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Architecture and Territory

Tutor(s) Bart Van Gassen and Ignacio Galan Fernandez
Campus Ghent
Language EN
Engagement Urban Cultures
2023-24 Semester 1


Description of the studio:


In 2025 the university of KU Leuven will exist 600 years. In the light of this anniversary the faculty of architecture is launching a critical design reflection about the relation between city and university in cities in Flanders where the KU Leuven is present (Leuven, Ghent, Kortrijk…). Several design studio’s and master dissertations in Ghent and Leuven will focus on this topic the coming two years. The overarching name of this research is “600ha KULEUVEN”. The results of this research will be presented in an exhibition in 2025. This studio Architecture&Territory is the kick off of this design research in the Masters or Architecture in Ghent. In parallel a design studio will be organised in the Master of Urbanism in Ghent/Brussels.

“How can we develop meaningful relations between CITY AND UNIVERSITY?” And, “How can a more sustainable future city benefit from a more sustainable future university and the other way around?” can be considered as the overarching research questions of this design reflection. There are many – often contested – ideas of how this future city or university should look like and should work. We as architects need to take a position in this debate and formulate actions, projects, designs. A possible way to start is to start from our own experiences in living in cities and in being part of a university. We can evaluate our daily live, needs and actions and from there propose a positive change, a shift, a different organization of CITY AND UNIVERSITY. Or better a different architecture. Another entry point can be researching different cases studies of valuable cohabitation of CITY AND UNIVERSITY. And from this research developing proposals for our specific case in Ghent.

In the Ghent context a reflection on CITY AND UNIVERSITY can only be relevant when we take into account the whole educative landscape present in the city. And more in particular the cohabitation between KU Leuven and the University of Ghent. We will focus on a part of the city where there is today an important concentration of campuses of UGENT and KU Leuven. Two important factors will transform this cohabitation in the coming years. The UGENT decided in “UGENT verbeeldt 2050″ to concentrate their core activities on a selection of campuses in the centre of Ghent and the southern fringe of the city. And the KU Leuven is in search for expansion to accommodate the growing activities of research and education. In our focus area the campuses of the UGENT will be (partly) abandoned in different phases the coming two decades. A research is needed to investigate how these campuses can help to transform the CITY AND UNIVERSITY relations in a more sustainable way. What to do with the abandoned buildings and open spaces? Can they accommodate other urban programs? Or should this be the opportunity to enhance open spaces in the city, to create a moment of decompression in the dense city? Or to shift the focus towards ecology or water? And more specific: what can this mean for the KU Leuven and its students and researchers in terms of space for education and research or space to live?µ

Studio Architecture & Territory in 600 HA KULEUVEN

The research questions formulated above are massive. The STUDIO ARCHITECTURE & TERRITORY defines some borders, a frame in which to work. The STUDIO ARCHITECTURE AND TERRITORY operates on the INTERFACE BETWEEN ARCHITECTURE, URBANISM AND LANDSCAPE. The challenges and urgencies are approached from the perspective of the OPEN SPACES in the city. And their role as social, ecological and cultural drivers of the urban environment. In the studio we will start from a sensitive reading and interpretation of the given situation and will end with precise architectural interventions transforming the open spaces. Interventions that are able to create a meaningful shift in the relation between CITY AND UNIVERSITY.

Studio Architecture & Territory – general framework

The studios ARCHITECTURE AND TERRITORY focuses on the relation between architecture & territory. On the importance of the open space in developing and transforming a territory. The studio deals with precise (and often punctual) architectural interventions that transform the public space and the landscape. Within a diverse urbanized territory – as well spatially as socially – we will search for the common ground that can connect the diversity of inhabitants and users, the human and the non-human, by means of architectural interventions. This will create common goals, a common understanding of a shared situation. Shared between citizens living differently in this urbanized territory. Shared between the human and the non-human.

In our search for solutions we will investigate and mobilize spatial, social and ecological forces that can support a sustainable transformation of a specific territory. 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 more democratic and a more “terrestrial” (see a.o. BRUNO LATOUR) territory and stimulating a more “terrestrial” way of life.

This design research needs to be framed as a spatial as well as a political project. We witnessed these decades – now the consequences of climate change become undeniable – an opposition between “people” (social, economy…) and “nature” (ecology, climate …) in politics. Where some of the main actors capitalized on the fact that choosing for climate is choosing against people. We are convinced that the solution lies in connecting the ecological and the social instead of treating them as two separate worlds. The studio will give us insights in the way this spatial and political project can be imagined.

Expected output:

The output will be developed in four steps. Starting with groupwork and ending with individual work.

STEP 1: exploration of the site and defining relevant urgencies (week 1 until 3) – groupwork

We will spend the first three weeks on site exploring the territory intensely. By walking, taking pictures, doing interviews, sketching, making short movies … the site will be interpreted. Urgencies will be detected in relation to the general theme of CITY AND UNIVERSITY. To develop complementary readings of the territory each group will be given a specific starting point: a specific area with the larger frame and/or a specific thematic.

STEP 2: developing design experiments (week 4 until 6) – groupwork

From the fourth week we will start to develop design experiments to create a more vital and robust CITY and UNIVERSITY and a meaningful symbiosis between CITY AND UNIVERSITY. These design experiments are immediately explored in concrete design proposals (meaning precise in dimensions, materiality, position …!) on specific sites in the territory of intervention.

STEP 3: workshop week 7 in collaboration with the MASTER IN URBANISM

In the workshop week we will make an interdisciplinary team of architects, urbanists, landscape architects and experts to challenge the work that is developed in the first six weeks. Organisation will be further developed in collaboration with the MASTER IN URBANISM. In this week an interactive moment is also planned with students of Leuven.

STEP 4: designing architectural interventions (week 8 until 14) – individual

From week 8 onwards we will focus on individual development of a design proposal. This will result into detailed architectural drawings and models (scale varies from 1/200 to 1/20).


During the semester a site visit will be planned to the Zuidpark which is under construction and where Bart Van Gassen (working for Tractebel) took the role of lead designer together with Georges Descombes.

Bio Studio Teachers

Bart Van Gassen is an engineer-architect and urbanist who graduated from the University of Ghent and the KU Leuven. 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 design, engineering and consultancy firm of Tractebel (instagram Spatialdesigntractebel). He realised over a period of 20 years 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 – Dok Zuid – in Antwerp, the Materialenkaai in Brussels, the Vaartkom in Leuven… He developed different kinds of territorial projects for contexts where city and landscape are intertwined. Among others the master plan IGLO for a high rise quarter in Antwerp, the master plan Groen lint which is exploring the Greenbelt of Ostend, the master plan for the Stiemervallei in Genk… Further he recently participated 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 Rond Ronse… Since 2008 Bart Van Gassen is part-time lecturer at KU Leuven. He is leading different studios in the Masters of Architecture. And from 2021 he also teaches in KU Leuven a course in landscape architecture theory and history together with Bruno Notteboom. Bart Van Gassen participated in the KU Leuven in the ADO All Cities All Land and is now leading together with Bruno Notteboom the ADO Landscape, Ecology and Design.

Ignacio Galán is an architect and researcher, graduated from KU Leuven and San Jorge University. His main interests relate to the adaptation and re-use of built heritage. As a practitioner, Ignacio has worked since 2013 for different firms in Belgium (OYO Architects, Abscis Architecten), Spain (Bernabad Arquitectura), and developed his own projects. His work covers different scales, from the urban design to the built object. His doctoral research focuses on the role of heritage in the re-occupation of depopulated settlements in shrinking rural territories by (new) local communities. This multiscale socio-spatial research analyses the recent transformation processes of the territory, settlements and built spaces within the mountain area of the Spanish Central Pyrenees. In the past years, Ignacio has taught different research and design courses at KU Leuven (‘Urban Projects, Collective Spaces, Local Identities’, ‘Participation in International Projects’). He (co-)supervised several Master’s thesis at the Faculty of Architecture and Raymond Lemaire Centre for Conservation, from KU Leuven, as well as the Institut für Architektur Muttenz, Switzerland. He has co-organised international workshops in Europe (Netherlands, Spain) and South America (Bolivia). He is member of the research group ‘Urban Projects, Collective Spaces & Local Identities’, and part of the ‘Urban Design, Urbanism, Landscape and Planning’ unit.

References/Further reading:

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Deming, M. Elen. Landscape Architecture Research: Inquiry, Strategy, Design. Hoboken, N.J: Wiley, 2011. Print.

Descombes, Georges. (1999). “Shifting Sites: the Swiss way, Geneva” in James Corner, ed., Recovering landscape: essays in contemporary landscape architecture, New York: Princeton Architectural Press, pp. 79-86.

Descombes, Georges et.al., Aire, Zürich 2018

De Sola Morales, Manuel. (1992). “Public Spaces/Collective Spaces” in La Vanguardia, Eckbo, Garrett Landscape for Living, New York 1950

Eisenstein, Sergei: “Montage” in Sergei Eisenstein, Richard Taylor (ed.), Towards a Theory of Montage: Sergei Eisenstein Selected Works, Volume 2

Foxley, Alice. Distance and Engagement: Walking, Thinking and Making Landscape; Vogt Landscape Architects. Baden: Lars Müller, 2010. Print.

Latour, Bruno Oog in oog met Gaia, Acht lezingen over het nieuwe klimaatregime, Amsterdam 2017 Latour, Bruno Waar ben ik? Lockdownlessen voor aardbewoners, Amsterdam 2021

Latour, Bruno Het parlement van de dingen, Amsterdam 2020

Marot, Sébastien. (1995). “The landscape as alternative” in K. Vandermarliere, ed., The landscape: Four International Landscape Designers. Antwerpen: deSingel, pp. 11-36

Marot, Sebastien: “The Reclaiming of Sites” in James Corner (ed.), Recovering Landscapes

Meyer, Elizabeth K., “Sustaining Beauty: The Performance of Appearance: A Manifesto in Three Parts”, Journal of Landscape Architecture 3/1 (2008), 6–23: 21.

Meyer, Elizabeth K., “Beyond “Sustaining Beauty”: Musings on a Manifesto”, in: M. Elen Deming (ed.), Values in Landscape Architecture and Environmental Design: Finding Center in Theory and Practice (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2015), 30–53: 37.

Rosenberg, Elissa: “l’Imagination Topographique” in Les Carnets du Paysage, nr. 8 été/printemps 2002

Sennett, Richard: “Democratic Spaces” in Salomon Frausto (ed.), The Berlage Survey of the Culture, Education, and Practice of Architecture and Urbanism

Sennett, Richard, Building and Dwelling, Ethics for the City, New York 2018 Sennett, Richard, Together, New York 2012

Secchi, Bernardo. (1992). “Urbanistica descrittiva” in Casabella, n. 588, pp. 22-23, 61-62 Secchi, Bernardo. (1986). “Progetto di suolo” in Casabella, n. 520, pp. 19-23

Secchi, Bernardo; Viganò Paola. (2012). La ville poreuse: Un projet pour le Grand Paris et la métropole de l’après-Kyoto, Geneva: Metispresses

Smithson Alison and Peter (1991). “The ‘As Found’ and the ‘Found’” in David Robbins, ed., The independent group: Post war Britain and the aesthetics of plenty, Cambridge: Mass MIT press, pp. 201- 202.

Tilly Nico, Klijn Olv, Borsboom Judith, Looije Martin (ed) Urban metabolism: sustainable development of Rotterdam, Rotterdam 2014

Treib, Mark and Imbert, Dorothée Garrett Eckbo: Modern Landscapes for Living, Berkeley 1997

Ungers Oswald Mathias and Koolhaas Rem with Riemann Peter, Kollhoff Hans and Ovaska Arthur The city in the city. Berlin: A green archipelago, Zürich 2013

Viganò, P. (2013). “The horizontal metropolis and Gloeden’s diagrams” in OASE #89, pp. 94-111