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SEM 4, Ghent
Language: EN+NL

OPO 42

Gisèle Gantois




A fast territorial transformation is occurring under polarizing and accelerating processes of urban concentration and depopulation, of economic development and decline. This is strongly impacting local communities around the world, changing the way people live and use collective spaces. These global challenges become even more visible in post-situation areas such as post-industrial, post-traumatic and peri-urban areas, where the collectively used spaces are strongly entwined with the historical tissue embedded in daily habits of ever changing and intertwining communities and fluid and interchangeable local identities.

With the central theme ‘Vicinity as Nearness in Space[1], this studio delves deeper into the topic of the interrelationship between local inhabitants and the heritage landscape as a future oriented generating force. It investigates the relationship between heritage and urbanisation. It looks at heritage and history in a different way, on the one hand by breaking away from an object-based static approach to it and, on the other hand, by tracing an arc from the past over the present to the future with a clear anthropological perspective.

An important shift is gradually taking place between the mere preservation of sites for the sake of heritage values ​​expressed in historical characteristics and sustainable reuse in all its spatial possibilities. The transition from a ‘maximum preservation of the heritage values’, say historical characteristics – which often also means the freezing of time – to the active use of our immovable heritage to meet current social needs and ecological expectations based on actual significances and intrinsic qualities is fully explored today. Additionally, there is the policy ambition that projects the year 2050 as the horizon in order to stop claiming non-built space in Flanders to built but on the contrary to densify the built space and guarantee a higher building quality. This means: more reuse, the densification of the use of space and the interweaving or bringing together of different functions within one space and creating new cross connections.

Unfortunately, there is also a danger here considering the speed at which existing heritage sites are sold privately or at which they are adapted for new use, while their present societal role and their irreplaceable social importance is largely underestimated. Local heritage, which from a historical perspective is sometimes only important as an exemplar of a larger series of similar archetypical buildings, often holds important value as part of a collective space.

Today, for various reasons, heritage is increasingly judged by its picturesque character or possible monetary return. It is then reduced to an empty shell, not only disrupted from its historical continuity in time but also from its valuable social mesh. This evolution provokes strong feelings of estrangement among local people, who do not always play a decisive role in the development of re-use projects. It seems often difficult, if not impossible, to provide them with their righteous place within a traditional project process – righteous because they often have deep knowledge of the heritage site as key holders.

To explore these topics we will use one particular site (former brick manufactering site) in a particular hamlet (Noeveren) in a particular region (Rupelregion) as an alibi to bring together heritage, planning, geographical and urban development issues and social and ecological aspects and this within the policy ambition of Flanders 2050.

Although the case of the former brick production site in Noeveren is locally anchored we will demonstrate that the conditions in this study can also be linked to Meta conditions of other territories in the world.

How can heritage sites be continued? What are the expectations of different stakeholders?

Can a more dynamic interaction with heritage through research by design applied from the very start of the investigations enact, create, shape and negotiate a new meaning of place by comprehending the multiplicity of types of its actual significance. Can the investigation on the triggering position of heritage and its deep actual significance add to the actual discourse on what François Hartog (2017: 204) calls a crisis of time, described as a ‘gap’ between past and future. What can the interaction of people with built heritage add to this discourse?

[1] This exercise has to be situated in the framework of the Academic Design Office (Study Guide_Addendum 2): Restoring Broken Journeys. The studio is part of the Engagement Team Contested Legacy

Studio description as pdf.