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Unveiling spatial memories around ‘t Hoge and Bellewaerde (Ypres – Belgium)

Title Unveiling spatial memories around ‘t Hoge and Bellewaerde (Ypres – Belgium)
Supervisor(s) Marie Nevejan and Gisèle Gantois
Campus Gent
Language NL/ENG
Studio or individual? Studio

Description of the project[1]:

Key words: Spatial Memory, Everyday Heritage, (War) Tourism

Postcard: People gathering around the seal park in Bellewaerde (Westhoek Verbeeldt), approx. 1954

After the battles of the First World War (1914-1918), the Westhoek, a region in the western part of Belgium, situated in the province of West Flanders, developed an identity inextricably linked to the memory of the Great War. Not only can the re-created city of Ypres after the devastating war be regarded as an urban monument on a scale of 1:1; in addition, numerous cemeteries, memorials, monuments and relics from the war are scattered throughout the rural fields, creating a memory landscape that attracts both national and international tourists.

This memory landscape spatially embeds commemoration, be it as rituals –which take place somewhere on particular remembrance moments of the year-, or as cemeteries, monuments and memorials. These spaces for memory, strongly symbolically charged, although often with a nationalistic connotation, are regulated by (what Laurajane Smith (2006) describes as) an official heritage discourse, always with a focus on protecting and saving the heritage for future generations, often narrating the values of the elite social classes and ignoring different ethnic or community groups, working class and women. Moreover, they mainly target tourists, veterans, pilgrims and widows, and their symbolic atmosphere often clashes with the lost everyday experience of the inhabitants; the memories of places: transgenerational memories of returnees after the war has ended, from memories tied to traditions (parades through the city such as the Cat parade), banal daily spatial experiences (the route to work), but also the daily use of the symbolically charged ‘spaces for memory’, the everyday heritage.

In the township ‘t Hoge, the study area of this research, the spaces for memory and memoriesof placesintertwine. Dating back to the 15th century, ‘t Hoge, part of Zillebeke, near the West Flemish municipality of Ypres, was developed around the Castle of t’ Hoge. As part of the Westhoek region, this area was also destroyed during the First World War. In 1930, ‘t Hoge was rebuilt with a chapel and a local school, which was privatised and transformed into the Museum Hooge Crater, a private war museum, in the 90s. One could state that the memories of places were overwritten by the spaces for memory. Furthermore, in 1954, the development of the amusement park Bellewaerde was the first tourist attraction that was not related to war tourism, thus embracing amusement and recreation instead of mourning and commemoration. A new layer of memory was embedded in the landscape.

The objective of this master thesis is to unveil the palimpsest of this memory landscape while detecting the relationship between the spaces for memory and the memories places in ‘t Hoge, Ypres and to express this in a future oriented resilient urban landscape.

Expected output:

A literature review to enable the creation of a solid theoretical framework and knowledge background in order to generate a position towards existing research on (a) the spatial dynamics of (war) tourism, (b) spatialising memory and environmental studies on the position of built heritage in urban planning processes in view of reconstruction after disaster, (c) on architectural and urban heritage ‘beyond materiality’: the social significance of architectural heritage in urban areas and community involvement in these processes.

This literature review will be followed by the analysis of publications that are relevant for the students’ individual research topic.

The research combines detailedarchival studies with immersive design driven fieldwork in the case of ‘t Hoge to analyse the developments over a broad hundred-year period, from after the Great War up to the present day. Close collaboration with the In Flanders Fields Museum, Museum Hooge Crater, and the City Archive of Ypres will be necessary to collect archival sources, such as aerial photographs[2], historical newspapers, correspondence in letters and diaries, historical newspapers and archival photographs. A rich variety of sources is necessary to collect micro-narratives of local stakeholders to detect the everyday heritage values of the site and its evolution through time.

The observational Interactive Walking method (Gantois, 2022a, 2022b) will be used as a methodological approach to investigate the multifarious and complex interactions between people and their living environment of which heritage is an integral part and the diverse (and often conflicting) forms of social life that it houses. This interpretative three-step mapping method, which combines ethnographic tools with the skills of the architect will be used to detect, unveil and to map the role of (destroyed) heritage and its spatial memorial imprint in the process of recovery. It will draw from multiple data sources, including open interview through observational walking, spatial analysis, the above-mentioned archival research ([historical] maps, photographs, newspaper clippings) and mapping.

This process will result in:

  1. in a scientifically written text, supported by
  2. illustrations, drawings, and other visualizations
  3. the development of a masterplan for the ‘t Hoge
  4. a design proposal for a memorial landscape which combines Space for Memory and Memories of Places expressed in maps, plans, sections and models

Since many of the archival sources are written in Dutch, a good knowledge of Dutch is requested. A basic knowledge of French will be helpfull for some archival documents.

Study trip (+ timing): Week 7 SEM3 Intensive Research week on location in Ypres Belgium). Different visits in SEM4

References/Further reading:

Boyer, M. Christine. 1994. The City of Collective Memory: Its Historical Imagery and Architectural Entertainments. Cambridge (Mass.): MIT press.

Centrum Vlaamse Architectuurarchieven, ed. 2009. Het Gekwetste Gewest. Archievengids van de wederopbouwarchitectuur in de Westhoek. (The Hurt Region. Archival guide to reconstruction architecture in the Westhoek.). Antwerpen: Centrum Vlaamse Architectuurarchieven, Vlaams Architectuurinstituut.

Chielens, Piet, Dominiek Dendooven, Jan Dewilde, and In Flanders Field Museum. 2020. Antony D’Ypres. Fotografen van de Wederopbouw (Antony D’Ypres. Photographers of Reconstruction). Gent: Tijdsbeeld.

Connelly, Mark, and Stefan Goebel. 2018. Ypres: Great Battles. Great Battles. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.

Gantois, Gisèle. 2022a. ‘A Rambling Field Role for the Heritage Practitioner: A Means to Come to More Socially Sustainable Heritage (Re-)Development Projects – KU Leuven’. In Routledge Handbook of Sustainable Heritage., edited by Christoph Rausch, Ruth Benschap, Emilie Sitzia, and Vivian van Saaze. https://kuleuven.limo.libis.be/discovery/fulldisplay?docid=alma9993251477101488&context=L&vid=32KUL_KUL:KULeuven&lang=en&search_scope=All_Content&adaptor=Local%20Search%20Engine&tab=all_content_tab&query=any,contains,gantois%20a%20rambling%20field&offset=0.

———. 2022b. ‘The Social Potential of Interactive Walking’. In Participatory Practices in Art and Cultural Heritage: Learning Through and from Collaboration, edited by Christoph Rausch, Ruth Benschop, Emilie Sitzia, and Vivian van Saaze, 65–81. Studies in Art, Heritage, Law and the Market. Cham: Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-05694-9_6.

Halbwachs, Maurice. 1992. On Collective Memory. Translated by Lewis Coser A. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.

Huyssen, Andreas. 2003. Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory. Cultural Memory in the Present. Stanford (Calif.): Stanford university press.

Mosler, Saruhan. 2019. ‘Everyday Heritage Concept as an Approach to Place-Making Process in the Urban Landscape’. Journal of Urban Design 24 (5): 778–93. https://doi.org/10.1080/13574809.2019.1568187.

Schaik, Leon van. 2008. Spatial Intelligence: New Futures for Architecture. AD Primers. Chichester: Wiley.

Shanken, Andrew Michael. 2022. The Everyday Life of Memorials. New York: Zone Books.

Smets, Marcel, Geert Bekaert, Jo Celis, Ronny De Meyer, Jan Maes, Herman Stynen, and Pieter Uyttenhove. 1985. Resurgam. De Belgische wederopbouw na 1914. (The Belgian reconstruction after 1914.). Brussels: Gemeentekrediet.

Smith, Laurajane. 2006. Uses of Heritage. London: Routledge.

Tuan, Yi Fu. n.d. Space and Place. University of Minnesota Press. Accessed 25 January 2023. https://www.academia.edu/19846369/Yi_Fu_Tuan_Space_and_Place.

Verpoest, Luc. 2021. Revival After the Great War: Rebuild, Remember, Repair, Reform. S.l: Leuven University Press.

Winter, J. M. 1995. Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning: The Great War in European Cultural History. Canto Classics edition. Canto Classics. Cambridge: University Press.

Yates, Frances A. 1969. The Art of Memory. Peregrine Books. Harmondsworth: Penguin books.

Reference for the image (if necessary):

‘Zillebeke: Park Bellewaerde’, ca 1954. HEU008500552. Westhoek Verbeeldt. https://westhoekverbeeldt.be/ontdek/detail/da05b5b8-bbc5-11e3-8e3c-6b2ef65f35e3/media/358b98f0-7aaa-06a4-56f3-7f01a7d92ef2?mode=detail&view=horizontal&q=bellewaerde&rows=1&page=1

[1]This exercise is to be located within the framework of the research project Restoring Broken Journeys with professor Gisèle Gantois. Restoring Broken Journeys has as central theme the re-establishment of a previous (social) right, practice, or situation, which was distorted, while looking at the future as ‘Journeys’ pre-suppose a process of change and development. This research project investigates on how journeys, narratives and lives are closely entangled within a lived environment and the spatial memory of it, which has an indivisible link with built community heritage.

[2] For example: https://www.luchtfoto1914-1918.be/nl/home

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