this radicalism, Bourriaud advocates the emergence of an alter-modernity, an epoch defined by a worldwide culture which is radicant, born of differences and singularities, instead of re-enrooting in purist identities or the standardisation of imaginations decreed by capitalist globalisation.


The studio investigates the position of architecture in an era of multi-culturalism, in an age of hybridization, of cross-fertilization between traditions and modus operandi, of transient existence and global networks.

Architecture is not only a product but acts to various extents as a mediator in the dynamic relations between consciousness and context. To understand the opportunities and needs as architects, we must fully explore this distinction.

The studio will interrogate and dissect the complex dynamics that underpin a Brussels neighbourhood with a large migrant component; the scientific, the poetic and the imaginary.

The process of design is set out as trajectory of interrogating, translating and transcoding. We strive towards producing a public architectural proposition which is fully networked into its urban ecosystem; a meaningful public construct which allows for a multitude of subjectivities.



Critical debate unfolds around specific topics of relevance within a context of cultural hybridity including critical thinking about liquid modernity, the migrant subject, postcolonial deconstruction and radicant cultural production.

Each student is to produce a visual propositional essay including a short text (approx. 500 words) that explores possible architectural expressions of the concept of alter-modernity.


A strategic scan of the study area is undertaken in teams of 3 people, of its evolution and the current societal dynamics at play.

The site investigation then delves into the physical and intangible granularity of the urban fabric. The cultural landscape and consciousness will be interrogated through the exploration and mapping of formal or informal forms of ‘ritual’, the umbilical cord to a deracinated culture.

Discussion will unfold around forms of cultural production installed on a cultural landscape that did not anticipate it. It forms part of portable cultural practices, which belong to the domain of everyday lifestyle; such as signs, images, clothing, cuisine. But it also connects into global cultural exchange and identity formation arising from; mass-migration, international commuting, logistical flows and virtual networks of communication.

This provides a glocal lens through which to analyse the site as it reveals;

  • the physical-material and programmatic components of spaces,
  • the marks of human presence; types of use and appropriation of space, and the sensorial atmospheres created,
  • the voices; the immaterial forces linked to engagement, discussions, projects and imaginaries with a spatial impact

In teams of 3 people an interpretative score will be developed which describes, maps and illustrates different manifestations of contemporary rituals in space and time.  This study will enable the student to evaluate the cultural subjects at play informing the narrative of a personal proposal.


The research and contextual analysis are translated into a future design narrative. The student considers how an architectural proposition can act as a provocation or mediator in the relations between cultural subject and context. The studio will investigate how the built form can act as a catalysing structure that engages with the rituals and cultural memes that exist in the city.

Multimedia tools will be applied to test and convey the core proposition and its associated actions and program, as it unfolds. These activities will be undertaken on an individual basis.


The studio examines how the curated programme translates the critical (ethical – social – economical – environmental -political) position that the student adopts as the foundation of the individual project and which design strategies can be deployed to action the set agenda.

The student will test how the typological language, structure and materiality of architecture can be deployed to reinforce the project’s ambition.  Experimentation with physical models will be encouraged as part of the development process.

Each student is to develop a proposal through a series of scales, from research through to a building and urban scale intervention. The final output is the project thesis which will assemble the outputs of the entire process and will demonstrate the connecting rationale linking the four stages.

The studio encourages radical and provocative ideas that expose and challenge the status quo, are socially engaged and bring an alternative reality to life.


The Site of intervention encompasses two neighbourhoods in Brussels with a highly diverse migration history; the Leopold quarter and the Matongé quarter.

The studio is interested in the physical and intangible interface between these neighbouring quarters, which have known a very different development trajectory and remain in constant flux.

In addition to their physical presence, they are both defined by their mythical manifestation as the symbolic heart of the EU, and of the African community.

The European Quarter

The EU parliament and associated pan-European institutions are located at the European Quarter, which informed the demographic evolution of the area. The European Quarter is the most international quarter of Brussels with more than 60 percent of the residents being of a foreign nationality (BISA 2013). Approximately half are residents coming from the EU member states. Most of the expats first settle here, close to work, before venturing to other parts of Brussels, such as Etterbeek, Elsene and other parts of Brussels.

The neighbourhood is sometimes nicknamed as ‘the white-collar ghetto’, as local Brussels residents feel excluded from the EU Quarter; The communities do not often mix with the expats as they create their own closed societal networks.

Matongé Neighbourhood

The neighbourhood is named after the marketplace and the commercial district with the same name in Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of the Congo). The core of Matongé was formed in late 1950s by the foundation of Maison Africaine or African House (Maisaf) which served as a centre and residence for university students from the Belgian Congo. After Congolese independence in 1960, the district faced an influx of immigrants from the new state who shaped the neighbourhood in a style to resemble the original Matongé. Since then it grew into a meeting place, also for communities from other African countries located in Brussels such as Rwanda, Burundi, Mali, Cameroon, and Senegal.

Nowadays the neighbourhood remains very international, and despite retaining its identity as an African hub, the residents of African descent are steadily reducing from 9 percent in the mid 90’s to less than 5 percent in 2011 (BISA 2013), with a gradual influx of European immigrants.


To develop a personal position and architectural discourse about architecture as cultural production and urban culture within a glocal context.

To acquire a method and rationale that links the different stages and outputs of the design process in a meaningful manner with the architectural discourse.


Radicant, Migration, Hybridity, Urban culture


[1] ‘Radicant’ is a botanical term for organisms whose roots form new roots while growing, such as Ivy.

[2] The Radicant, Sternberg Press, 2009. ISBN 978-1-933128-42-9. Translated by James Gussen and Lili Porten.