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(19-20) Streetscape Territories

Master Dissertation studio
Academic year 2019-20
Promotor: Kris Scheerlinck


Streetscape Territories is the name given to an international collective practice (founded in Barcelona in 2008, currently operating from Ghent, London and New York) of research, educational activities and planning/design consultancy. The practice focuses on the transformation of the urban fabric through architectural and landscape intervention, considering the making of diverse and tolerant streetscapes the main objective to achieve socially, economically and environmentally sustainable environments for its inhabitants.

The practice deals with the way architectural interventions, open spaces, the property structure and its inherent accessibility and permeability, configure streetscapes as manifestations of social and productive encounter and how their inhabitants can give meaning to them by appropriation.

The research and design projects focus on models of proximity within a street, neighborhood or region and starts from the assumption that urban space, from the domestic scale till the scale of the city, can be understood as a discontinuous collective space (de Solà-Morales, 1992), containing different levels of shared use that are defined by multiple physical, cultural or territorial boundaries (Scheerlinck, 2013): how do people, open space and buildings relate to each other and how does this contribute to the local identity of the built and social environment? Overall continuity, or strict public consensus in the way urban space is used or claimed, is of less importance: urban space is the result of constant negotiation and systems of appropriation or mis-appropriation.
Instead of having a programmatic or formal approach, the research and design approaches focus rather on the spatial qualities or potentials of architecture in the urban landscape, taking into account the socio-cultural impact of an intervention. The level of programmatic specification is questioned, going against the growing tendency to secure urban projects through programme, leaving no space for multiple interpretation or use.

The intermediate scale, that is the scale between the architectural intervention and the urbanistic plan, defines the research and intervention domain. Within this approach, collective spaces that operate at this intermediate scale, are characterized by an “between/among” space condition are read, mapped or designed: systems of streets, squares, gardens, parks, but also patios, porches, enclaves, covered or portico spaces, courtyards and all other interstitial areas are subject of research and design.

The research and design practice include systematic and comparative analysis of existing neighborhoods, streetscapes, public spaces, urban landscapes or complex buildings in different locations. It also includes consultancy to municipalities or other governments to plan, design or evaluate streetscape projects. All work with multiple approaches from different disciplinary fields and considers research and design simultaneous and integrated processes of developing urban projects. The projects each have a strong in-situ dimension and seek to help to develop real-life projects with local stakeholders. Besides projects in more developed contexts like New York, Ghent or Brussels, the project also focuses on developing contexts, leading to a multiple understanding of its main concepts and methods to this developing condition (Addis Abeba, Havana, Guyaquil, Onitsha, Karachi…).

The reading and use of collective spaces, as an important part of inhabiting the urban landscape, is greatly changed due to environmental, economic and social developments: changing climate, financial crisis and balancing employment rates, political regimes causing changes in ethnic or religious dominance and new flows of migration change the meaning of urban space and by that, its proper use and appropriation. Users change their behaviors, attitudes and claims of squares, gardens, streets and parks, respondent to the incisive and profound changes of their daily reality and opportunities.

Collective space- today more than ever projected by academics, practitioners and stakeholders as multiple, flexible and open- is contradictory to the apparent increasing need and desire to secure boundaries and claim spaces explicitly, in an individual as well as in a collective way. While the need to rethink and build new types of collective spaces grows (Avermaete, 2007), more effort seems to be put into separating, delimiting and specializing urban space from the scale of the domicile to the scale of a neighborhood or the city. The Streetscape Territories research and design practice seeks to study this balance of parallel mechanisms of space production in different contexts and test the outcomes through real life projects, considering the local neighbors stakeholders as main actors and beneficiaries.

As part of this project, various on-site workshops, meetings, studies and seminars are organised with groups of international researchers, students, young professionals and local stakeholders and policymakers, to apply theoretical or conceptual frameworks about depth configurations, accessibility, permeability and territorial boundaries on site.

for more information: kris.scheerlinck@streetscapeterritories.com

content: program and theme


Photography: Alvin Baltrop, New York, 1971-1991

Alvin Baltrop (1948 – February 1, 2004) was an American photographer whose work focused on the dilapitated Hudson River piers and LGBTQ+ communities during the 1970s and 1980s prior to the AIDS crisis. During decades, he documented the decay of the Hudson riverfront through photography series about the daily life in the streetscapes of this part of Manhattan. Through this photographical documentary, he did not only show the life of a poor and socially rejected community, he also proved how a fastly transforming metropolis needs certain urban areas as social buffer zones, to cherish small pockets of spatial ambiguity or un-definedness that allow struggling communities to claim a necessary presence and habitat within the city. In the 1970s and 1980s, the riverfront areas were not programmed for profit-driven development and were left out of functional zoning proposals, void of any architectural intervention, as at that moment the piers and the industrial maritime activity were in decay. Nevertheless, this void in programming allowed suppressed communities to unfold and leave their hiding places, and enabled them to fight to be recognised and play a part in contemporary society, a fight that unfortunately seems to become necessary once again because of the recent uprise of far-right political movements on a global scale.

During the last decades, the whole Hudson riverfront area, especially in the lower part (from Greenwich Village to Chelsey) has been fully developed and transformed into a mainstream and high-end urban quarter. Star architects helped to contribute to exclusive commercial and residential development, while focusing on leisure, sport and culture for the outdoor spaces. In this operation, most pier buildings were sacrified or transformed for the same purpose. However, some pier buildings still exist, unpretentiously configured within the Hudson riverfront park. At this moment, minority groups are no more present in the area, due to the high prices of the property and the overprogrammed-ness of the area.

The master dissertation project within the Streetscape Territories framework will study the existing waterfront landscape and design a climate-change-resilient pier building (a new building or working on an existing one) with a clear social mission. The general objective of the architectural and landscape project is to construct an inclusive, diverse and thriving riverfront community for this area, as each student will focus on one challenged community in New York (refugees, displaced ethnic groups, unheard minority groups, LGBTQ+ etc.) to re-claim once more this emblematic area in the city. Each student is required to develop a landscape strategy and a hybrid architectural project that intertwines with the existing riverscape and re-introduces affordable housing and productivity (working places) in the area. The building would be conceived as a fully collective space and as an extension of the surrounding streetscapes.



Hudson Riverside Park pier buildings, pictures by Kris Scheerlinck, 2012-2018


studio environment

The studio is understood as a platform of discussion, experimentation, production and reflection, where the student itself defines the paradigm, unfolds the methods of research and design and employs coherent tools to achieve the goals. We do not understand the studio as a consult studio but as a working platform.

The studio will employ a Research by Design/Design by Research approach and develop coherent methods and tools within, taking into account the five action fields:

-theoretical approaches that frame our way of reading or designing space and raise our critical consciousness,

-reference projects that illustrate similar challenges to the formulated topic and provide distance to explore different ways of analyzing or intervening in urban space

-case studies that allow us to investigate all physical, cultural, social and territorial implication of the studied projects on different scales

-systematic review and synthesis of all previous phases, to construct a coherent but critical back-up for reading or intervening in the built environment in the field of architecture or urban design, sometimes combined with a design or intervention proposal

-design of an architectural intervention on the proposed site, coherent with the theoretical framework and topic

The studio requires students being able to travel to the site in at least one occasion (one week in fall, additionally one week in early spring). Especially in the first part of the studio (fall semester), the studio will work as one team to share the obtained information through an intensive mapping (graphical, video, textual) of the site.

The studio is part of the NYhub the Faculty of Architecture has set up in New York (see https://arch.kuleuven.be/english/international/the-new-york-hub) and will work with local professionals and academics in New York to help develop the projects.

indicators of behavior

– The student is able to act methodologically throughout the designing process in an independent way: the student demonstrates the development of own methods and regularly refers to these during the desk crits and presentations in the design studio

– The student is able to develop a critical argumentation on the position of his/her design project within the international architectural debate: the student shows that he/she critically reflects upon the method and results of the architectural project and builds up a proper argument and own discourse that relates to current theories and practices in architecture, especially related to productive streetscapes

– The student is able to establish his/her own research or project strategy: the student shows that he/she can unfold a coherent strategy for research and design and explicitates this during the working sessions and presentations. Reading relevant articles or books, visiting and studying reference projects, as well as conducting interviews or discussions with experts or stakeholders is considered essential.

– The student is able to critically frame and place a complex architectural design: the student develops and presents the project and reflection paper in a way that the team of academic promotors and experts can detect a broad but precise framework that shows the integrity and profound expertise of the student, who shows at all moments to be able to simultaneously deal with spatial qualities at different levels, multiple programmes and uses, as well as the needed theoretical and conceptual references and technical aspects of the project.

– The student is able to reflect on contemporary and innovative architectural-theoretical perspectives: the student shows the ability to write or graphically represent a broad critical reflection upon the project and refers to this in all discussions and presentations

– The student is able to develop a research based design project: the student shows a coherent link between research and design and does not consider research as a strictly preliminary theoretical phase that is disconnected from the actual proposal. The student shows the ability to explore multiple options alter which decisions are made on a referential and critical basis and personal interest and expertise.

– The student is able to develop a relevant design, taking into account quality of comfort and sustainability: the students show ability and special interest in sustainability and resilient strategies while developing the project and the final project is coherent with it (including building technology, sequence of spaces and their intended or possible uses).

timing and organization – see MD guidelines

timing and organisation – see MD guidelines

method of evaluation – see MD guidelines

criteria of evaluation – see MD guidelines

output demands – see MD guidelines


study material

Blog: https://streetscapeterritories.com

Publications: Streetscape Territories notebooks

Literature: Some References
Busquets, J. (1987). Urbanisme a Barcelona. Plans cap al 92. Barcelona: Àrea d’Urbanisme i Obres Públiques (Ajuntament de Barcelona), 194 pp.
de Solà-Morales, I. (1994). Territorio construido. La ciudad desde la arquitectura. In Arquitectura Viva Nº35.
de Solà-Morales, M. (1997). Territoris Sense Model. In Papers, Regió Metropolitana de Barcelona, nº 26.
de Solà-Morales, M. (2008). Ten Lessons on Barcelona. Barcelona, COAC.
Harvey, D. (2001). Spaces of Capital. Towards a Critical Geography. Edinburgh: University Press.
Harvey, D. (2000). Spaces of Hope. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Harvey, D. (2012). Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution. London: Verso.
Harvey, D. (2003). The Right to the City. International Journal of Urban Regional Research, vol. 27.4, pp. 939-941.
Johnson, S. (2001). Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities and Software. New York: Touchstone.
Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the Social. An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford: Univiversity Press.
Lefèbvre, H. (1974). La Production de l’Espace. Paris: Anthropos.
Lefebvre, H. (1996). The Right to the City. In Writings on Cities. Oxford: Blackwell.
Sennett R. (1977). The Fall of Public Man. Berlin: Knopf.
Sennett R. (1991). The Conscience of the Eye: The design and social life of cities. London: Faber and Faber.
Smithson, P.; Smithson, A. (1979). Signs of Occupancy. Lecture in Pigdeon Audiovisual Studios. London.
Soja, E. (2001). Postmodern Geographies. The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory. Bristol: Verso.
Zukin, S. (1991). Landscapes of Power. Berkeley: University of California.
Zukin, S. (2010). The Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places. New York, Oxford University Press Inc.

Literature: Urban Configurations: collective spaces, territorial depth, territorial boundaries and streetscapes.
Altman, I. (1975). The Environment and Social Behaviour. Monterey: Brooks/Cole.
Arendt, H. (1958). The Human Condition. Chicago:  University of Chicago Press.
Avermaete, T.; Teerds, H. (2007). Architectural Positions on the Public Sphere. The 2007 Delft Lecture Series, Places 19.2.
Avermaete, T.;  Hooimeijer F., Schrijver, L. (eds) (2007). Urban Formation and Collective Spaces. Rotterdam: OASE Journal for Architecture, Volume 71, NAi Publishers.
Bobic, M. (2004). Between the Edges. Bussum: Toth Publishers Bussum.
De Meulder, B. (2008). Old Dispersions and Scenes for the Production of Public Space. In Architectural Design, Cities of Dispersal. Verbakel E., Segal R.  (ed.).
de Solà-Morales, M. (1992). Public and Collective Space: The Urbanisation of the Private Domain as a New Challenge. In Oase, nº 33.
Habraken, N.J. (1998). The Structure of the Ordinary. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Hall, E. T. (1966). The Hidden Dimension. New York: Doubleday/Anchor Books.
Hanson, J. (1998). Decoding Homes and Houses. Cambridge: University Press.
Hillier, B. (1996). Space is the Machine. Cambridge: University Press.
Hillier, B.; Hanson, J. (1984). The Social Logic of Space. Cambridge: University Press.
Hillier, B. (2004). Can streets be made safe?  In Urban Design International 9, 31–45.
Madanipour, A. (2003). Public and Private Spaces of the City. London: Routledge.
Matta-Clark, G. (1974). Splitting the Humphrey Street Building. In Catalogue of Gordon Matta-Clark Exhibition, Museo Nacional,, Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid.
Page, S.; Philips, B. (2006). Urban Interfaces, Designing in-between. In Crossover, Architecture, Urbanism & Technology. Rotterdam: 010 Publ.
Peatross, F. (1997). The Spatial Dimension of Control in Restrictive Settings. Proceedings of the First International Space Syntax Conference, volume 2.
Scheerlinck, K. (2014). Coney Island New York Streetscape Territories Notebook. Streetscape Territories Notebooks, 5. Brussel: LUCA School of Arts.
Scheerlinck, K. (2014). Raval, Barcelona Streetscape Territories Notebook. Streetscape Territories Notebooks, 4. Brussel: LUCA School of Arts.
Scheerlinck, K., Schoonjans, Y. (2014). Sampling Collective Housing Projects, Extracting Collective Strategies. ARQ – Arquitectura Diseno Urbanismo.
Scheerlinck, K. (2011). Privacy and Depth Configurations. Architektura & Urbanizmus. Journal for Architecture and Town Planning Theory, 2, 166-185.
Scheerlinck, K. (2011). Metaphoric Voids / Sliced Landscapes. Quaderns d’Arquitectura i Urbanisme, 261 (2011/4), 46-4.
Scheerlinck, K. (2013). Implicit Distances. Reflections.
Scheerlinck, K., Massip, F. (as contributor) (2013). Gowanus New York Streetscape Territories Notebook. Streetscape Territories Notebooks, 3. Brussel: LUCA School of Arts.
Scheerlinck, K. (2013). Collective Spaces Streetscape Territories Notebook. Streetscape Territories Notebooks, 2. Brussels: LUCA School of Arts.
Scheerlinck, K. (2012). Williamsburg New York Streetscape Territories Notebook. Streetscape Territories Notebooks, 1. Brussels: LUCA School of Arts.
Scheerlinck, K. (2012). Depth Configurations and Privacy. Proximity, Permeability and Territorial Boundaries in Urban Projects”, in M. Carucci (ed.). Revealing Privacy: Debating the Understandings of Privacy. Frankfurt am Maine: Peter Lang, 89-104.
Scheerlinck K. (2010). Depth Configurations. Proximity, Permeability and Territorial Boundaries in Urban Projects. Doctoral thesis. Barcelona: URL, http://www.tesisenxarxa.net/TDX-0203110-102626/
Schoonderbeek, M. (Ed.), Avermaete, T. et al (2010). Border Conditions. Delft: Architecture & Natura Press and TU Delft.
Sennett, R. (2013). The Public Realm. Borders and Boundaries. Essay online: http://www.richardsennett.com.

View the presentation here.