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(21-22) Church ain't out 'til they quit singing

Semester 1, Ghent
Language: EN+NL

OPO 14

Gisèle Gantois



         Yes, there have been some setbacks last couple of years, but that’s no excuse to give up.


Image: Logo of the exercise: Compilation of silhouettes of vases in glasswork of Boom named after women. based on images of the catalogue Booms glas, Verre de Boom, Emabb vzw (G. Gantois )

Hellegat belongs to the municipality of Niel, which is situated on the north bank of the tidal river Rupel together with the municipalities of Hemiksem, Schelle, Boom and Rumst. These five municipalities have in common their geomorphological structure with the cuesta and their historical evolution with clay exploitation. The river basin of ​​the 12 km long tidal river Rupel is part of the Flanders-Dutch Scheldt delta. The Rupel region is unique in its kind, because of the special interaction between natural processes and cultural history.

This is expressed in an alienating cultural landscape, which is marked by over 400 years of clay mining and the production of bricks and roof tiles, with numerous clay pits and industrial heritage relics scattered all over the landscape. A number of valuable sites have remained. The special waffle structure of the landscape with pits and ridges, the peculiar housing typologies on the flanks of the pits all interconnected by a fragile mesh of easements over private land which guaranteed fluent trespassing, played and still play an important role in the identity, quality and (social) cohesion of the region.  Today, migration and mobility, but also nature (nature has reclaimed space and created new habitats that are exceptional for their biodiversity value) gives rise to new meanings for the Rupel region. As a peri-urban region, however, there is also increasing pressure as a housing expansion area for Antwerp. To date, a total vision is lacking, which means that each municipality individually outlines its own policy or takes decisions plot by plot.

This exercise therefore aims to understand the historical layers of meaning on the one hand and to generate new ones on the other by looking at this both on the larger scale of the Scheldt-Rupel river basin area (within the even larger project Schelde Delta Geopark) and on the micro scale while considering the abandoned church. The approach is characterized by an active approach to the cultural landscape, in which heritage relics are no longer treated as separate objects, but as part of a lively landscape.

The detection and implementation of multiple narratives, old and new, graphically recorded through casual and organized encounter is encouraged.

With the study of the Saint-Joseph Church in Hellegat we not only ask what heritage is or can be by looking at the conditions of this post-industrial landscape, but we also try to understand what the contemporary significance of the site is for the residents of Hellegat, by combining their authentic experiences expressed in their daily interaction with their living environment with our own experiences on site and confronting the gathered knowledge with existing data, including historical archives and maps.

[1] This exercise has to be situated in the framework of the Academic Design Office (Study Guide_Addendum 2): Restoring Broken Journeys. The studio is part of the Engagement Team Contested Legacy

Studio description as pdf.

Publication studio Restoring Broken Journeys 1