A space-time continuum
Designing in New York City and Brussels
By dr. arch. Gitte Schreurs
Master Studio 2022-2023, Semester 2
Engagement: Urban Cultures
Location: Ghent – Language: English
“What is missing in modern urbanism is a sense of the rupturing power of time.
Not to look backward nostalgically, but forward.
The city understood as a process.
Imagery changing through use, and urban imagery formed by anticipation,
which is friendly to disorder and surprise.”
– Richard Sennett
An architectural design is not a mere spatial intervention. Over time, it deals with emerging changes on multiple scales and in multiple forms. This Design Studio focuses on the two constantly changing, never boring metropoles of New York City and Brussels. The aim is to learn from these cities how architecture, the urban fabric, and the use of space are part of processes, and not static entities.
The final design proposals will deal with ongoing global issues, while adapting to the socio-economic contexts of their neighborhoods and anticipating alternative futures.
The goal of the studio is to (1) learn from New York City and Brussels, to (2) formulate overarching design strategies that deal with issues both cities are dealing with, and to (3) design two architectural interventions that are adapted to their context in both New York City and Brussels respectively.
In the densest neighborhood of New York, small socio-economic elements still emerge in the streets
Scope and approach
Architecture is not isolated; it is embedded in a complex interplay of larger-scale processes and local characteristics.
We are all aware of the larger issues that our world is struggling with, such as climate change, floods or droughts, housing shortages, an aging population, unemployment, immigration, and so on. Simultaneously, neighborhoods have their own characteristics, with specific building typologies, demography, streetscapes, past, present and future. This design studio strives for architectural designs that consider their multi-scalar complexity in both space and time. The sites that we work on are located in New York City and in Brussels.
New York City is widely considered a place of endless possibilities, where anything is possible.
But the city is not impervious to the pressures of larger societal, economic, and environmental changes. Delimited by 900+ kilometers of coastline, the city lacks space to harbor all its inhabitants, visitors, and companies. Climate change, a pandemic, ageing infrastructure and ageing population, an increase in housing demand; numerous contemporary shocks and stresses are testing the city’s resilience and inclusion while defining its transformation. On top of these metropolitan-scale impacts, the city is home to countless bottom-up processes, minority groups, marginalized communities, small-scale businesses, each fighting for a place in the city.
Although Belgian cities are nowhere near the scale of the metropolis of New York, similarities with the Belgian urban context and New York can be drawn. The post-industrial waterfront of Brussels is similarly located at an intermediate stage, between past and future, between water and land. In the wake of their industrial history, many waterfront locations are struggling with vacancies, shifts in activities, insufficient or overly designed infrastructure, and a struggle with their former industrial identity and scale.
The Design Studio uses the two (very different) metropolitan cities of Brussels and New York to learn from. By studying their similarities and differences, it becomes possible to achieve an understanding of which elements characterize a design globally, as well as site-specifically.
The outcome of the design studio are two relevant architectural interventions that consider their global context, their smaller urban and societal situation, and potential future scenarios. The design proposals are developed with a strong concept and structural detail.
Based on intensive research and fieldwork on two sites in Brussels (on-site) and New York City (remotely), an overarching design strategy is formulated. This design strategy is used as a basis for both designs but is adapted to the two different contexts. This results in two architectural proposals that might be similar in their essence, but modified to the spatial, social, economic, and environmental context of their surroundings.
Week 1: Start presentation by Gitte + Assignment about a site that is chosen by the student (on Miro)
In-between week 1 and 2: Site visit Brussels area
Week 2: Group discussion about site visit + Assignment Brussels and NY areas (on Miro)
Week 3: Input presentation by Arch. Yari Dockx + Group discussion of individual research BXL+NY
Week 4: Group discussion of individual research BXL+NY
Week 5: Group discussion of individual research BXL+NY
Week 6: Intermediate presentation: Design strategy based on BXL, NY, and references
Week 7: Feedback on refined Strategies + Formulate position statement + First design input
Week 8: Final position statement + Development of designs
Week 9: Development of designs
Week 10: Development of designs
Week 11: Midterm review: Design proposal(s) in relation to research and Strategies
Week 12: Development of designs
Week 13: Development of designs
Week 14: Finalization of design + reflect design strategy on hometown/home country
Week 15: Final jury
Formal (intermediate) deadlines:
Week 2 (22/02): First site visit in Brussels
Week 6 (22/03): Presentation of design strategy based on fieldwork, research and references
Week 11 (10/05): Midterm presentation: design proposals in relation to strategies
Week 15 (07/06): Final jury
The student can unveil the essence of a remote site (in New York) by exploring and applying a range of research methods.
The student can unveil the essence of an accessible site (in Brussels) by applying a range of research methods in combination with fieldwork.
The student can draw critical insights from the analysis of existing sites to formulate relevant design strategies that highlight both the similarities and the differences of both sites and a global context.
The student can make a relevant design, starting from complex spatial and social analysis.
The student can make a societally, economically and spatially relevant design proposal.
The student can make a structurally adequate design proposal.