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Post-War Church Roofs in a Context of Adaptive Reuse

Title Post-War Church Roofs in a Context of Adaptive Reuse
Supervisor(s) Sven Sterken + Stephanie Van de Voorde (VUB)
Campus Ghent/BXL
Language EN or NL
Studio or individual? Individual
Max number of students Max 3 students


Description of the project:

This research looks into the church building boom in Belgium during the 1960s, with a particular focus on the novel building materials and construction methods that were used in the roof structures of these buildings, such as laminated timber, prestressed concrete or steel ‘space frames’. Such structures allowed for large, open spaces and were often left exposed as an explicit token of modernity. Today, the future of these church buildings increasingly depends on their potential to accommodate new uses. Yet, when measures are taken to enhance the stability or energy performance of these structures, their historical significance, heritage value and spatial qualities are often jeopardized. We therefore seek students that are interested in exploring strategies to remediate and adapt such roof structures for future use.

This dissertation requires technical insight as well as design skills, and can take various forms depending on the perspective on the topic. For example: an extensive literature study (resulting in a critical account of ‘good practices’); an in-depth exploration of an existing case (in Belgium or abroad) including a design proposal for adaptive reuse; a taxonomy of recurrent pathologies in experimental church roofs and their remediation, etc. Students will be embedded in the FWO research project “Meaning and Material. Towards a Multidisciplinary Assessment of Post-War Church Roofs in a Context of Adaptive Reuse” (2023-2027), directed by the promotors. This dissertation thus offers a perfect opportunity to become part of a larger research team, and get closely acquainted with the practice of doctoral research.

Expected output: cf above

Study trip? (+ timing): With a view to devoting the second semester entirely to writing or designing, students are expected to carry out the required field or archival work during the Summer break or the first semester.

Reference for the image: St Joseph’s church, Mol (arch. P. Meekels, 1967; photo M. Ceutherick, 2020).