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(22-23) RUIN-carnating WAR-chitectures: the Citadel of Diest revisited

Studio title RUIN-carnating WAR-chitectures: the Citadel of Diest revisited
Tutor  Prof.dr. Marc DUJARDIN – arCsus Lab
Campus  Ghent
Language  EN


ACADEMIC YEAR 2022-2023 – Semester 1,  Campus Sint-Lucas Ghent

Engagement: Contested LEGACY

Source picture: Google Earth 05.09.2022.

The arCsus Lab Design Studio Research Modus: our design teaching strategy

The 1st master design studio track, ‘coached’ by Marc Dujardin stems from the tutor’s approach of architecture and design strategy as ‘culture praxis’ (Designing for Spatio-Cultural Sustainability ) as developed within his ‘arCsus Lab’ (architecture-CULTURE-sustainability),  and complemented by the ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking and acting of the innovative Amsterdam based RAAAF architects (RIETVELD Architecture-Art-Affordances – www.raaaf.nl).

The arCsus-RAAAF joint research by design theme: Hardcore Heritage

To shape what is envisaged by the faculty’s ADO approach (Academic Design Office), arCsus Lab closely works together with  RAAAF since 2016. The synergy and chemistry between the tutor’s academic teaching (MAIG14 and MAIG42) and research from the perspective of Architectural Anthropology, and RAAAF’s innovative art based research, centers around the shared theme entitled: “Diversity, Vacancy, Affordances and Hardcore Heritage”:

DESIGNING FROM MUSEUMIZATION TO HARDCORE HERITAGE: ‘Towards spatio-cultural strategies that provide handles to rethink hopeful and seemingly hopeless vacancies from the perspective of ‘contested LEGACY’


“Hardcore Heritage represents a new way of thinking about monuments and cultural heritage. Through deliberate destruction, radical changes in context, and seemingly contradictory additions, a new field of tension arises between present, past and future.” (www.raaaf.nl)

Description of the studio:

Whenever the ‘potential’ dimension of architecture as medium of (spatial) communication and mediation is at stake, the role and meaning of culture as key dimension of sustainable development is commonly referred to as ‘Cultural Sustainability’, the fourth pillar of the sustainability concept (social – economic – environmental).  Within the arCsus research framework, Architecture is approached as a ‘cultural praxis’ and draws on the young research field of ‘Architectural Anthropology’(Dujardin 2000) and ‘Design Anthropology’ (Dujardin, Devlieger, 2021).

By exploring the interface of space, culture (material and immaterial)  and environment (built and natural) emphasizing the ‘mediating’ role of the designer, one may well refer to as ‘Designing for Spatio-Cultural Sustainability’ (Spatio-Cultural in Dutch means ‘Cultuurruimtelijk’).

But above all, arCsus Lab aims at triggering, challenging and inspiring young designers to develop their micro-scale design strategies, interventions and statements from different entry points, conceptual frameworks, perspectives and modes of communication, representation and media.

Within our studio, we will never start with a prefixed program that seeks a place and/or a form. On the contrary, the proposed site, within reach and limits of its various intertwining perimeters (relational, contextual, situational, design-based) seeks new narratives and affordances. No (architectural) design proposal (strategy and output) at the end of the design studio can emerge without a profound understanding of the place as an intersection of  typical features that made and make up the spatio-cultural identity, content and imagery of this very rich but complex built landscape and fabric.

The tutor’s main objective is to understand what kind of designer you are right now, aims to be, and how you one can develop your personal ‘design signature’, empowering you with more confidence to play your role as engaged designers of the future.

Design context, site and challenge:


Spatio-cultural mediating a monumental borderline juxtaposing civic and military morpho-typologies towards ambivalent thresholds from the perspective of interdependency and connectedness.

The studio draws on the extraordinary research documents received from Legacy-colleague Jan De Moffart who dedicated a master dissertation to this peculiar site last academic year (‘The Elephant in the Jewel Box design studio brief 2021-22).

The opportunity stems from the city of Diest having purchased the vacant citadel in 2015. It intends to incorporate this partially ruined military stronghold (barracks) into the urban fabric as the cradle of its history by programming the citadel with public and commercial functions and connecting it to the city by inhabiting the hill in between. However, from our ‘Hardcore Heritage’ approach, we do not seek for mere ‘place-making’ design strategies and/or architectural interventions.

The Citadel of Diest scrutinized: Propelling versus pathetic monument – a way out.

‘The terms ‘propelling’ versus ‘pathetic’ elements, borrowed from the work of the Italian architectural theoretician Aldo Rossi may provide a useful concept. In his work ‘The Architecture of the City’ (1985 :59), Aldo Rossi approaches monuments as physical signs of the past that: 1. ‘persist virtually unchanged, endowed with a continuous vitality; or 2. on the contrary exhaust themselves, and as Rossi argues, then only the permanence of their form, their physical sign and locus remains’. As permanence’s, monuments may represent one of these two aspects which can be viewed as a pair of opposites: ‘propelling’ versus ‘pathological’ elements. According to Rossi (1985:59-60):

  1. Propelling elements ‘continue to function; condition the urban area in which they stand and continue to constitute an important urban focus’;
  2. Pathological elements, on the contrary, stand virtually isolated in the city; nothing can be added; and they constitute an experience so essential that they cannot be modified.’

Source: Marc Dujardin (2000:209).

Evaluation format & timing:

The evaluation will assess the aspects as formulated above, i.e. the process and the final production.

Criteria: see ECTS file and competence matrix.

Blended teaching:

The process will be presented by the student in ‘peer review’ and ‘individual consults’. The teaching and coaching of design studio will be a combination of campus related and online teaching.

Teaching Schedule:

Due to practical constraints, the design studio will be coached on Wednesday afternoon and eventually continued on Thursday morning.

Expected output:

The project will be presented in the format of an A3 LEPORELLO (Japanese Fold), complemented with scale models, a video presentation and whatever mixed media that may well support the narrative. In the leporello, a picture of any output, other than graphics should be included with a caption. During the course of the design studio, we will regularly refer and look back at other ‘best practice’ outputs of both MAIG14 and MAIG42 arCsus Lab (master dissertation) design studios.

Contact: marc.dujardin@kuleuven.be

NOTE: We have opted not to make a video presentation of the design studio. An updated  self-explanatory PPT presentation will be made available online soon.

References/Further reading: communicated throughout the course.

Reference for the image: Google Earth 05.09.2022.


Best Practice Leporello  MAIG14 (2020-2021) by Ricardo Javier Lopez


See Link: Ricardo Javier Lopez Leporello 2020-20.pdf