Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Empowering Linden: an example of Architectural Strategy

Group 1: The group of Stephan Jud, Weronika Salach and Klaas Dhaene proposed a coherent strategy to implement a suburban campus within the area.

"With the proposed large-scale strategy and coherent small-scale interventions, the area of „Hoog Linden“ leaves behind its mono cultural „70s-Nuclear-Family“ atmosphere and attracts a wider range of inhabitants such as younger families and students.

The core of the strategy is to embed a university campus over the entire area of Hoog Linden and at the same time maintaining the spatial qualities of this suburban settlement.
In this project, the university provides some student accommodations, and sport facilities, all spread over the neighborhood.
Parallel to this strategy, forest linkages are created through the quarter by changing the street layout, removing all hard boundaries and giving a forest quota for private parcels.
Related to the mobility within the area, a new bus line is implemented with a high speed connection to the city of Leuven, but this line is also used as an internal line to interconnect the suburb. Gaining importance, the bus stops are now designed as interaction points providing functions such as a bar or a public meeting place.

The original inhabitants, mostly retired people, now suffer from isolation and loneliness, and at times are in need of daily care. Embedding a university offers new voluntary jobs such as gardener, bartender or librarian for them but also provides the possibility of visiting or participating in lectures, using the restaurants and cafes, as well as some sport facilities.
Living in over-dimensioned houses, the owners could now make small conversions of their houses to offer a broad range of student accommodations and several different forms of living together and maintaining the houses and gardens.
By reducing car traffic and establish stronger walking and cycling routes, a secondary pathway system, connecting the different facilities is planned.
Since there are many plots unused since the last 40 years, a temporary use such as sports field or a pathway, or even a vegetable garden can be established as an intermediate use.

The prototype architectural project, as a next step, had to prove that a larger house typology such as an architectural university can fit into the existing neighborhood without damaging the intimate fabric of sub-urban sprawl. We chose a specific site where all the ingredients of the strategy could be retrieved and decided to house the department of architecture on this spot.

The new campus buildings should be embedded in the landscape and interact in a self-evident way with the existing surrounding houses. Therefore, we terraced the large studio building and attached it to one of the existing houses. The neighboring studio and administration office adapts to the typology of the flat roof, setting itself into the background against the expressive auditorium building, which faces the inside square.
The bus stop faces the main entrance to the public accessible café and library.
A consequence of the new linkages between the forests is the partial redesign of the streets inside the forest strip. The intention was to change the surface of the street to mark the entrance to a different area. The choice for Belgian cobblestones is a wink to the recently built “Fermettes“ and, in combination with random planted trees a measure to slow down the car traffic.
The new buildings partially appear on the street in a way to invite the inhabitants to participate and to use the facilities provided on the campus.
The embedding of the buildings according to neighboring structures allows to create a different, more intimate although public atmosphere inside the plot grid, due to the lack of hard borders and the inviting shapes of the inner streets. "

Empowering Linden: Architectural Strategies Presented

Yesterday, the students from the International Master Design Studio, campus Brussels, presented their architectural projects to “Empower Suburbia” in Linden, near Brussels.
Nine groups explained to a jury their micro-interventions for the studied suburban area to inject new activities and reconfigure the built environment, anticipating the growth of an elderly population and responding to higher environmental demands.
The different groups of international students proposed strategies to add new activities (campus, civic centers...), to subdivide or share the existing dwellings and gardens, to reconfigure collective spaces or to redefine the visual, physical and territorial borders at different scales.
Proximity, social cohesion and sustainability were the main issue during all discussions.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

EMPOWERING SUBURBIA: architectural strategies in Linden

The new task our Sint Lucas students are working on seeks to present architectural interventions, demonstrating coherence with the previously presented micro-urban strategies and solutions as how to empower the studied LINDEN suburban area to adapt to recent social, economic and environmental challenges, respecting as much the current composition of inhabitants and their future needs.
As many architectural interventions follow urban infill strategies or densification processes in suburban regios, these low dense landscapes are vitally renewed to obtain a more sustainable use of space.


The main goal of this latest task is to present “architectural sequences” within the Linden area that illustrate the impact and efficiency of the further developed micro- urban strategies. The architectural interventions should give an answer to the previously discussed problems and potentials for the selected pilot projects and prove coherence with the proposed model of proximity.

Our students will upload their (final) presentations as a post on this blog.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

From Görku to Linden

This week, our students returned from the workshop in Istanbul and again joined the local design studio as part of the International Master Program in Sint Lucas Brussels. These students, Klaas Dhaene, Hulda Sigmarsdottir and Madalina Cheregi, started the last studio session with a presentation of the workshop outcomes, as all students are supposed to build on these obtained results.
A critical reflection on proximity, that refers to the Istanbul experience on the Görku site, can now occur for the project on the Linden site: by the end of the month, all studio groups will present, besides a scenario for growth or transformation, an architectural translation to implement the underlying urban vision for the area.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Housing and Proximity: a bike trip

Last week, as part of our "Designing Proximity: Urban Context" Learning Activity, we decided to cross the study area by bike. We started in the city of Leuven from where we cycled through the Linden suburbia, trying to map different scenarios of proximity. The tour illustrated the importance of Belgian or Flemish fiscal and social politics, favoring a wide-spread low dense landscape, based on individual home ownership.

Friday, March 25, 2011

What-would-happen-if experiments for Linden: Housing and Proximity

The selected study area in our design studio, the suburban area of Linden, at the Eastern part of the city of Leuven, is characterized by a residential low dense urban fabric, fragmenting the available natural environment.
The objective of our last task was to map a set of urban parameters that define models of proximity on the site, at different scales. The methodology for this exercise was to develop a series of “what-would-happen-if experiments”, questioning the limits and flexibility of the studied area. These experiments refer to plot size, plot and building orientation, distance regulation, territorial depth schemes, presence of overlap, barriers or gaps within the configuration of territories.
By doing so, each of the 9 groups came up with a series of design strategies, now to be further developed...

Group 1
Weronika Salach / David Barrero Gonzalez / Klaas Dhaene / Stephan Jud

“In our scenarios, we examined in a first step the consequences of large changes in ground prices (Scenarios A & B), and then in further steps the impacts of a loss of building regulations and the implementation of a different function. We did our research in 3 different places which seem to be not that different from each other than we first concluded, being much more a continuously developed suburban settlement. By defining simple, clear rules, we examined what would happen if we change the parameters of living. Most of the work was done on the scale of plots and by thinking about how to in-/ or decrease the density on the plots itself, although the existing buildings seem to be underused and could easily be converted to accommodate more inhabitants without building completely new ones. After having examined those four scenarios, it seems that we have to blend them together, especially as the implementation of a different function will change the mechanism of this suburban settlement. Also, we want to go further into the scale of houses itself, especially as they are mostly very solid and durable constructions which represent a certain value.”

Group 5.
Maria Elorriaga Los Huertos / Mariia Grachova / Katarzyna Juszczyszyn / Didem Zkizilcik

“We based our work on 4 different experiments. What if the position of houses would have been different? If there would appear the situation in the planning, that every 3 houses should share their garden. We thought it might be interesting for the neighbors to get to know each other better, and stimulate social cohesion. What would happen if the garden strategy would change? We discovered the overall presence of “representative” front gardens in Linden. We thought that it would be interesting to look how the situation changes if we take the front garden away, and make the communal back garden for all the neighbors to work in (maybe a few hours on weekend) What if there would be different street connections? We thought that it is worth taking into account the influence of the street network at the citizens of Linden. Because they all use the most common crossroads and ways to get home. We did experiment of how the situation will change if we make other crossroads and streets then “main” ones, changing hierarchy. What would happen if we create the common public space not in the center? This experiment is more like a possible conclusion to the general problem that we tried to solve in the previous experiments. As there are many retired people in Linden, we wanted them to have common spaces, that they can easily reach and meet with people from all neighborhood. Because the existing few places where they can meet now are the only ones in the center, which is quite far to rich for them without taking car.”

Group 8
Weronika Kowa / Smaranda-Madalina Cheregi / David Raquel / Guillaume Harache

“Our experiments were oriented towards the different ways in which people would share space built on the hypothesis that there were no more laws and regulations to confine private and individual areas. One scenario was the following: the government goes bankrupt and pulls away from any decision taking in the area; all documents regarding people’s private property are lost, houses being perceived as separate entities spread in the land. New property limits would be defined, according to a simple mathematical rule: merely dividing by 2 the distances between every 2 houses. The direction of this experiment is answering the following questions: what happens to the neighbor to neighbor relationship? Can we still speak about public space? We looked at 2 extreme possibilities: the ideal case in which the new land divisions would bring people together for making decisions regarding the shared spaces, versus the worst situation when everyone takes their own decisions, leading to a complete anarchy. The other scenario was looking at the possibility of transforming the suburbia into an area served only by e-shopping; this new system for providing goods, together with the development of teleworking and ‘virtual’ jobs, might lead to the complete isolation of people; our question is: would there be still any need for sharing spaces?”

Monday, March 14, 2011


Last Friday, the OIKODOMOS participants of WENK Sint Lucas Architecture School of both campus Ghent and Brussels met to exchange ideas about the following housing topics:
-Collective space
-Universal Design
-Compact City
-Urban Structure
The objective of the assignment was multiple: first, to define a general conceptual framework for the topic, second, to relate the topic to sites or projects that illustrate the importance and relevance of the discussed topic. Last, this excercise helped to critically review the mentioned topics, and suggest possible ways of applying them in housing projects.
To be continued...