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(22-23) Where we live now? An exploration on villageness

Master studio 2022-23, sem 2
Campus Sint-Lucas Ghent
Tutors: Sophie Leemans & Maarten Gheysen
Engagement: Urban Cultures

Image: Nieuwstraat Terhagen, source unknown

In 2020 Rem Koolhaas launched an exhibition/publication called ‘the countryside’[i] [ii] based on an earlier lecture[iii]. In his provocative style Koolhaas called the countryside “the frontline of development” and “more volatile than the most accelerated city”.

The policy note of the Vlaamse Bouwmeester [iv] simultaneously positioned ‘dorpelijkheid’ (villageness, a dialectic relation between villagehood, world hood and identity) as a counterpart of urbanity. The exhibition[v] (2021) and summerschool[vi] (2022) ‘Taferelen van dorpelijkheid’ (scenes of village life) explored the theme by means of an artistic research, aiming to unpack the elements that give identity this villageness.

In Flanders half of the inhabitants live outside of the compact dense cities. The importance of villages thus can not be neglected. But where our profession has developed a series of theoretical frameworks and concepts on the city, the village seems forgotten. Many of the discourses get lost in a binary opposition, a black and white reflection on city/village. And yet, many villagers have an extreme urban way of living. They live in an urban condition but without an urban form.

With this studio we want to deepen the fascinating topic of this villageness beyond a nostalgic reflection and fake opposition towards the city. To do so we will study the village of Terhagen along the river Rupel. As many villages in this region it once was a village characterised by clay mining and brickmaking. Over the years, as the brickmaking industry disappeared, the village almost lost half of its inhabitants. Nowadays the village is characterized by an ambiguous relation with the former claypit and river, both of them neglected as silent forms referring to a past to be forgotten.

As the village is confronted with a growth of its inhabitants the time has come to question the future. How to accommodate the new families in this villages? What is the architectural language that validates the past and embraces the future of housing in the village? How to deal with the waterfront? Can the former claypit be of an importance for this new future? How to respond to the formal industrial heritage?

This studio transcends the architectural scale and questions the village as object of study. Its objective is not in the design of the individual house but in the reflection for the future and future challenges. This studio will therefore give you the freedom to explore spatial design beyond the architectural building and touch upon urban design, public space, landscape architecture and urban planning. At the same time, you will have the opportunity to work on real-life challenges in Flanders that will be at the center of discussion in these disciplines.

Additionally, this studio has a mirror studio in the master in urbanism. In this mirror studio students in urbanism will reflect on the village of Terhagen in its regional context. Both studios are embedded in an assignment by the municipality of Terhagen/Rumst and in collaboration with the Vlaams Bouwmeester (ongoing tender procedure, tbc).

[i] https://www.guggenheim.org/exhibition/countryside

[ii] https://www.oma.com/projects/countryside-the-future

[iii] https://www.oma.com/lectures/countryside

[iv] https://vlaamsbouwmeester.be/nl/subsite/dorpelijkheid/traject-dorpelijkheid

[v] https://www.vlaamsbouwmeester.be/nl/dorpelijkheid

[vi] https://www.vlaamsbouwmeester.be/nl/nieuws/finissage-tentoonstelling-%E2%80%98dorpelijkheid%E2%80%99-op-28-april