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The Cuesta (ˈkwɛstə) of the Rupel Region New Challenges for its Cultural Heritage vol. Ii


@All rights reserved under International Copyright Conventions. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photo-copying, recording or by any information storage retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher or specific copyright owners. Work and publication made during the course of a personal master dissertation project, within the project of The Cuesta of the Rupel Region. New challenges for its Cultural Heritage proposed by Gisèle Gantois Acknowledgments Special thanks to Sabine Denissen, senior advisor Leisure Department Province of Antwerp for her unconditional support to these projects. ISBN 9789082256864 Depot nummer D/2015/13.576/1 Book edited by Gisèle Gantois Co-editors Kris Scheerlinck, Yves Schoonjans Authors: Floor Clinckemalie, Stefanie Gruyaert, Matthijs Sioen, May Lynn Doll, Felix Schiettecatte, Lisa Lu, Sam Verschoren, Riccardo Buratti Contributions from: Gisèle Gantois, Kris Scheerlinck, Yves Schoonjans, Harry van Royen Cover picture: © Lisa Lu, Felix Schiettecatte Responsible Publisher Faculty of Architecture, KU Leuven International Master of Architecture Resilient and Sustainable Strategies Campus Sint-Lucas, Ghent Class of 2014-2015 Dag Boutsen, dean


The Cuesta (ˈkwɛstə) of the Rupel Region. New Challenges for its Cultural Heritage



cuesta n 1. (Physical Geography) a long low ridge with a steep scarp slope and a gentle back slope, formed by the differential erosion of strata of differing hardness [Spanish: shoulder, from Latin costa side, rib]



This is volume two of a two part series VOL . I chapter one chapter two chapter three chapter four

inhabiting the scattered floor clinckemalie local meshwork re-generated stefanie gruyaert re-shaping a work live community may lynn doll an ecomuseum for the rupel region RICCARDO BURATTI

VOL . Ii chapter five chapter six chapter seven

from fragmentation to association felix schiettecatte the awareness of being lisa lu Noeveren, a crafting complex as a sam verschoren

connection between transition zones

chapter eight

familiar landscapes

matthijs sioen

17 89 181 277



In this publication we want to present the design research projects of eight students of the International Master of Architecture – Resilient and Sustainable Strategies KU Leuven through which they envisaged new challenges for the cultural heritage of the Rupel region situated in the Province of Antwerp, Flanders Belgium along the river Rupel and covering the municipalities of Hemiksem, Schelle, Niel, Boom and Rumst. What we particularly want to point at is how we had to get immersed into the region to be able to transcend an object-focused approach and how we detected the formal and informal use of the place. The objective was to take these experiences within the design process of either new projects or projects of adaptive re-use and restoration to come to more nuanced and socially better accepted architectural projects. When looking over the Rupel region today we see a world carved and sliced for so long that it is hard to imagine it even having been otherwise. The whole region is marked by centuries of clay extraction and brick manufacturing industry with many former clay quarries determining the landscape. Many of the pits have become overgrown and seem unused at first sight. The industrial and urban decline lead to exten-

sive disused sites. Only a few fragments of the built heritage directly related to the former activity are conserved in an attempt to install the remembrance of the place. It’s clear that these relicts can never recall the heydays of the industrial era of this region and although they are iconic they became isolated artefacts as they lack the relation with the landscape. In current times of migration and mobility of both humans and non-humans new significance of the meaning of this place is likely to be enacted, created, shaped, and negotiated. This new significance of meaning arises from a multi faced never ending interaction in which people are engaged with the landscapes and structures in which they live. These places have meaning for the natives, former brick-workers and their families through the events in their lives, which have taken place in this specific landscape or buildings in which they live and worked. The entanglement of timeless immaterial attachments with the historical and material layering of the place, acts like chemistry. Generations passed knowledge down to each other by leaving visual marks or traces. And even if the events have left no mark, people seem to remember, as they became part of their collective memory. The other side of the interaction is the triggering of newcomers’ memories and feelings by the simple sight of this place1. Here enters their value for the existing buildings and landscapes in our intercultural society as they attribute new significance to their new environment affected by what they already know, believe or remember from other places. From this perspective there is an interesting parallel in the working methodology of an architect and the strategy of the storyteller the way Walter Benjamin2 states it: ‘The figure of the storyteller gets its full cor-

Jason Ardler, director Cultural Heritage in Social Significance, a discussion paper. Denis Byrne, Helen Brayshaw, Tracy Ireland, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Research Unit, Cultural Heritage Division, June 2001, p. 3 2 Benjamin, W., The Storyteller, Reflections on the Works of Nikolai Leskov. 3 ‘sloepke’: a name given by the locals many decades ago, probably from the Dutch word ‘slop’, deminutive ‘slopke’ which means poor very small alley or corridor between two houses. 4 Provincie Antwerpen (2014), Kaderplan ‘Kleinstedelijk gebied en ontginningsgebied Boom-Rumst’. Eindrapport. Pdf-file. http://www. 1


poreality only for the one who can picture both the man who has stayed at home who knows the local tales and tradition and the one who comes from a far.’ An advantage of being an outsider in the landscape we have to study and to adopt the attitude of the storyteller lies precisely in the fact that one might (re)-discover intrinsic qualities of the usual things that regular visitors or natives risk to overlook and that historical studies might neglect. Take the case of the so-called ‘sloepkes’3 . Between most of the brick-workers’ houses constructed around the clay-pits a small pathway or ‘sloepke’ was foreseen. It provided a direct access from the house to the clay-pit. The only entrance to the houses was at the back of the house through this ‘sloepke’ via a collective inner street. The main street façade lacked a front door. Historically and materially seen they are proof of the often very poor working and living conditions of the brick-workers and their families who were completely dependent of the factory owners who lived in beautiful master houses along the Rupel River. We could never have understood their world of meaning today by just observing the place from outside and doing historical and material survey only. Written history in archives and museums, touristic info and the final report for the region of the Province of Antwerp4 certainly gave us very valuable information about how the region historically evolved and what the function of these ‘sloepkes’ was but didn’t give us convincing insight on the deeper actual value of this human-made landscape, a wonderful hidden social, cultural and ecological meshwork of which ‘sloepkes’ are a fundamental part. There was need for another strategy to meet this fragile protagonist. As we were strangers in the landscape we had to study a crucial objective was to find a different way of

observing to come to an actual reading of the site far beyond historical evidences. In terms of methodology we thought about how to discover the nameless protagonists and to unveil and to register the offthe-record information they provided us to include more of the voices of perspectives of people in the area where we worked. This was developed in a ‘protocol for walking’ in which we defined what to do, but not how to do it. Our main tools were walking, drawing and modelling. ‘Mapping’ values could have been one approach, but we also felt the need for a processual or narrative element – a story of how values happen, and change. To gain insight into the people’s and other living creatures’ why and how and their and our relation to the place we expressed perceptions through mapping from the ground. This implied that to be able to understand the processes of appropriation, memories and traces and to express our own understandings we not only used cartographical techniques but also we stepped across the roads, visited the places of which the inhabitants told us5. As the anthropologist Tim Ingold suggests we joined with those among whom we worked6. We had to take time to listen to and to observe both locals and newcomers from inside by doing informal interviews and re-walk peoples’ lines of perambulation. The investigation turned into a travel story, storytelling into a spatial practice7. As Michel de Certeau puts it in ‘L’Invention du quotidien’. The act of drawing our interactive journeys in little jot-books8 was a way of observing and therefore a way of reflecting. The drawing became a tool for the eye and all other senses. The act of watching closely lead to real closeness and retracing the existing made us experience things differently. A subtle social, cultural and ecological meshwork of informal and formal collective spaces was visualized

Lee, J. and Ingold, T. (2008) Introduction in Ways of walking: Ethnography and Practice on Foot, (Anthropological studies of creativity and perception) England, Ashgate, 2008. p.1-19. 6 Ingold, T., (2007), Up, Across and Along in Lines: A Brief History. London: Routledge pp. 72-103 7 Certeau, M. De, (1984),The practice of everyday life, Berkeley, CA : University of California Press.. 8 The little jotbook is folded out of a A4 piece of paper into a A7 pocket format, easy to take with you on a journey. 9 Ingold, T., (2007), Up, Across and Along in Lines: A Brief History. London: Routledge pp. 72-103 10 Emma Waterton & Laurajane Smith (2010) The recognition and misrecognition of community heritage, International Journal of Heritage Studies, 16:1-2, 4-15, DOI: 10.1080/13527250903441671 5


step by step. It was composed of small trails and pathways through the former clay-pits. As today some of these pits are reclaimed by nature, habitats that are exceptional for biodiversity arise and new relations between the pits and the houses are created. ‘Sloepkes’ originally made to easily reach the clay-pit from the brick workers houses give now access to huge natural internal areas. Furthermore there were and still are small alleys between the front houses along the streets and the backhouses on the edge of the pits, tunnels under the street parallel to the Rupel, dugged to connect the first and second row of pits, and community streets in small settlements at the borders of the pits, where people live their lives. With the decline of the brick manufacturing industry this subtle permeate tissue was obstructed here and there as some of these ‘sloepkes’ and tunnels were privatised. In mapping them we discovered that there was no clear boundary between the public and the private, which enhanced unprompted encounters between locals and newcomers. At the same time their hierarchy in scale guaranteed a gradient of intimacy. This turns this fragile meshwork into a place of attachment appropriated in many different ways, attributing the human scale to this industrial landscape. It made us change our focus from the unique industrial historical relicts towards a heritage, which is organically integrated into the life of the community and by this territorialized and anchored. This implied a radical shift from heritage as an object to heritage as relationship. Heritage was then not longer composed of isolated iconic artefacts but became closely linked with the entire cultural landscape of past and present in which the pathways and trails of natives and newcomers both human and non-human, and the tangible


and intangible are thoroughly entangled. Community has to be considered here as a social creation and experience that is continuously in motion, rather than a fixed entity and description, a ‘seemingly homogenous collective’ defined by geography, religion, age, education, class, gender, ethnicity etc. In the different proposals we suggested new structures, restoration projects and projects of adaptive reuse of the industrial sites closely entangled with the landscape, a revitalisation of the social, cultural and ecological meshwork by reopening carefully some of the privatised ‘sloepkes’, alleys and tunnels not as a plea to conserve all the historical material out of a romantic or nostalgic idea of keeping the houses in their poor materiality or idealising the lack of comfort for the inhabitants but out of the conviction that the intrinsic qualities of this fragile tissue embrace flexibility and can be the primary generator for this area including new housing and new services. The typology of a hierarchical build up mesh of collective spaces could serve as an archetypical form for the region to come to more nuanced and socially better accepted projects in contrast with the construction of high-rise buildings along the Rupel river, completely denying the subtle characteristics of the place, disneyfying the material remains of its industrial past by putting the accent on the attractiveness of historical artefacts that finally become empty shells ones restored and reused. The danger with the current developments is that the cultural landscape of the Rupel region becomes highly urbanised, exclusively promoted as a touristic destination, overlooking the nameless protagonists. Our viewpoint on heritage did not depend anymore on the different meanings of the individual historical relicts alone but rather on the intrinsic qualities

of this valuable human made cultural landscape in which the fabric of buildings and the landscape are closely entwined by a fragile social, cultural and ecological meshwork creating and enforcing the identity, quality and social cohesion of this place and region. Referring to daily life – enclosed by redundancy – we did not focus on the unique but on the recurrent. To adopt this attitude we needed to widen our field of interest towards a broader context of human experiences and to develop methods beyond the narrow focus on the artefacts in which time and slowness were essential features. With this publication we hope to inspire everyone who deals with this place, inhabitants, newcomers, leisure seeking tourists, policy makers, planners and building constructors. Acknowledgments Special thanks go to my students Stefanie Gruyaert, May Lynn Doll, Floor Clinckemalie, Lisa Lu, Felix Schiettecatte, Sam Verschoren, Riccardo Buratti and Matthijs Sioen for their perseverance, their unflagging efforts to settle in into this fascinating region to try to discover the hidden meaning of its cultural heritage and finally for their inspiring projects. Gisèle Gantois Academic Promoter and Book Editor Architect MSc in Conservation Lecturer at the Faculty of Architecture, International Master of Architecture, KU Leuven, campus Ghent, Belgium PhD Candidate in Architecture

She’s doing research on what methods and tools can be found to explore, to detect, to unveil and to map the intangible of the tangible to develop cultural heritage and its context differently by understanding the actual cultural, social and ecological significance for the individual or the community today. She is author (with Yves Schoonjans as co-author) of The architect as mediator between the built heritage and the social construct. (2014), The Nameless Local. (2015) and Storytelling as strategy to envision the changing meaning of heritage from an object-focused approach towards an intertwined contextual one. (2015) PhD research project: The Architect – Heritage Practitioner as Storyteller. Tracing the Ecological and Cultural Significance of rural built heritage of local importance in the framework of adaptive (re-)use.’ Promoters Prof. Yves Schoonjans and Prof. Krista De Jonge. 11


Changing responses to a challenged landscape

Flanders is undergoing complex economic, societal and spatial developments. Many local and global alterations have taken place such as new emerging economic activity, increased specialization and segregation of space, an aging population society, flows of migration, (super)diversity and the transformative digital revolution... imposing new expectations and demands on the built environment. Larger areas are transforming into post-industrial landscapes. All these phenomena present acute challenges for architects, planners and those professionals who are continuously dared with the redevelopment, regeneration, and renewal of the existing urban and landscape fabric. It presses them to update their intervention strategies and tactics. A new generation of professionals is therefore needed where not only critical thinking, but also creative design competencies, sustainable articulation and trans-disciplinary communication as well as research skills are essential. The skills and competences taught in the education of architects, designers and urban planners, need to be more responsive to the changing societal and professional needs and have specific complexity because unlike the hard sciences, architecture and urbanism shape and reflect very specific characteristics of the regions in which they are practiced. The education of these professionals must therefore include knowledge of specific and necessary subject-related skills, but also, common and regional specific competences that will allow professionals to respond to society’s changing needs within the built environment. 12

This book and exhibition show the interesting and intriguing results of a master dissertation design studio at the International Master of Architecture at the Faculty of Architecture, campus Sint-Lucas Ghent of the KU Leuven and lead by Gisèle Gantois as academic promoter. This studio is embedded in the two-year full English spoken programme Resilient and Sustainable Strategies that is concerned with the current theory and practice of architecture and sustainability. The Brundtland report (United Nations, 1987) defines sustainable development as ‘development, which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’. The United Nations in 2005 referred to the ‘interdependent and mutually reinforcing pillars’ of sustainable development as economic development, social development and environmental protection. Translating these three pillars for sustainable architecture, they would entail: providing access to high quality and healthy living and working environments for all, finding ways to create socially sustainable environments at different scales and a wise use of natural resources. Technical considerations, together with more conceptual or strategic issues, are dealt with in this two-year program about architecture and sustainability. Central in the program of the International Master of Science in Architecture is a critical reflection about architecture and its social, cultural or environmental role for society. Based on a highly interdisciplinary learning process of integrated research and ‘research by design’, students are expected to determine a theoretical stance on current issues with particular emphasis on how aspects of sustainability, universal design, modest heritage, urban ecology and energy-efficient technologies may contribute to the development of more sustainable human settlements. The Faculty of Architecture firmly believes that its programmes should take into account an internati-

onal reality. The aim is to proactively foster international awareness in all the participants through a wide range of initiatives. Participants shall learn to interpret and appreciate the local context from a wider multicultural perspective. Extending one’s horizon means developing a more open perspective and a critical attitude, which in turn encourages participants to explore the boundaries of their discipline. Moreover it prepares students to act more responsibly in a globalised society and labour market. The master dissertation design studio by Gisèle Gantois tackled an important region in Flanders, the Rupel Region exploring concrete societal issues. The group of students were highly international and by this at the start totally unknown of the local context of the project area. Coming from different origins they all looked at it in very different ways. The fact that they realised that the meaning of this complex area was not univocal was very important. Slowly they unravelled, layer after layer, its complex meanings and multi-layered realities. Multiplicity, simultaneity and creative adjacencies could be the words to describe best the characteristics of this changing environment. Different to past planning and design models, alternative approaches had to emerge. Many of the challenges in design cannot be met in a predestined way. Stereotyped interventions based on problem solving and blueprint thinking were avoided, without loosing the grip on reality. On the contrary, in this studio new ways of analysing the existing, appropriating space, designing objects, defining spaces and restructuring urban areas seemed to look for alternative and creative solutions, based on what was already there. Those projects generate interesting and unique mappings and visions, possibilities and constructive solutions challenging future possibilities. The illustrated projects embody a high sensitivity and critical attitude towards the given context the students fully embraced.

tiplicity of design problems in a collaborative and interdisciplinary way. They possess, at the same time, a determinate and indeterminate framework pushing the students, but also the teachers, out of their comfort zone. This contextual framework encourages the teasing-out of unforeseen skills and competences beyond the fixed expectations. This elicits both inspiration and commitment. Live projects address issues such as the future self of the student who is stimulated because he/she can make personal choices and decisions. This means that students become themselves a sort of critical agency not only in their own education but also in the future development of the discipline and society itself. Architectural schools therefore have a huge responsibility to encourage and nurture that potential. Kris Scheerlinck & Yves Schoonjans

Such live projects, often built on local stakeholders, embody a complexity and multi-layeredness. Grown out of daily life they are not protected by well-defined boundaries but make connections to a mul13

Yves Schoonjans is a Professor in architectural history and – theory at the University of Leuven (Department of Architecture), Belgium. He recieved a master of science in architectural engineering at the University Ghent (1984). From 1985 till 1995 he had a private architectural practice with Gilles Van Bogaert. In his PhD-study (An 19th century eclectic discourse – social and architectural strategies to cope with abundance and diversity – University Ghent, Belgium) he tackles the way how the theoretical discourse on eclecticism is constructed. The main focus of the research lies on the appropriation of theoretical notions and the recalibrations of the relation between form and meaning by different actors in the field of architecture in the recent and present period (19th to 21st century). He was involved as partner and lead-coordinator in different international programs (Erasmus, Mundus and ALFA) and participated in different project, especially in Latin America. Within the academic management he was Head of the education-section ‘History and Theory’ from 2002 to 2008, program director of the International Master of Architecture (2008-2010), Vice Dean International Affairs (2013-2015). From October 2013 he became vice-chair of the Research Department and Campus Director. Kris Scheerlinck studied Architecture (MSc., School of Architecture, Sint-Lucas, Ghent), Spatial Planning (PG., University of Ghent/KU Leuven), Urban Culture (PG., UPC Barcelona) and Urban Design (MSc., UPC Barcelona) and obtained his Ph.D. in Architecture and Urban Projects with Prof. de Solà-Morales and Prof. Ferrer as thesis directors (UPC/URL, Barcelona, Spain). For more than 15 years, he ran his own research and design practices in Ghent, Barcelona and New York, working on urban and architecture projects, interior, retail and exhibition design and ephemeral installations. He coordinated and ran design studios, workshops and taught theoretical courses in Architecture and Urban Design Programs at various institutions and universities in New York, Barcelona, Bratislava, Melbourne, Valparaiso, 14

Cordoba, Guayaquil, Cuenca, Havana, Addis Abeba, Ghent and Brussels. For the last 5 years he directed the International Master of Science in Architecture. He is currently Vice-Dean for Internationalisation and member of the Faculty Doctoral Commission at the Faculty of Architecture. He is Head of the Research Group “Urban Projects, Collective Spaces and Local Identities” at the Department of Architecture. He directs an international research project on depth configurations in urban projects, called Streetscape Territories and promotes related PhD projects. His expertise is on the analysis of public-private gradients in urban projects and their related models of accessibility, permeability and proximity and pronounces a critical discourse on territorial boundary delimitation in real life projects.


A Region once Determined by Brickworks: the Cuesta Front along the River Rupel The Scheldt estuary was during Roman times already a region where clay was processed for the production of roof tiles and thin bricks for a variety of building purposes. Whether the production of these tiles continued is hard to tell due to a lack of written sources and the difficultly of determining fired clay products. The real start of the brick production emerged in the 13th century thanks to a continued quarrel between the counties of Flanders and Hainaut. During the struggle for supremacy the count of Hainaut forbade the export of stone from the Tournai region via the river Scheldt to Flanders. Building projects not only in the county of Flanders, but also in the duchy of Brabant came to a halt. Amongst them was the erection of the Cistercian abbey of Saint Bernard nearby Hemiksem. As the Cistercian monks, with their continental network, gained mastery of using the best available technology for the management of their domains, brickworks were set up. The production of bricks and large floor tiles was at the time of the building of the monastery well established in the Cistercian abbeys of Boudelo and Dunes, both in Flanders. Bricks were made and the building could continue, cheaper than anticipated. To get the “proper” look of the Burgundian abbeys like Cîteaux and Clairvaux, the brick walls were plastered, stone lining was painted upon them and the whole was limewashed as to get a proper and divine white stone look. The scene was set for a steady growth. Especially the city regulations stipulating the use of roof tiles and the use of bricks for new buildings proved positive for the continued production of bricks along the 16

rivers Scheldt and Rupel. The monks rented their brickworks out. A great amount of bricks was ordered in the 16th century in the rebuilding process of Antwerp. Bold development schemes by Gilbert Van Schoonbeke needed a massive amount of bricks. Brickworks in Hemiksem, once deserted in the turmoil of the Eighty Years War, were reopened. Not only old brick works required much needed orders, a lot of new brickworks were opened as well, also in other villages. A new boost to the steady growing brickworks came in the second half of the 19th century, when the Belgian government decided to strengthen Antwerp as their principal military fortification. Millions of bricks were needed to build a chain of forts around Antwerp. As a result new brick works were started. A continued need of bricks for engineering works (like bridges, stations), building of factories (with foundations of brick), a general boom in the building of dwellings for labourers, and a growing awareness campaign of farmers to invest in clean stables made sure that the production capacity could be sold. Cheap labour provided by women and children and a good transport network via rivers and canals held the overall production cost low and the profit margins high. To make sure that profits could even made higher, some brickyard owners started secondary business. Shipyards, mechanical engineering workshops, diamond cutting shops, slipper production, both at home and in shops, provided extra work, also in winter months when the brickworks hardly worked. This was a great management asset: it gave work and less poor relief benefits were asked. But the not so generous working conditions nevertheless caused unrest and trade unions and political parties as the Daensists and Socialists came to the region and caused unrest and Catholic reactionary movements. Albeit World War One was an overall catastrophe, also for those who hadn’t fled to Holland, the reconstruction effort from 1919 onwards caused a massive boom in the brickworks. Stricter school laws led to the general introduction of machines. Mechanization was introduced to speed up production and

to minimize costs. Other labour intensive activities were executed by women. Some brickworks, till then almost all family businesses, were converted into stock companies. But most remained old fashioned, so the crisis of the 1930’s caused major difficulties, especially for the working force. Luckily, the aftermath of World War Two, again stimulated brick consumption. The global boost in buying power saw a massive demand of new housing throughout Belgium. Did the first crisis hit the workforce, the second crisis in the 1970’s targeted also the yard owners. A lot of them hadn’t invested properly and thoughtful in new technology, nor in cooperation between smaller brickworks. The old brickworks system along the river Rupel bore the brunt of the crisis and one after another had to stop production and close operations entirely. The old and the new way of producing bricks continued for some time, the first at Noeveren (Boom), the second at the new plant of Wienerberger in Rumst. Only the latter remains, with a renewed use of the waterway to transport bricks. A very tiny production crew of only a few machine operators is needed, most others are used for warehousing duties. Robots and an almost entirely closed production cycle form, burn, dry and pile bricks up, ready for transport. The once omnipresent brickworks, transport lines, drying sheds have been demolished. Some clay pits, cut out of the cuesta from the river front onwards, have been refilled, often with noxious refuse of the (also) once thriving industry on the other side of the river Rupel. On the sites of cleaned up kiln and drying areas new urbanization has found its way, new business and living development has already changed the scenery. Together with the reclamation of some ground by nature, the overall outlook of the former industrial landscape has altered enormously. Change and progress are a common factor in every corner of human activity. Unfortunately, change and progress in a former industrial landscape could erase all possible clues which give future generations a stepstone in reading and understanding the manmade landscape in which they live, work and relax. The variation of

heritage remains, scars in the landscape and overall development of those sites shouldn’t result in a total erasing of all buildings and other related structures. It presents an opportunity to make an inclusive project in which heritage assets work together with local communities to foster education, sustainable tourism and living quality. To build this structure, one needs… bricks. Harry van Royen Coordinator Heritage Rupel



felix schiettecatte



from fragmentation to association


FROM FRAGMENTATION TO ASSOCIATION An intervention in the old urban model of Noeveren to address current and future needs




EMABB, luchtfoto rumst, 1970s





Research Question


Problem statement


Defining the site













How the old and proven can help the new and undefined Heritage as a foundation As our population grows and expands, so do our cities. In many of Europe’s cities this expansion takes place in old industrial infrastructure that got left behind due to reallocation of those industries. This brings with it some important questions like; how to deal with industrial heritage, how to deal with the scale difference of those areas and how do we densify those areas without losing certain qualities that are present. Often in Belgium heritage is seen as a hindrance rather then an opportunity. Heritage as its purest definition means “Something that comes or belongs to one by reason of birth; an inherited lot or portion”. In architecture, and more so in urban planning, heritage is also part of collective memory. This factor is what makes heritage so interesting to work with architecturally. The notion of reference is a very complex factor in the design process. It can largely define function, use or acceptance from the communities it serves. It can be restored and used as artefact of a time long passed or it can serve as a time-tested foundation for a newer project. This last use of heritage is what will need to happen more and more because as stated in the beginning of this text, the older our cities get, the bigger portion of architectural heritage will become. (1) Plomteux G., Steyaert R. & Wylleman L. 1985: Inventaris van het cultuurbezit in België, Architectuur, Provincie Antwerpen, Arrondissement Antwerpen, Bouwen door de eeuwen heen in Vlaanderen 10N1 (A-He), Brussel - Gent.

This paper talks about one of those former industrial areas that has been slowly taken over by housing. Densification of current sub-metropolitan areas calls for a general vision of how those areas can be developed. Thanks to heritage regulations the area of Noeveren has been protected from the 80s parcelling frenzy. The design proposes a continuation of the current spatial layout; rings around former clay pits. Currently it has both housing and working functions but lacks public buildings to accommodate for the small houses. The main factor of change in the area is the rise of inhabitants of Boom an the hamlet Noeveren (2). Due to low prices and a good location in between Brussels, Antwerp and Mechelen. Most new inhabitants will be young starters or young families. The program for the building would therefore aid with the settlement of these newcomers, next to that it would also give the already existing neighbourhood communities a physical place in the landscape. On the scale of its direct environment it would prevent a large piece of green to be cut off by private claiming of the terrain which has been happening the last years. In short this formulates my research question:

(2) Pg. 55, Provincie Antwerpen, 2014, Kaderplan ‘kleinstedelijk gebied en ontginningsgebied Boom-Rumst’,




“How can we improve the old urban model of Noeveren to address current and future needs”


A. Vinck , Droogloodsen de Schorre


PROBLEM STATEMENT Development of the area What went astray?

Ironically it was a great disaster that provided the perfect growing opportunity for the brick production in the Rupel region. When Antwerp suffered from a great fire in 1546 (1) the decision was made to rebuild all the lost wooden dwellings in stronger fireproof brick. From this point onwards the brick factories would shape the build environment of the Rupel region, specifically the zones in between the three villages; Niel, Boom and Rumst.

out of three main architectural typologies; the baking ovens, the drying sheds and the workers dwellings.

(1)EMABB, Het steenbakkerij verleden van de Rupelstreek, nl_SteenbRup.html



They all had their specific place in function of the landscape and the brick making process (see next chapter). In current day remnants of these archetypes are still visible, mostly as ruins. This leads to an interesting mix of old and new. Slowly the new claims ground from the old which leads to an interesting flow PRODUCED AN AUTODESK EDUCATIONAL PRODUCT The image on the next page BY shows how of zones where no border in between the two is big these zones actually where, combined they clearly visible. span an area twice as large as the three villages that surround it. These zones were made up

Image; Schematic layout of brick ovens, drying sheds and workman’s housing.


Niel, Boom and Rumst around 1800s

Sprawl of Boom along the A12 highway, grey: Industrial zone


Rupel region during the brick production peak, black: factories, green: clay extraction




Droogloods following the sloping landscapes

Next to the architectural heritage one can also interpret the landscape as heritage (1) as it is the main generator for everything man made that is currently present. It caries many other aspects of the social environment by manifesting itself in both nature and culture. The more obvious interpretations are the trees and bushes that slowly take over where people don’t. They give the region the ‘rough’ touch it has in the eye of the observer. It seems as if whole parts of the region have been left for nature to take over. This is partly thanks to rules in place for development of the area. Often those heritage rules are seen as a hindrance (1) Natural England (2009). Experiencing Landscapes: Capturing the cultural services and experiential qualities of landscape. DEFRA (2014)


by project developers who’s sole intentions are economical. These rules have protected the area of Noeveren in particular to not be taken over by urban sprawl and parcelling. The architecture in the region displays the region through its forms. The drying sheds for example reveal the ever so gentle slope with their long stretched ridges. Similar like waves on the sea they give a certain dynamic to the landscape On the cultural level the landscape represents the combined qualities of nature and man. Although brick production has long disappeared from the bigger picture the memories are still there. Some of the names in the area,

like Hellegat (Hellhole), tell ever so subtly what living conditions were like in that region. Most senior inhabitants have parents that worked in the trade or even worked in it themselves, to them the old factories and chimneys are more then just ruins. All these elements need to be taken in account when intervening in such a landscape as they will dictate whether a project will fit in or not. Another interesting feature than can be found throughout the region is the unclear line between private - public, used - unused, monument - ruin, etc. This creates and interesting atmosphere where nothing is over-defined or

clearly ‘bordered’. The picture underneath shows an example of this. The image is a patchwork of different times, users and elements. We have the heritage protected tunnel, gardens of different material, the gardens are partly fenced of yet open to the back as they were public spaces.

Foto: May Lynn Doll



The architecture of brick production The process’ archetypes

As mentioned earlier where the three main archetypes that were overwhelmingly present during the golden years of the brick production: oven, shed and house. They were all built for a specific purpose in the process, their dimensions, material and locations to this day give a certain order to the built environment. The brick ovens with their large chimneys function as a beacon in the landscape, to a certain extent they provide the role of a church tower in current day villages. The small workman’s houses were renovated, refurbished and brought up to current day standards. Still, their small scale and profile don’t allow for a lot of space inside the houses, sometimes neighbouring houses have joined into a larger dwelling, but mostly the small scale is the norm. The drying sheds have a more static role, most of them have not withstood the test of time and rotted away, leaving in their place rows of trees and bushes. The long, stretched roofs acted as a sort of large gardening tool or funnel, allowing the seeds of the plants to grow only into lines between them.


Ringoven first floor, plan, showing the coal inlets situated above the different chambers

Ringoven ground floor; differnt baking ‘chambers’ and main ventilation channel

Ringoven Foundation, plan, showing the underground ventilation shafts


The ring ovens, or Hoffman Kilns, where the first major sign of large scale industrialisation of the area. These ovens could continuously fire bricks, their only limitation was the actual demand. The plans on the left page show the inner workings of these ovens The oven could be divided in different chambers, fire would move clockwise towards the unfired bricks, called groenelingen. A worker would feed coal through the holes in the ceiling, (top plan) this way he could control both the intensity and speed at which the fire burned and moved.

Smoke would be sucked away on the outer side of the ring. Underground channels move the smoke to the central ventilation ‘chamber’, this chamber would be connected to the smoke stack. Airflow could be controlled by opening or closing the different underground channels or main ventilation channel from above. The sheer massiveness of these ovens is what kept them intact throughout the years, the thick brick walls and blackened ‘tunnels’ still quietly sit underneath the shadows of the chimneys, although they are mostly overgrown by nature they still refer to the huge scale production of bricks that took place here.

Axonometric cut away drawing of the Hoffman Ringoven



A second, more elegant structure where the drying sheds. These sheds are what made the continuous baking possible. Clay bricks had to dry before baking in order to not explode from the moisture contained within. These sheds would be filled during the summer months when it was possible to extract the clay from the ground. This also explains why they where so abundant. To supply one ring oven for one year, 8 kilometers of drying sheds were required, filled with groenlingen. Unlike the ovens, the sheds where made out of lesser materials, wooden trusses in a a scissor-like pattern spanning about 3 meters with a functional height of 2,5 meters. The tile roof would prevent the brikcs from getting wet or drying out too fast from intensive sunlight. The sheds would be placed in the same orientation as the ovens, perpendicular to the Rupel river. Stretching out into the oven’s hinterland. The zone you would find these sheds in is between the extraction and baking process, the zone is roughly 400 meters wide. and would only be interrupted by the streets and existing houses, closing them in and continuing further behind them.

The sheds were placed one next to the other, leaving a gap of around 50 centimeters in between. Train tracks ran down the middle and carts would be loaded and unloaded to either bring in fresh bricks or transport dried ones to the ovens. The sheds had also landscape like features. They would follow the gentle slopes of the ground they where placed on, these gentle slopes where made visible by the ridges of the roofs, gently ‘dancing’ on the surface. This element is what made me choose to re-use the typologies in my design, more on this in later chapters.






The cuesta as catalyst How the scars of excavation shape the current environment

Cuesta by definition is; a long, low ridge with a relatively steep face or escarpment on one side and a long, gentle slope on the other. The cuesta of Boom exists out of a gentle sloped face with large, easily accessible clay deposits and the steep face is carved out by the Rupel river. The clay has good characteristics for brick production and the river allowed for fluent transport throughout Belgium. Thanks to these geographical features brick production started growing in the 16th century and boomed around the 1900s. Apart from the factories themselves the landscape also shows this large scale production. Today we can still see the many pits north of the river where the clay was excavated, these pits dictated where development could or couldn’t take place. The general process usually was as follows. A pit was dug, when it was depleted it would house drying sheds, these would air dry the bricks before the firing process. The small houses of the workforce would be erected on the steep sides of these pits.

Previous page image: Gradient depth map of the Rupel Region

This yields oddly shaped sections of the houses. Those houses would be arranged in patterns that follow the slopes of the pits. The full frame picture on the previous page shows a depth map of the region. The Rupel river is clearly visible as it meanders from east to west. On the north bank, where the clay extraction and brick production took place, three patches of different darker rectangles are visible, these are the different clay pits.


Schematic section of the Brick production plant in relation to the terrain

In section one can see again how the logic of the process works in correlation with the landscape, excavation on the right, storing in the sheds in the middle, firing next to the riverbank and finally transport by boat on the Rupel itself. The parts that where not used by the factories and deemed unusable where the parts where housing could take place. In relation to the factories, these were very small portions of the landscape. When the sheds and factories started disappearing, a lot of open space became available. Leading to a large scale ‘urban puzzle’




The only area where this wasn’t done thanks to heritage protections laws, is a hamlet of Boom called Noeveren. Here the pits and the housing on its edges are still visible, the center area hasn’t been filled up with structures but is a rather large green, protected area, that sits lower than the surrounding houses. The ringovens and chimneys are still present but the drying sheds, apart from those of the EMABB open air museum, have disappeared.





to be solved. The option that was used the most was parcelling up these spaces, and filling them with housing functions (images right)


Above and below images show the difference in development. The image and sketch above show how areas that weren’t covered by heritage protection laws developed. The chimney and oven are still present, but the urban model they once started is not visible anymore.

The image below shows the area of Noeveren, this is the area of intervention further in this paper. Here the areas have developed as they once started, in small but dense bands, that have slowly been formed in to rings around the central green pit.

The parcel houses behind it have in some shape or form a small reference to the drying sheds that would have been on its location. But in this urban model none of the previous qualities are present anymore, (central green space, small circulation, connotative links to the area’s heritage).


The plan underneath the text shows the western part of Noeveren, the band/rings of buildings are clearly visible as they follow the contour lines of the landscape. Red shows the housing, grey marks working functions. At the bottom, close to the river we have an old chimney and close by an old ring-oven belonging to the former Peeters - Van Mechelen factory. As stated before, these areas were seen as less useful by the brick factory directors, so living and leisure was organised on what they deemed ‘less worthy’ grounds.

Nowadays that has changed. Due to the centre of the rings opening up and transforming into protected green zones the houses at the sides now have both sight on and access to large areas of green. These green zones are situated lower in respect to the houses which prevents them from blocking light and sight (right image).




More to the right-center we have the EMABB open air museum, the long stretching structures of the drying sheds are visible in the plan as well as the ring oven and a series of different types of ovens. The image underneath show a view from the houses on the lower situated open air museum EMABB. This shape of terrain manifests itself also in the architecture present on the site. Throughout the Rupel region there are some archetypes that play into this height difference.

One of these are tunnels. They where made by the brick factories to create a whole secondary network for transporting clay without disrupting the existing roadworks. (see later) A second more interesting instance are the “sloepkes�. Sloepkes are small slits in between row houses that allow for public access into a more secluded collective street, which in turn provides the access to the private houses.

Noeveren , Implantation, concrete and cardboard model


The above image shows how the sloepkes connect the public- with the collective space. The houses are made up out of two parts, this is to make up for the lack of space of the ‘original’ house. When the main part got too small, most people would buy the shacks behind them and start using them as expansion; storage, washing, etc. Having a ‘two part’ house that is connected by collective space creates a vibrant street where a lot of encounters take place. The back of these shacks where further privatised and turned into gardens, this obscured the reason the sloepkes had during the brick productions days.

The original reason for their creation was to allow a quick access to the center of the pits, aswell as an access to the house which did not have front doors on the street side. Some of these sloepkes still fulfill the second goal, whereas the first one is almost never possible anymore. Over the years these sloepkes where slowly cut off, either by fencing them off or by creating a second layer of shacks and gardens behind them that disconnect them from the pits.

Satellite picture showing the second row of houses, sheds and gardens


Fotos: May Lynn Doll


Model of tunnel, rails for transport carts, Paper and cardboard


The tunnels are a second circulatory archetype that deals with the difference in height of the landscape. These tunnels were made once expansion of the factories reached the Nielse Baan, the main street that runs parallel with the river. The main function they had was transport of clay to the drying sheds, where the clay was formed in to bricks. So these tunnels where more focused on transport of materials rather then persons. One could see them as the inverse of the sloepkes, they don’t work with the landscape Noeveren, Tunnel under Nielse baan, 2015

but literally drill through it. Unlike the sloepkes they currently serve no function. Most of them are protected and will be restored once funding is found. The images above show some examples of these tunnels and how they are dealt with in current day. As explained earlier, private claiming of the area slowly expands, one of the tunnels has been partly blocked off because of a housing expansion to the side. Others get worked in to garden designs, temporarily fortified, or just left untouched.

Noeveren, Tunnel under Nielse baan, 2015 Fotos: May Lynn Doll


Paperfold model showing workmans housing, sloepke and garageboxes




PROGRAM Some things public, some things private A program formed from shortcomings

The program is based on findings from both own research and the research done by the Spatial planning bureau; province of Antwerp. Their results and findings are communicated in two studies; Kaderplan ‘kleinstedelijk gebied en ontginningsgebied Boom-Rumst’; december 2014 and Krachtlijnen voor Boom 2007-2012; 2012. The two papers analyse the current situations and create a vision for the area in the future. From the first days I found that a lot of neighbourhood communities are active in the area, but they lack an indicated place in the landscape.

“At the foundation of a strong social network lies the neighbourhood. Community cooperation is the first step towards municipal policy and introduction of new inhabitants. Participation works best on the lowest levels. Inhabitants participate faster when it’s about their direct environment. That’s why the role of community councils should be redefined and the contact with the inhabitants expanded.”(2)

The importance of these organisations is also mentioned in the studies;

It seemed rather obvious that the developing of a ‘social house’ would be a good asset in the current social environment. But what exactly does a social house entail, and what functions could it house?

“It’s the community inhabitants that notice social problems first. But to whom do they report it ? De multiplicity of instances, counters, social aid workers and hodgepodge of laws make it unclear where to ask for help effectively. Those who need help should be able to find it by speaking to óne spokesperson, at óne counter in óne social house.”(1) And once more in the paper that sketches an all round vision for the area of boom and its surroundings:

When going more in depth and trying to attribute functions to a social house I selected 3 main programs; neighbourhood house, youth house and ‘work house’. The many youths in and around the area of Boom currently do not have a place to meet, chat, socialize, etc. after school houses (2). With Boom housing a large amount of schools and pupils the amount of youths is significant. The second function, work house, comes from the need of space of the inhabitants, which

(1)Krachtlijnen voor Boom; 14.12.2012. (2) Kaderplan ‘kleinstedelijk gebied en ontginningsgebied Boom-Rumst’; december 2014


is a result of the small houses they inhabit. There isn’t much space left in the houses for working, hobbies, repairs, etc. Next to the more temporary needs there are also a lot of people in the region that still work and create objects out of clay, these people could set up in the workspaces for longer periods of time and even exhibit their work in the exposition hall. Events like these are organised every year in an old machine hall near the site. Underneath is an example of different expositions that where organised in the last years; Noeveren Art, de Machinehal, 05/2015; Pots International, de Machinehal, 05-06/2013; Tentoonstelling, de Machinehal, 09/2012. Recital Menno Buggenhout, de Machinehal, 03/2015. Lastly we have the neighbourhood house. Its main function is giving a physical space in the landscape to the organisations. This makes them easier to be found and used by both newcomers and residents. The functions inside the building are based on the programs of neighbourhood houses around the area of Boom. Two classrooms for language classes, ICT room, conference room, smaller consult/work rooms, multifunctional space.


The three parts of the building each require a different amount of designed/organised spaces vs. open space going from less to more designed/organised we have:



The three spaces are connected with circulation similar to the collective streets and sloepkes found in the area. Some parts of the programs can be used by more then one ‘house’. In the diagram underneath interior and public circulation are imaged.






Learning from the site Archetypes and materials as foundation for the design

The sloepkes are in essence ‘cuts’ or ‘gaps’ in between 2 row houses. They regulate circulation in between public and collective space. As an added function they frame and show a part of the area behind the housing. The cladding on the sides of the houses are solid materials, there are no windows which could allow a passer-by to look inside the houses. The massiveness of these façades frame the sight behind the houses, inviting the passer-by to walk through and go on to the back. As stated before, continuing into the center of the ring via these passages has been

blocked. The design will use this system of passages, by keeping the program public, the claiming and closing of these passages can not happen so easily. The idea of showing the important role this passages can play is that formerly closed of sloepkes can be re-opened and used once more. This all with the aim to re-build the subtle circulation that can connect the different parts of Noeveren once again and re-activate the old meshwork of tunnels and sloepkes. The new sloepkes in the design directly connect the green area in the east with the EMABB center on the right.

Fotos: May Lynn Doll


Water colour impression drawing, street scape around the site, Noeveren.


Water colour impression drawing, road along the Rupel side river, south of the site.


Water colour impression drawing, Peeters - Van Mechelen chimney, access to the site on the right


Water colour impression drawing, Old ring oven chimney and the Rupel waterside.










The plan on the left shows aAmore L detailed PR there view of the site (red rectangle). Currently OD end are two big hangars in between two dead UC streets that have small scale housing. The T hangars were built after the brick production area and are therefore not protected by heritage laws. Since they clash with the more fragile and lower buildings that are found in the area, and that the building doesn’t have an important impact on its surroundings the decision was made to demolish it and replace with a structure that fits better in the existing urban ring model. The program of the hangars currently is the winter storage of boats, the space this program takes up can’t really be justified in how little it gives back to the community. The new program will have as main users the immediate inhabitants around it. People that live in small houses along the neighbourhood will find the space needed to work, relax, drink, eat, meet and talk (more on program later).





The right page show a four part section throughout the terrain, on the left we can first see the strong dip in height when going from the top of the ring to the lower inner side. The former workman’s houses glide down and follow the terrain.






On the right we have a similar scattering of houses, a same height, width and rhythm of houses. The middle we see the boat hangar. the structure looks out of place compared to the houses on its left and right. It’s also made out of a different material, which makes it stand out even more.








The design is based on the findings, both architectural and urban, in the area of Noeveren. A first important input was the approach to the site. When coming from the Nielse Baan the user approaches from an elevated position, this pushes me to think about the roof as the first facade, it will be the biggest and most noticeable in the landscape. By using the same archetype as the drying sheds the roof will act as a reminder of the industry. A first concept model on the next page shows what this roof could look like. A series of bands interrupted by openings or translucent materials that bring light into the otherwise


dark structure. The cuts through the building serve as main entrances and guide circulation, both public ( from exterior to interior of the ring), and the inner circulations. Concept models of what these cuts could look like can be found on the next page. On the model the openings are made as patios. In the final design the light will rather be guided by translucent materials as they provide the same amount of light as a patio, but do not divide the space underneath it into different areas, allowing for more open space with less spatial limitations.


Concept model showing new ‘sloepkes’, materiality differences regulate more private or more open spaces Cardboard and tracing paper model


Concept model showing new ‘sloepkes’, materiality differences regulate more private or more open spaces Cardboard and tracing paper model


Picture of final model, 1:50, cardboard, paper and wood



From analysis towards architecture Fitting the concept and program

This chapter handles the search for form, the architectural process and the final design. This was done via sketch, models and axonometric drawings. The chapter mainly has images as they explain more then words. I included images and sketches of earlier ideas which did not, or only partly, made it into the final design. This to show why my final choices might fit the program better, this is after all a reflection paper rather then an architectural presentation of a finalized design. The building design itself is an architectural test of the concepts that came out of the analysis. To recap this is the program written out in the shape of the final building, which is a rectangle of 90 x 25 meters, roughly 4:1 ratio. Each program has an area of 30 x 25 meters, or 750m² (minus circulation), in one floor, with ceiling heights at 3,5 and 5,5 meters.




The rectangle of urban space, a continuation of the already existing bands of buildings.


From the urban model comes the main shape of the building. It’s a rectangle 25x100 meters.

Each part of the program (work-, youth-, social house) has the same importance this is first made clear by dividing the rectangle in three equally sized parts. The three areas are separated by main circulation that cuts from one side of the building to the other i.e. the outside of the urban ring to the inside.

Each part has its particular program that demands more planned/structured space next to open multifunctional space. The diagram underneath shows area wise which amount of space needs to be planned and which amount stays multifunctional.


Orthogonal layout of first ideas

Patios and spaces

Looking for asymmetrical shapes


First test, asymmetrical layout.

Social house and its different programs, classes, ICT, multifunctional room

Working rooms in m², over designed and too much ‘












Section through the youth house

Section through the working house










Detail of central gutter




I would like to conclude this paper by thanking the people that helped me during the making of this project. First and foremost Gisele GANTOIS for the input and critiques during studio sessions My parents, sister and friends, Stijn Wynants, Andreas Verlinden, Lennart Vandewaetere, Marius Vaneeckhoutte, Matthias Decleer, Louis Seynaeve, Bram Verlinden, Lisa Lu, Amen break, Dauwe Egberts



MEYERS, REDY (SAMENST.). (1972) Zoeklicht op Niel. VAN DYCK, V. (2008) Inventaris van de bestaande relicten van de steenbakkerijnijverheid in de Rupelstreek VAN DEN BROECK, R. (2003) Niel en Hellegat uit potjeir gevormd en in vuur gebakken MAMPEAY, K (1999). Herbestemming van de steenbakkerijen en kleiputten: Toekomst voor de Rupelstreek? VAN DE MOSSELAER, W. (2012) Hellegat, Niel PLOMTEUX G., STEYAERT R. & WYLLEMAN L. 1985: Inventaris van het cultuurbezit in BelgiĂŤ, Architectuur, Provincie Antwerpen, Arrondissement Antwerpen, Bouwen door de eeuwen heen in Vlaanderen 10N1 (A-He), Brussel - Gent. ZUMTHOR, P. (2006). Atmospheres: Architectural Environments - Surrounding Objects ATELIER BOW WOW, (2007). Graphic Anatomy. ARCHITECTEN DE VYLDER VINCK TAILLIEU, (2012) 1 boek 1, 1 boek 2, 1 boek 3






The awareness of being




FROM WHERE I STAND CULTURAL HERITAGE ; the legacy of physical artifacts and intangible attributes of a group or society that are inherited from past generations, maintained in the present and bestowed for the benefit of future generations. Cultural heritage includes tangible culture, intangible culture and natural heritage. - UNESCO

The attitude towards heritage nowadays has this impatience to bring a building back into being. Not a single plant can grow near, there is no room to let a building breath. Heritage that’s present on site is becoming an object, only seen as a shell, instead of a subject. By considering relics as a material that we can work with, this current gap of cultural knowledge could become a reconnection.1 The building is no longer in servitude; the spirit is back. As stated in the definition people sometimes forget that it is not only about buildings but about evoking its stories and memories as well. The main observation in the Rupel region is that this man-made landscape has a greater impact on heritage, history is stored here. It’s important to me to have a constant dialogue with our environment and dwelling. As Mateo stated : “ Whereas in our recent past the paradigm by which architecture is measured was the city, now, the collective reference is the relation with nature.2 ” This uniform use of archetypes in the past used to give this region a structure, but it is no longer possible today to build industrial structures of this scale in an urban context. The infrastructure that had been severed from its industrial context is now used to give structure to the new city fabric. Currently it is a scattered region where this lost activity of industry is noticeable. A sense of scale is missing. By taking corporeality as the reference point in architecture, not as a reminiscent of Vitruvius’ idea of humanism that takes the human body as a measurement tool of built proportions, but as an awareness of space that addresses the here and now. What between both, the corporeal state and the qualities of space, can act as an intermediary - is for me an important element of atmosphere.

1 2


Tim Ingold, Making . Josep Lluis Mateo, The four elements and architecture today.

By exploring atmospheres that we inherit on this specific region I would like to try capturing these by translating them and relink them to the current sense of place. But how to search for atmospheres when this has to do with immediate experience, in which all senses are simultaneously triggered? My impression is that the sense of touching is the most important sense, not in the literal sense of touching but as an experience of one’s being and an understanding of yourself. It is this haptic sense of being in the world and in a specific place and moment, the actuality of existence, that is the essence of atmosphere. In this region you are confronted with four natural elements that both existed in the past as present. This can enforce the relationship between heritage, as well be a physical phenomenon that can be experienced with all your senses. Working with the elements earth, water, air and fire relates us more to nature and can turn this concept of seeing heritage into a working material.1






General explanation project

Borders Cultural significance Senses Atmospheres Memories Presence of industry nowadays Presence of water Sense of scale

Explanation site

Earth, water, air, fire models atmospheres plan, section details



146 156 162 166 171 173 174


Historical framework

132 136



106 111 114 116 120 124 126 128 130


Personal vision and research question on the project







A place where you can reflect. Where you can wander. Lose your thoughts. Imagine. Feel. Breath. Hear. Smell. To see or not see.




1. 1. Picture : Geschiedkundige studiegroep Ten Boome 2. Picture :



The research area is situated in the province of Antwerp, along the river Rupel, which connects it to Brussels and Antwerp. The Rupel region covers the municipalities of Rumst, Boom, Niel, Schelle and Hemiksem. The river is still an active transport layer for the region, but throughout the years 2 more have been added; the A12 & E19 highways. Although important for the transportation of goods and people, the two highways also divide the area. The connection of these municipalities is the rich and communal history that goes back to the Middle Ages. The region is marked by brick manufacturing industry and clay extraction. This has an immense impact on the landscape and relatively few factory buildings were left. The traces of this uniform history mostly disappeared, fragmented or hidden in the landscape. Today it forms a patchwork that still tries to hold on to memories and experiences from the past. This feeling was acknowledged by the older citizens, looking only in the past and trying to explain the history by stories, images and by pinpointing to several buildings or streets. Even if the function of the building is gone, years have passed, they will still refer to the building as a reminder for times long gone. When walking through this region the majority of historical buildings is only acting as a “shell,� having lost their purpose, they are more seen as objects. Is this memory trapped in places or is it constantly being recreated by the environment?




THE REGION HAS A STORY TO TELL Historical framework


Established region by reintroducing bricks to develop abbey




Started making bricks until the fall of Western Roman empire

Risk of fire in cities, like Antwerp, due to wooden developments increased use of bricks.






OVEN 1800




Peak of the brick industry with 400km drying sheds and 8000 people active


Only 6 of the 34 factories are still active




Decrease of the brick industry, mechanization of factories

Reactivating a fragmented region



PROPERTY Working class could buy their own house



Filling up the clay pits with garbage originating from all over Belgium




Walking. Exploring the site by the act of walking allows for a slow pace and there is time to reflect and listen. Looking at the link between heritage, daily life, nature, present industry and the Rupel river. By not having a clear destination where to walk to, you create your own references to orientate yourself on. When visiting the site the first thing I oriented myself on was the river. I started at the church of Boom and quickly got attracted towards the river side.


This whole area was new to me, so the first thing I noticed were these remnants of chimneys spread along the region. I started to get a second reference point and tried to walk close next to the river. Soon this walkway gets disrupted. Active industry is still using the river for transport, so you are forced to go inwards. This is where I discovered that there is a very thin line between public and private, industry and housing and somewhere in between; nature. When walking through the area the scale constantly changed and a fragmented feeling remained.

When you look around, the day before is present - there is no pretense that each day is new. Along the quiet road, old houses of long-gone communities nestle alongside more modern ones. People are reluctant to get rid of anything, holding on to its history. Conversations ramble and fade, filled with local sayings and nicknames for certain places. These elements make the region unique, capturing certain atmospheres that are only known by them. For example like the word “sloepke� : an alleyway that used to connect the workplace with the living area. This is a specific characteristic only present here. Unlike in certain cities, there are places that are not meant to be planned. Not that things are less considered; in fact, the opposite might be the case. It comes out of a certain necessity and function. Will it work and will it stand? Mostly with old and reused materials that become part of the whole story. It feels that they are in a constant state of disrepair and renewal. When a hole appears into the fence they will try to bind it back together. Or when an original structure collapses , all that remains is the collection of parts and bricks. Out of this, the unexpected is made. You will discover history in every corner of the street, one less present than the other. There is a certain pace present. One that hasn’t got a fixed rhythm yet.



Having a richness born from the space between order and chaos.



heritage // living

industry // green

Relics are being claimed, broken down or reused. These fractions are scattered around the region and are still holding on to it’s rich history. Time and again you can close your eyes and still feel the presence of history.

Industry used to be the main structure in the region, now it’s represented by nothing more than its remnants that are scattered around. Nature is taking over, and patterns are being made following the structure of what used to be. Is new industry still appropriate?

industry // living

living // water

There is a very thin line between working and living. What used to strengthen the social interaction now is seen as a strong border. These two scales are constantly interchanging through the region, a patchwork emerges.

The river used to be solely for industrial purposes, now people are appreciating it more for its natural beauties. It is seen as a quality to live along the waterside, people are opening up their backyards to be more connected. The river banks are also the place where most new developments are concentrated


living // green

Once nature started to grow over industrial places, the scale of working and living is was reversed. Looking more idyllic, but wondering who is fully aware of the history that is stored in his backyard? Is there a clear purpose for this nature?


industry // water

The river is still being used as an important means of transport towards Antwerp, Brussels or even outside of Belgium. This is attracting industry to start up a business along the Rupel river. A strange sequence of living and industry arises. Who can claim the waterside?

Cultural significance

Many places are carrying an important value and rich history, they tell us who we are and show the link with the past that formed our environment and community. But how can we ensure that heritage is cared for properly? The Burra Charter defines the basic principles and procedures to be followed in the conservation of heritage places. By first analyzing the general space, we can develop a specific sense of place. By understanding the place linked with its tangible and intangible values, we, as a designer, can interpret them and create a more conscious vision on how we incorporate heritage into the structures nowadays.


SPACE is originally referring to the outer space definition, which is originated from outer and space. Outer; situated on or toward the outside; external; exterior Space; an area, extent, expanse, lapse of time. Originally from the Latin word spatium; “room, area, distance, stretch of time� PLACE A particular position or point in space. A place comes into existence when humans give meaning to a part of the larger, undifferentiated space. It may include elements, objects, spaces and views. Place may have tangible and intangible dimensions. USE the functions of a place, including the activities , traditional and customary practices that may occur at the place or are dependent on it; ASSOCIATIONS the connection that exist between people and place. CULTURAL SIGNIFICANCE Aesthetic, historic, scientific, social or spiritual value for past, present or future generations. It is embodied in the place itself, its fabric, setting, use, associations, meanings, records, related places and related objects.


CONSERVATION all the processes of looking after a place so as to retain its cultural significance. PRESERVATION maintaining a place in its existing state and retarding deterioration. RESTORATION returning a place to a known earlier state by removing accretions or by reassembling existing elements without the introduction of new material. ADAPTATION changing a place to suit the existing use or a proposed use. RECONSTRUCTION returning a place to a known earlier state and is distinguished from restoration by the introduction of new material.

INTERPRETATION all the ways of presenting the cultural significance of a place in the designer its own subjective way.



AESTHETICS ; 1. The study of the mind and emotions in relation to the sense of beauty.


Aesthetics is not what things look like. It is not about images. Aesthetics is the full sensory feelings of humans: All our senses and all our feelings. How we perceive the different materials and different spaces, how we absorb them, what we associate them with, what they make us remember, how they make us feel. The power of aesthetics as the main influence on the quality of our lives. The urge to touch, smell, listen and feel. And to wonder, discover, reflect and imagine. This, I believe, is the path to a new awareness. The empowerment of aesthetics as a belief that our senses and our feelings should play a complementary role to the rational determination what we want our world to be like in the future. The courage to base our decisions on this belief.



DRYING SHED Within this grand scale of brick industry a drying shed felt quiet intimate. With a height of 1.80m at the sides, it has a human scale. What used to be experienced as a completely dark place filled up with bricks now feels so open. Young children were playing hide and seek through the structures, a young couple secretly met each other and when it was raining people went through these structures to avoid the rain. The most important thing about these sheds was that they were spread out all over the region, in total around 400 kilometers long. The industrial heritage is stored in its quantity, which now survived in only a few places. It doesn’t feel right anymore, it has not the same atmosphere nor the same meaning.


Once entering this building the weight becomes clear. Massive brick walls and an endless walk through the oven. A contrast of light and shadows, a delicate glow of fading light comes out of the ceiling, where coals used to be dropped down. Whereas we now experience this place as a cold and illuminated monumental tunnel, it used to be completely different. Full with bricks this oven were never turned off, people were working in heat where the scent of coals predominates. Loading and unloading bricks was done simultaneously. The small coal pipes were cleaned by children. This building is evoking mixed feelings for the people that used to work here.



An open field, carved out by man. Layer by layer peeling off the ground. Excavation. Could we ever get this feeling back where you feel that as a person you’re so small but as a group you can do so much? This whole landscape is shaped by humans. The only scale we’ve got are the tiny houses around them, where a brutal cut emerges. As well the tunnels give us a sense of scale, shortcuts are being created for humans to pass through all these pits. When the industry slowly dissapeared, garbage was being dumped to fill the emptiness. Soon problems were rising; pollution, fire, health risks. Now a few of them are still untouched, taken over by nature. This strongly manmade landscape is no longer fully experienced.



ALLEY A small alleyway, a degree of dimness. Coming out of such an immensely landscape into the intimate corridor with its long, narrow windows at the floor level; There one can listen with such a sense of intimacy to the raindrops falling down on the stepping stones. The smell of a woman making soup brings back such memories. This intimate feeling is reflected on the relationship between habitants. Everyone knows each other, a stranger is easily noticed. This quality is disparaging, people are moving, claiming these alleyways as their own property, closing them off and the link with the clay pits got lost.



ANAMNESIS ; The remembering of things from a supposed previous existence. It is a concept in Plato’s epistemological and psychological theory that he develops in his dialogues Meno and Phaedo.


Time is passing. Building shapes may change, some parts may be altered. Buildings that are revealing beauty of time through wounds of the past and present. Do memories remain or is it affected by the irreversible alteration of time? By identifying these processes of memories, we can come a step closer to understand how this can affect our process of designing. Our mortality is the truth and yet, we deny it until it happens. We find comfort in memories, trying to hold on to something that may not be there any longer. Or something that was never there. Some are trying to capture these as long as possible, some are suppressing the memory. In our mind we are creating an intangible realm to the past. Our memories are stored as fragments. Fragments of time and moments, that touched or affected us in a unique way. They end up stored within ourselves. How do we access this place? Do we share such individual experience? All these pieces, where only our mind has the power to piece those fragments together, to form a story. Trying to present an experience without revealing the whole.






Presence of industry nowadays



After I got the global view on the whole area, I was curious about the balance between what was still present from within the past and the industry today. At a first glance you look and try to peel off all the present layers in a search for this rich history of bricks. I was surprised that almost everything is gone. Heritage is concentrated in Noeveren, which is a protected village, but apart from that there are not that many relics left. These empty lots, where kilometers of brick industry used to be, are now quickly filled with new industry that makes use of the good connection towards Antwerp and Brussels.





Presence of water



The Rupel river has a strong presence in both the past and today. It is a tidal river, right tributary of the Scheldt. About 12 kilometres long it flows through the region and is formed by the confluence of the rivers Dijle and Nete, in Rumst. The name Rupel is based on “rim” (flowing) and -pel (swamp) or from the mixture between the word “ruw” (rough) and the Latin word “Palus”, which means swamp. Now known as a freshwater tidal river with strong tidal currents, in the Middle Ages it used to be a wide shallow river with vast marshes on the left bank. The names of the villages in the Rupel region are linked with the river as well. For example the municipality “Hellegat” is coming from “Hel” (Hell) and “plaats” (place). This used to be a very difficult and dangerous point to cross the rupel river due to its very strong current and depth. People didn’t want to cross here. Only one boatman, Louis Magnus, provided a kind of ferry service to cross the river. Later a bridge was built, but during WOII this got destroyed. Now still a ferry is operating to cross the river. Here some memories are attached as well. One of the main moments were linked with the seasons. In summer people went swimming in the river and in winter, when the water was frozen, they went ice skating. Once industry moved more inwards, the clay pits were also used as an area for leisure. This inspired me to look at the flooding areas in the region. Are these areas linked with the clay pits? Can these flooding areas bring back memories? I’m interested in the temporality that is made and where a possibilty arises to give itself back to landscape.


Sense of scale

A very thin line between living and working. Embracing industry. Only locals passing through. Landscape is based on a routine; a rythm. Excavating and excavating.


Empty places remain empty. Fragmentation. Nature takes over. a man-made landscape remained.





Looking back at the analysis based on its history and remembering something that has past, surviving by virtue, of those who were there, and the stories that are told. Actually the main observation in the Rupel region is that this man-made landscape has a greater impact on heritage; history is stored in this landscape. For me, it was an important shift between those memories, that are so personal and individual, and the landscape that is just present. It has something static, something more objective that I could better get a hold on. It is only when you clearly know what lies behind or how it works that you could enjoy the landscape at its fullest If you are realizing that you are just a friction towards nature. As a result this place will become something meaningful.



De Schorre ; full of activities. Can we still feel the history of its landscape? Active industry, that is still shaping the land. In between these two busy plots a lost piece of land is found.


In between two very active plots, a lost fragment was found. This site caught my attention because on the west side it wasn’t dammed up yet. It is a big marshland, with lost ruins spread all over. A border between the touched and untouched emerged. Knowing that the city council is planning to build a golf terrain on the area, I realized the place and its quality will soon be gone. Including the very rare species that are living there. This got me thinking about a place where people could enjoy and get aware of the landscape itself. It can become a significant place to wander.

A pathway comes out of this research. A walk through the site to experience this landscape the fullest. To be aware of its scale, its history and its beauty. A moment to stand still. Designing for the present, with an awareness of the past and a conscious vision for the future.


Within this lost piece of land, an interesting border between the touched and untouched arose.



As you are walking a familiar road you rarely can see the larger change that takes place; it always seems to happen when the head is turned. New tracks are made and some things are becoming more noticeable. After a day of rain or the thrown litter from yesterday it is these thing that make changes to the places, retaining certain marks and vanishing others. As you walk a silence overcomes you. In the city you have to try and break away from the noise. In nature it is different. Suddenly you are aware of that single bird singing or ducks calling, and warning. More likely, it is a medley of animal sounds - barks, tweets, grunts, bleeps. In open spaces, the sounds travel and merge.


Routines. When someone is already so familiar with a place that everything becomes normal. Traveling each day more or less the same journey. Watching familiar objects pass by - that brick house, the cafe, the woods - as I was walking at a certain point I closed my eyes and tried to imagine what I was passing; are these places also remembered and noticed by citizens that are living there ? I tried to draw this experience, re-imagining what makes these fragile yet specific qualities from the region. Getting lost. To let things wander, to collect and to rearrange.















The garden of love - William Blake

I went to the Garden of Love, And saw what I never had seen; A Chapel was built in the midst, Where I used to play on the green.

And the gates of this Chapel were shut, And ‘Thou shalt not’ written over the door; So I turned to the Garden of Love That so many sweet flowers bore.

And I saw it was filled with graves, And tombstones where flowers should be; And Priests in black gowns were walking their rounds, And binding with briars my joys & desires.




Acting as a ruin, it is a place to reflect or pass by. Only for those who are in search of such places. It is hidden and anchored in its land. By incorporating and translating water, earth, air and fire it helps to let the people reconnect with its history. Working only with brick material, gives this place a sense of scale and serenity. Appreciating the landscape its fullest by taking the visitor along the entirety, the fragment and detail. Manipulating the experience, and trying to focus on specific views and atmospheres that are based on research.


EARTH The earth is our support, our base. Our root. It represents life and death and our connection with the world. A surface. A location. A connection that transforms a space into a place. It represents another form of encounter with the local. It gives us a sense of place. History is stored in it. Remains are buried. Bones - the transformation of the organic into inorganic. Stones. Old foundations. Traces. Our work with earth consists in hollowing it out, boring into it, penetrating it. It also consists in molding it and reinforcing it. Beneath. On Top. Above. Seen as a mass, it consists of a million particles. Water is slowly penetrating into the earth that molds and cracks it. That transforms and sometimes weakens it. Air is moving through the cavities. An encounter with matter: clay. The essence of the region. A base for making bricks, which is a solid unit of clay, that is fire-hardened and used for construction. The earth - the start and the end of architecture.


Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona




WATER A river. The rupel river, where both industrial and individual memories are formed. The backbone of the region. Change of status: liquid to solid, and, when frozen, its volume increases. However, it is not only the consistency that changes, but also our relationship with it. When frozen, it becomes a landscape of survival, it’s hard to remain. In its liquid form we have the opposite: it is not attached to anything. Formless. Adaptable. Colorless. Dynamic. How do we shape water, and how does water shape us ? Necessary to life.


Edward Burtynsky, Colorado River Delta, Mexico




AIR At a basic, primary level, our buildings rest on the ground, on the earth, and extend into the air, into the sky. The earth meets the need for anchorage, and the air offers the possibility of expansion, opening, taking off. Air involves many interesting issues that architecture has to address. One is vertically, the connection with the sky, with the cosmos. Another is the presence of the wind, a powerful horizontal force penetrating built structures, which are typically pulled down vertically by their weight due to the force of gravity. The sky is also covered by clouds; gaseous, they respond to temperature, changing their consistency to become rain or snow, liquid or solid. We have to reflect on its consistency, over and above the need to protect and enclose. More than providing protection, totally closed off from the environment.


J.M.W. Turner, sun setting over a lake





Once people ignited the first fire and gathered around. It was the first sign of settlement, a rest after hunting. Preparing food on fire and keeping themselves warm. Fire is an essential base for both energy and light. Nowadays it is translated into the fireplace that is the center of the house: The hearth. Fire has no precise consistency, but its presence can actively transform matter into different states. However, if not properly tended, its innocent character can quickly become a dangerous tool. Once enlightened, it is hard to control. Flames, a vertical movement that connects earth with air. Dancing back and forward, flickering and bright. Smoke; that still is used as a sign of danger. Ash ; fire that is becoming solid and is given back to earth.


Peter Zumthor, Bruder Klaus chapel




Pattern. An aquarel of a roof was made as a base for the materiality.

By transforming this into a pattern and printing this on tracing paper, this was a translation of materiality for the models.












Detail brickwork roof


BIBLIOGRAPHY BOOKS 1. Zumthor, P., (2006). Thinking Architecture. Basel, Birkhäuser. 2 .Zumthor, P., (2006). Atmospheres. Basel, Birkhäuser. 3. Tanizaki, J., (1994). Lof der schaduw. Amsterdam, Meulenhoff. 4. Rossi, A., (2002). De architectuur van de stad. Amsterdam, uitgeverij Sun. 5. Mateo J. L., Sauter F., (2014). Earth, water, air, Fire: The four elements and architecture. ETH, Zurich & Actar. 6. Vogt G., Bornhauser R., Kissling T., (2014). Landscape as a cabinet of curiosities. Baden , Lars Müller. 7. Caruso, A., (2008). The feeling of things. Barcelona, Ediciones Poligrafa. 8. Ingold T., (2013). Making: Anthropology, Archaeology, Art and Architecture. London, Routledge. 9. Lewerentz S., Dymling C., (1997). Architect Sigurd Lewerentz: Photographs and drawings. Stockholm, Byggförlaget. 10. Smithson A., Smithson P., Wilson S., Ahlberg H., (1989). Sigurd Lewerentz 1885-1975: the dilemma of Classicism. London, Architectural association. 11. Van de Mosselaer W., (2012). Hellegat. Niel, Wilfried van de Mosselaer. 12. Meyers R., (1972). Zoeklicht op Niel. Niel, Redy Meyers. 13. Ishigami J., (2014). How small? How Vast? How architecture grows. Ostfildern, Hatje Cantz. 14. Fujimoto S., (2008). Primitive future. Tokyo, INAX Publishing. 15. Ishigami J., (2008). Small images. Tokyo, INAX Publishing. 16. Pallasmaa J., Mc Carter R., (2012). Understanding architecture. New York, Phaidon. 17. Isozaki, A., Sato O., (1987). Katsura villa: space and form. New York, Rizzoli. 18. Knapp, R. G., (2005). Chinese houses: the architectural heritage of a nation. Boston, Tuttle. 19. Klein C., (2010). Ai Weiwei architecture. Daab Köln. 20. Hoflack D., (1995). Paleis van Knossos: verloren in het labyrint. Averbode, Altoria. 21. Deniel P., (2000). Kinderarbeid op de steenbakkerijen in de rupelstreek. Boom, Ecomuseum & archief van de boomse baksteen.

JOURNALS 1. Böhme G., Zumthor P., Pallasmaa J., (2013). “Building Atmosphere”, Oase, 91. 2. Caruso A., (2004). “Ornament, Decorative traditions in architecture”, Oase, 65: 76-89 3. Caruso A., January (2008). “You Choose the Language in Accordance with the Context”, ORIS, 51: 34–53. 4. Sels N., (2014). “Sacrale atmosferen”. A plus, 250.


WEBSITES 1. Australia ICONOMOS (2013). The Burra charter. Available from: <>. [12 April 2015] 2. Open churches (2012). Sacrale ruimte: Tom Callebaut. Available from: < Tom%20Callebaut.pdf>. [22 April 2015] 3. UNESCO. Tangible cultural heritage. Available from: <>. [ 20 March 2015] 4. EMABB. Steenbakkerijverleden van de rupelstreek. Available from: <>. [ 8 February 2015] 5. History of Boom. Available from: <>. [ 8 February 2015] 6. Regionaal landschap. Steenbakkerijverleden. Available from: <>. [ 12 February 2015] 7. De evolutie van onze streken. Available from: <>. [ 22 February 2015] 8. Jan Lampo (2014). Blog over literatuur, geschiedenis en Antwerpen. Available from: <>. [ 2 March 2015] 9. Lens°Ass architects. Rabbit hole. Available from: <>. [ 2 May 2015] 10. Wikipedia. Village des Bories. Available from: <>. [ 21 May 2015] 11. University of Sheffield. (2002). Sigurd Lewerentz. Available from: <>. [ 21 May 2015] 12. Provincie Antwerpen (2014). Kaderplan ‘kleinstedelijk gebied en ontginningsgebied Boom-Rumst’, Eindrapport. Available from : < tg.pdf>. [ 4 April 2015]

DOCUMENTARIES 1. Watermark (2013). Baichwal J., Burtynsky E., Mongrel Media, Canada. 2. De Rupelstreek: Een eigen verhaal (2014). Leurs S., Maxigreen, Belgium. 3. De steenhistorie (1993). Van de vijver A., VRT, Belgium.



To my mother who learned me to walk and to my father who learned me to fly. I hope I made you proud.

Thank you.

Thank you Gisèle, for the encouragement, guidance and interesting sessions together. I would like to thank the whole studio as well, for the support we had from each other. Also my roommate, Julie, and my dear friends, to be there when most needed.



sam verschoren



a crafting complex as a connection between transition zones




by Sam Verschoren Promoter/mentor: Gisèle Gantois International Master of Architecture Campus Ghent Master dissertation 2015


























setting of Noeveren



ideal but idle





a. origin


b. vacancy





vivid transition zones




the tangible aspects



the intangible aspects


c. emerging challenges









research towards the sites


b. townscape strategy


c. architectural intervention





272 187



Noeveren, an avoided issue Noeveren is a hamlet of Boom, one of the five villages of the Rupel region. To this day, Noeveren still possesses tangible and intangible facets of the past brick industry of the Rupel region. The different remnants of the past form the face of Noeveren and are part of its vast cultural heritage. In the present, this hamlet has different aspects which should make it a favorable area for people to live there. It is nearby the A12, a highway in Belgium connecting the two prominent cities Brussels and Antwerp. Noeveren is located next to the Rupel, making it able to live at the waterfront. It’s also surrounded by four different functions: natural, industrial, residential and commercial. All these benefits make it an ideal place to live, for the elderly regarding its extensive history and for the young families regarding the location and surroundings. But because of its past and the cultural heritage, Noeveren was declared as a protected townscape by the heritage administration. This discourages newcomers to move into the neighbourhood. They don’t see or notice the benefits Noeveren has to offer. They see only the old and abandoned parts, which doesn’t make them feel invited; it doesn’t give them the desire to live there. Because of this, the neighbourhood is branded as an idle and desolate area. This issue is rather avoided instead of being engaged.




A spark for Noeveren Can there be an architectural intervention, which will act as a spark for Noeveren, to encourage newcomers to participate in a process of progression of the neighbourhood while benefiting the current inhabitant?



Towards a final design proposal The first step of this master dissertation was to make a thorough research of the site, the Rupel region. It started off with a simple method called â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Protocol for Walkingâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; 1, which was an individual research where you had to walk through the region, while making notes and drawings of this walk in jot books. This method results in a personal reflection and what will later be described as a spatial intelligence of the region. When every studio member had its individual research we had one intensive week of group research on site. We gathered a basic knowledge at that point and interviewed inhabitants to elaborate on specific topics. By visiting businesses and museums active in the region, we expanded our knowledge. This knowledge was translated into a historical analysis and a geographical study. At this stage it was possible for each of us to choose a site where we would have our architectural intervention, be it on a bigger or smaller scale. To continue the research books, magazines, pamphlets and only written sources were studied. These provide more specific observations of the region. While written sources are consulted, another method runs parallel to it; research by design. This leads step by step to a final design proposal, in which all comes together.




The cuesta of the Rupel region This paper will reflect on the process during a six month lasting master dissertation. The process ends in a design project located in Noeveren, a specific zone in the Belgian Rupel region. The project is the result of thorough research and a critical reflection on the past, the existing and the outcome. â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;The cuesta of the Rupel regionâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; will be focusing on the cultural heritage of Noeveren. It will explore the limits between the natural environment and the built environment in the concept of the living landscape. Researching the tangible aspects of cultural heritage and their intangible values through theory and research by design will lead to the final design project.

IV.A. View on Boom, taken from Klein Willebroek Sam Verschoren 192




Geographical situation The research area is located in the province of Antwerp, Flanders in Belgium. It is situated next to the Rupel, a 12 km long tributary of the Scheldt. There are five villages connected to the Rupel: Hemiksem, Schelle, Niel, Boom and Rumst; these form the Rupel region. They are located just to the West of Mechelen, between Antwerp and Brussels. The highway ‘A12’ connects these two prominent cities, but by doing this it cuts the Rupel region right in the middle, creating a protrusive physical border. Historical situation The area is well known for its brick industry. The first people we know off that used the clay of the Rupel region are the Romans. They needed the clay to produce materials to build their vici. There were some traces found in 2007 of a settlement dating from around the late Iron Age and early Roman times. But the tangible evidence of the clay extractions in the Rupel region date from the 13th century. In this time the monks from the SintBernardusabbey started the clay extraction ANTWERP in Hemiksem. This was the start of the brick industry in the Rupel region and it lasted for hundreds of years until the 20th century. Afterwards it declined and nowadays only one factory remains active. It’s remarkable that the Rupel region situates itself to the north of the river. This MECHELEN is because of the cuesta. The clay is only available on the north side of the river, where the industry was founded.



V.A. The cuesta of the Rupel region DOV - Subsurfaceviewer

V.B. Heritage site of the first findings LEGIA - Alain Haeck









A12 E19



V.C. Positioning five villages-Rupel-A12 Sam Verschoren





V.D. Positioning Brussels-Antwerp-Mechelen Sam Verschoren 195


From the past to the present The Rupel region has a rich history regarding clay extraction and the brick industry. In 1244, the monks of Hemiksem needed bricks to build their new monastery, the Sint-Bernardusabdij. They started the first clay extraction in the area. In 1546, a fire in the city of Antwerp burnt down an exceptional amount of wooden housings. This caused an immense demand for non-combustible building materials, bricks. The brick industry in the Rupel region expanded to supply the necessary amount. To ease and speed up the transport of the bricks, the canal of Willebroek was made in 1553. This waterway made the Rupel region a very accessible source for bricks, increasing the demand and production. After Antwerp, the city of Brussels had a high demand of bricks, causing another boom in the brick industry of the Rupel region. At the end of the 1960’s the competition of new building materials started to kick in. A lot of family businesses from the area’s brick industry were not wealthy enough to industrialize. The final blow came in the 1970’s with the economical crisis. In the 1860’s there was a production of 700 million bricks a year and a hundred years later this was up to 3 billion bricks a year. The manual production of the Rupel region couldn’t keep up with the industrialization and had to give in. Nowadays there still is the factory of Wienerberger which is very active in the region. This industrialized business can keep on producing their current amount of bricks for another 150 years in the area.




through time PAST

13th century

VI.A. Boom landscape Clennkustermans

VI.B. Boom, 1864 Harry van Royen

16th century

18th century

19th century

VI.C. Rupel landscape, 19th century EMABB museum PRESENT

SECONDARY ROAD cyclists / pedestrians / cars



OLD TRAILS pedestrian trails for laborers

PRIMARY ROAD cars tunels underneath




CLAY EXTRACTION AREA 19th century - present

VI.D. Section perpendicular to the Rupel Sam Verschoren - BRUSSELS





13th century

16th century

18th century

19th-20th century


Amount of drying sheds


19th-20th century

VI.E. Section along the Rupel: region through time Sam Verschoren 199


memory. This is not to be forgotten when thinking about having an architectural How the past gives shape to the present Because of the intensity of the past clay intervention on the region, as the impacts extraction, there now are many former clay it will have differ for each target group. quarries scattered around the five villages. All the different aspects of cultural heritage Although the clay pits form the landscape and their aftermath are still very prominent of the Rupel region, many of them are now in the area of Noeveren. derelict and taken over by nature. Some of them received particular functions like nature areas, fishing ponds and recreational domains, but the majority seems unusable. Until today it remains uncertain what will happen with this natural environment. Besides the landscapes there are the structures that remained intact. This structural environment gives shape to the landscape. They acquired an intrinsic value throughout time, because only this region preserved the relicts of the past brick industry. It’s important for the area that these structures are not harmed, they cannot be put under any architectural pressure. Doing this, the value they possess will be destroyed, along with the history they represent. In addition to the physical heritage there’s also the intangible. Especially because of the people that still live in the Rupel region. A lot of them are descendants from or used to be workers at the brickworks or clay pits. Throughout the years they developed the collective memory of the region by sharing stories and memories with future generations. These memories also become heritage as they form an image for the people they are shared with. This collective memory is an interesting part about the cultural heritage. It’s considered part of it because it’s the oral history of the region that is passed on from generation to generation. The intriguing part about this is the fact that the visitors have a different image of the area then the people living there whom are part of the collective 200

VII.A. Noeverenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s heritage Sam Verschoren



a. Setting of Noeveren General introduction The unique landscape of the Rupel region was formed over the centuries by clay extraction and the brick industry. In Noeveren this landscape character has been preserved in a way that it is still visible and perceptible. Noeveren was one of the most industrialized areas. A proof of this are the relicts that are still present, which now are the face of the area. They are important as they still give shape to the character of the entire region. Situating historically and geographically In 1346 the first brickworks of the region developed itself in an area called ‘De Blauwe Pan’. This was located at the bank, in Dutch called ‘oever’, of the Rupel. Later on this area got called ‘at the bank’, in Dutch ‘aan den oever’, in one word: Noeveren. Its brick industry was massive, they even tried to keep up with the industrialization. After the brick industry collapsed, the areas surrounding Noeveren developed into residential areas. But Noeveren itself was attached to its history and the buildings and sites of the brick industry were kept. Located in the heart of the Rupel region, Noeveren is a hamlet of Boom. Visiting the area, it becomes clear that Noeveren is just one single street, not a village or a town. The street branches out covering an area of just 0.40 km², but all the people of the Rupel region know it as ‘Noeveren’. It finds itself next to an intersection of two prominent transportation routes, the Rupel waterway and the A12 highway. The A12 is a very busy road these days, while the Rupel is barely used. The waterway was an important manner of transporting the bricks in the past, but now they use roads.








VIII.A. General location Noeveren Sam Verschoren


Noeveren Artefact site Contemporary industry Decrepit industry Taken over by nature Heavy traffic Light traffic

VIII.B. Variety of landscapes in the street of Noeveren Sam Verschoren 203

Surroundings Looking at the landscapes surrounding Noeveren there are four distinct characters: - To the North there is the natural reserve ‘Walenhoek’. This is a quiet area where the nature has completely taken over the landscape. The old clay pits from the 19th century are now filled with water and are used as fishing ponds. This big area of dense forest and water could be an ideal place for recreational activities. - To the South there is the clear border of the Rupel waterway and the canal of Willebroek. In between, there is an island which still holds some industry. - To the East lies the town center Boom. This is a vivid place where people from outside Boom come to do their shopping, drinking, eating; their living. Between Boom and Noeveren there is a big industry area and the A12. - To the West there is the municipality of Hellegat, which is under full development at the moment. A lot of young families are moving into this area. If you regard these particular aspects; at where it is located, surrounded by all these different landscapes, having such a rich history and attractiveness, Noeveren seems to be an excellent neighbourhood to live. WA L

b. Ideal but idle Noeveren has an easy and fast connection to Brussels, Antwerp and Mechelen thanks to the A12. From Boom it only takes about half an hour to get to any of these big cities, making it ideal for people who work there. There’s also a major waterway running along Noeveren, the Rupel. Besides the water’s attractiveness, it also possesses excellent possibilities to develop into a usable and active river. Noeveren is located in between four different landscapes with each their different function. Surrounded by the natural (Walenhoek), industrial (industry park), residential (Hellegat) and commercial (Boom) landscape, the location is favorable for people to live there. But even with all these benefits Noeveren possesses, it is vacant. So how is it possible an ideal spot like this is so idle and people don’t want to live there?








VIII.C. Surrounding landscapes Sam Verschoren






BO A1 OM 2

VIII.D. Natural area Walenhoek Jan Lambert - Natuur en bos

VIII.E. Commercial area Boomâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s town centre Sam Verschoren

VIII.F. Rupel and industrial island Sam Verschoren

VIII.G. Industrial area Boom-Noeveren Sam Verschoren

VIII.H. Residential area Hellegat, Niel Sam Verschoren 205

IX. A CHASM AS A PHYSICAL Noeveren’s protected values BORDER Segmentation of a solid region Looking into its history, the Rupel region used to be one united region working in harmony. From the declining of the brick industry to the present, the five villages that used to be one working mechanism are now scattered into different pieces, each working on their own. There is no communication and no cooperation anymore. Different historical events and changes to the infrastructure caused the segmentation of the region. a. Origin Historic downfall creating segments After the economic crisis, the industry declined. One by one, the families’ brick businesses stopped working and shut down their facilities. That meant that the entire harmonious region started to fall apart piece by piece. The entire shore of the Rupel was being split into pieces that still had working brick ovens and pieces that became empty and left behind. This formed the base of the segmentation of the Rupel region. Infrastructural chasm Because of the industry’s declination the villages started to develop and evolve separately. Besides the development of the villages, the infrastructure around them also started to take shape. The important highway A12 between Antwerp and Brussels was made. This highway formed a huge physical border cutting right through the middle of the Rupel region. Inhabitants nowadays speak of people ‘on the other side’ meaning their neighbours that live on the other side of the A12 highway. This strengthens the feeling of separation even more. 206

While Boom and Niel were being fully developed, Noeveren was declared a protected townscape by the heritage administration called ‘Monumenten en Landschappen’. The structural and natural environment of the cultural heritage in Noeveren obtained a value because it was the only neighbourhood of the entire Rupel region that preserved it. It didn’t evolve into a developed village, but rather evolved to an area which looked after its past. People living in and near Noeveren turned parts of the environment into museums and visitor centers for tourists, which made it possible for these parts to be listed as protected heritage. This includes the different drying sheds, kilns, chimneys and housings. The older inhabitants of Noeveren are still attached to the heritage, because of what it means to them. They don’t see empty drying sheds next to a cold abandoned ring kiln, but they see how it was, a place where people worked and lived together. They are attached to it because of the past. The younger inhabitants see Noeveren as a quiet place to live, in between the old structures that shape the landscape. But the problem is for the newcomers. They see the old and abandoned parts and are deterred by this. They see Noeveren as an empty neighboorhoud which isn’t open and inviting to newcomers.

IX.A. The chasm created by A12 highway Sam Verschoren

IX.B. Ambiguous image A12 Province of Antwerp

IX.C. Physical border A12 Webcam Boom

IX.D. A12 versus Rupel Sam Verschoren 207

b. Vacancy Abandoned streets Visiting Noeveren, at first sight the main streets are empty and lifeless. Once in a while a cyclist passes by and sometimes someone walking his or her dog. Besides this minor activity it’s all cars driving through the neighbourhood. But Noeveren has 600 inhabitants on its small 0.40 km² area and most of the buildings are inhabited. So there must be activity in the area, but it isn’t visible for a stranger or an unintentional passerby. Studying Noeveren more thorough, I noticed that the street activity depends on the time and the weather. In the morning there are people leaving for work and school in their cars. There are also the children that go to their school by bike. During the day it is very quiet, but then the elderly come out of their houses when the weather allows it. It becomes clear that people are living in the back alleys, which will later on be described as transition zones. Unoccupied housings The main building typology in Noeveren is terraced housing. All the houses are small for Belgian standards, except the master houses, which are the still standing homes of the past factory owners. The remarkable fact of the housings is that almost half of them are listed as protected heritage. It’s great that these building are being kept as they make an important part of the collective memory of Noeveren, but this also makes it almost impossible for people to live in. They need to be renovated to be comfortable for someone. People tried to renovate them, but they stumbled upon the regulations of renovating a house that is listed as protected heritage. This makes people leave these houses half 208

finished and put them up for sale again. Because of this, a lot of the housings in Noeveren are vacant. This strengthens the feeling of emptiness of the area.

IX.E. Invisible activity Sam Verschoren

IX.F. Side street towards a back alley Sam Verschoren

IX.G. Unoccupied houses Sam Verschoren

LEGEND Empty + heritage Heritage Empty Regular

IX.H. Noeveren unoccupied houses & heritage mapping Sam Verschoren 209

c. Vivid transition zones Looking closer into Noeveren, it’s noticeable that the life that seems absent is actually taking place in the back alleys. In example one on page 23, the back of the houses is directed towards the main street. The front is located in direction of what can be called the transition zone. In this zone people go from their house, through the front door, to their shed that’s across the back alley. When I visited Noeveren when it was getting warmer outside, I noticed people sitting in the back alleys. I spoke to them and they told me it’s a nice and quiet place to sit. In this way they accidentally meet their neighbours when they cross the alley. This sort of transit makes it a unique zone. It’s a public back alley, while the people living there use it as a collective space but they see it as a private space in their mind. If you walk through as an outsider, you feel like you’re intruding their private lawn.

In the second example, there are houses located at the main streets. These people do not have a transition zone and live more inside their home or their private garden at the back of the house. But there are also the houses not attached to the main street. These are actually divided into two parts. The left part, for example, is the living space with upstairs bathroom and bedroom, while the right part is the kitchen. Again these people use the back alley as a transition zone between the two parts of their home. In both cases these transition zones have their origin in the time of the brick industry boom. In that time, these paths were leading the workers towards their working places. When the industry was gone, they made new roads, that are now used by cars and a minor amount of pedestrians and cyclists. But the pathways turned into back alleys that were claimed by the inhabitants as their transition zone.

Example two

Example one

IX.H. Section plan Sam Verschoren 210

IX.I. Transition zones typology sections, example one Sam Verschoren

IX.J. Example one: main street (front) Sam Verschoren

IX.K. Example one: transition zone (back alley) Sam Verschoren

IX.L. Transition zones typology sections, example two Sam Verschoren

IX.M. Example two: main street (backside) Sam Verschoren

IX.N. Example two: transition zone (frontside) Sam Verschoren 211


’Cultural heritage’ “Cultural Heritage is an expression of the ways of living developed by a community and passed on from generation to generation, including customs, practices, places, objects, artistic expressions and values. Cultural Heritage is often expressed as either Intangible or Tangible Cultural Heritage (ICOMOS, 2002).” 1 The definition above is a brief summary of cultural heritage. Getting deeper into the subject it is important to know cultural heritage has tangible aspects which have intangible values. The tangible aspects includes the physical part of the heritage, such as the buildings, objects, townscape and archaeological remains which are the built environment. But it also contains the natural environment, consisting of rural landscapes and the agricultural heritage. The intangible values of these aspects include traditions, customs, practices and oral history. This part of the cultural heritage emanates from the collective memory of the people. Next to the collective memory is the spatial intelligence, handling how people build realities through their engagement with the world.2



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X.A. The value and impact of heritage and the historic environment Heritage Counts Available at:


a. The tangible aspects Built environment In Noeveren, the built environment is a big part of the cultural heritage. It is the only area in the entire Rupel region where the old structures of the brick works are still being kept. The clear distinction between the different functions the buildings had, makes it ideal for people visiting Noeveren to imagine how it worked in the past and get a realistic and historical sense of space. The first structure typology that stands out are the remnants of the brick industry. Chimneys jump out from a distance, with the ring ovens next to them. The ones at site Frateur are restored and fully intact, the ones that are the EMABB museum are declining. Another remnant of the industry are the factory hangars. Structurally these are still in excellent shape, but inside they are abandoned and not cared for. Next to these massive brick structures there are the drying sheds. Around the 1950â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s there were about 120 km of drying sheds. Almost all of them were perpendicular with the Rupel, the ideal direction to get the wind through to fasten the brick drying process. At present, there are only a few left in their original shape, some of them restored. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s noticeable that a lot of the remaining drying sheds are being taken over by nature. The second structure typology are the housings. On the one hand Noeveren possesses the big historical master houses. These are single standing mansions that belonged to the families owning the brick works. On the other hand, there are the old worker housings. These are remarkably small and are all attached to each other. But there are also the houses that were built after the brick industry was finished. These are built next to the roads that used to lead to the factories. They are also part of the built environment of Noeveren. 214

X.B. Factory hangars Sam Verschoren

X.C. Drying sheds Sam Verschoren

X.D. Chimney and ring oven Sam Verschoren

X.E. Worker housing Sam Verschoren

X.F. Hallway drying chambers Sam Verschoren

X.G. Interior factory hangars Sam Verschoren


Natural environment The natural environment mainly concerns the landscape of Noeveren, which is located in the clay pits that were dug out between the 13th and the 18th century. Afterwards the family businesses’ clay extractions moved more land inwards. In the next three centuries this plain of dug out clay got taken over by nature. The result is a dense forest, still spreading where it isn’t stopped by human force. Besides the forest taking over, there is the topography of the region formed by the years of clay extraction. Also the Rupel has a big part in the shaping of Noeveren. Starting from the river, land goes upward to form a dike, keeping the region from flooding. This dike has been formed by the river on one side and by the clay extraction on the other side. So there is a landscape which is formed by a river at first, then by the human hand and later on by nature itself. Together these form the collective memory of the landscape, which the people inherited. By preserving it, this became part of the cultural heritage. Living landscape “Landscape is not just a category of heritage, it is the world ‘as perceived by people’.” 3 The living landscape contains all living elements. Besides the natural elements, Noeveren’s living landscape also possesses a great deal of human elements. In this area it’s a very unique situation because of its past and present situation. Talking to different inhabitants, it becomes clear that there are a lot of elderly people living in Noeveren. Some of them are former workers, so they actually know how it was to live in the Rupel region at its best. 216

Heritage is part of the community and it is passed on by the people living in this community.4 By transferring their knowledge from generation to generation, they expand the collective memory. So the living landscape, a tangible aspect, will be part of the collective memory, an intangible value, which will be part of the cultural heritage. These people’s knowledge is part of the collective memory which is an intangible aspect of the cultural heritage.

X.H. Natural environment Noeveren Sam Verschoren

X.I. Structural heritage taken over by nature Sam Verschoren

X.J. Nature taking over structural heritage Sam Verschoren

X.K. Living landscape Noeveren Sam Verschoren

X.L. Ceramics exhibition Noeveren 217

b. The intangible values Collective memory The collective memory refers to the shared pool of information that is held in the memories of more than one person. It can hold the stories, artifacts, traditions and feelings of a region. Sharing this collective memory with the people of this region creates a community. Cultural heritage is passed on by communities who are the bearers of â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;community heritagesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;.5 For Noeveren, with its vast historical background, it is important for this information to be passed on to future generations. An ideal mixture of collective memory is coming forth from aged people living together with younger people. The more information that can be passed on, the bigger the collective memory will be. This will have a positive influence on how people will live in the area. They will feel more in touch with it, because their knowledge is bigger. The cultural heritage part of the collective memory will make people realize what the heritage is actually worth. They will be more perceptible of the value of it and appreciate it.


X.N. Still from film ‘Het leven zoals het was... Steenbakkerij’

X.O. Still from film ‘Het leven zoals het was... Steenbakkerij’

X.P. Explaining the process of birckworks

X.Q. Explaining the history in an old worker habitat

X.R. Ceramics exhibition Noeveren

X.S. Official opening of the New Belgica yard 219

Spatial intelligence

an architectural intervention.

“The collective memory contains how we as people try to understand how we build realities through our engagement with the world.” 6

Implementation on site Visiting Noeveren, I implemented Jan Pieper’s haptic experiences of space. This was translated into jot books, which were part of our studio’s protocol for walking.7 We were recommended to walk through the Rupel region with no map or any direction. While walking, we made notes, drew our own maps and images into jot books. Walking towards, around, away from and besides the site gave a better spatial understanding of the area. Different routes and paths lead to the discovery of what I referred to as the transition zones. Not only the different haptic experiences built up a spatial intelligence, but also the speed in which these different movements were performed. The first speed is walking, which is very slow and by which is best for the perception of the three-dimensional space surrounding you. Going faster by bike, its more about trying to identify yourself with the entire environment in a shorter amount of time. The fastest way is by car. In this case it’s about the vision and how you can translate what you see into a sense of space. Having these haptic experiences on three different speeds gave the spatial intelligence of the site that was needed to start working on a design approach.

There is the discussion inside us or outside us, because while formed through the interaction of our brains, our senses tell our insides what is outside. To get a better grasp on the spatial perception through our body’s interaction with the world, we get into the haptic experiences of space, researched by Jan Pieper. “In the context of urban architecture the term ‘haptic’ denotes those spatial qualities which are experienced not by looking at the settlement structure, but by moving in it and around it.” 7 There are four types of haptic experiences (as the image on page 24 illustrates): A. towards (into, across or through) B. around C. away from (or out of) and D. beside a spatial body. It not only appeals to our perception with vision and touch, but also through our sense of orientation. By moving through the space, we are able to get a basic sense of three-dimensional space and to identify ourselves with the environment around us. Depending on how people move in Noeveren, they will experience the cultural heritage in a different way. By building up a spatial intelligence of the region, it is possible to relate to the heritage, to get a sense of what it is, was and could become. As an architect, you have to be immersed. It is important to have the four different haptic experiences, so you will know what an impact you will have on the region with 220

X.T. Jot Books Sam Verschoren - Gisèle Gantois

X.U. Haptic experiences of space: four elementary forms of movement in urban space Jan Pieper 221

c. Emerging challenges Confrontation with a protected townscape Having such a vast amount of built heritage, Noeveren was designated as the only area of the Rupel region with a protected townscape. Because of this, there are certain rules for people wanting to renovate residential buildings. Some facades can’t be touched, but their insulation is not acceptable with the current standards. Furthermore the natural environment of the area is expanding heavily. Without taking care of this, it will keep growing and break down the built environment of Noeveren. New, young families moving into the neighbourhood stumble upon these issues while renovating. Not wanting to put the extra money in the renovation, they put the building up for sale again and move to another area, leaving an unfinished construction yard. But a protected townscape doesn’t mean it’s impossible to renovate or build in the neighbourhood. It’s a challenge to work with protected heritage but it’s also a privilege. Being able to work with something that has a huge background can be very successful if treated correctly. There’s already a big story behind the building’s facades, so the challenge is not to ruin this when having an architectural impact on the neighbourhood. Heritage, as an actor and issue of contemporary social change 7 The population of Belgium is aging rapidly, leading to gaps in heritage approaches and conceptions. This calls into question the continuation of certain heritage aspects. ‘Heritage is no longer interesting or compelling - it has become a burden for younger generations to carry; an obstacle, a dead weight. For young people, heritage is a 222

notion bereft or devoid of meaning.’ 8 But the elderly in Noeveren are very attached to the past, they would like to go back in time and live in the old days, because their mind is set in this time. And for them, in that time, there was a lot of work, a lot of people and in general a better life in their point of view. This causes for some problems with the newcomers. New families moving into Noeveren are mostly young families, with the ambition of working and having a productive life. These families look for a stable future and especially for a good place to live in. But they need to be integrated into the collective memory of the community to be able to see the potential of the area. The newcomers have to take care and maintain the cultural heritage of Noeveren, together with the current inhabitants.



Tackling the situation on two scales Noeveren has a vast cultural heritage that is part of huge collective memory. To create a spark in the neighbourhood without destroying its heritage, it’s important to tackle the situation on two different scales. The large scale will contain the area of Noeveren itself, on the scale of the municipality. The strategy that’s going to be designed for this neighbourhood will be able to spread itself towards the surrounding areas, attempting to break through the physical barrier of the A12. It’s a first strategy towards the idea of gluing back together the shattered pieces of the Rupel region. On a smaller scale there will be an architectural intervention taking place in an abandoned industrial building, which used to be one of the brick producing factories of the Lauwers family. It was one of the industrialized brick factories with machines producing the bricks instead of the human hand. As the family couldn’t keep up with the industrialization they put the production on hold and the building is empty ever since, with still some remnants of machinery. The building is scheduled for demolition to build a residential area on it. It is questionable if building new residential buildings on the factory’s ground are going to attract newcomers, as the area itself isn’t inviting them to come living there. In my design proposal, this building will be renovated and act as a spark to encourage newcomers to participate in a process of progression of the neighbourhood while benefiting the current inhabitant.


XI.A. The A12 highway versus Noeveren and its heritage Sam Verschoren

XI.B. The abandoned industrial brickwork factory Sam Verschoren 225


a. Research towards the sites Attaining a sense of space To work towards a proper design proposal it is necessary to study the site and all its aspects thoroughly. After having done a decent research it is possible to research further by starting to design a project. Automatically youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll have to take steps back because youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve overseen an important facet in your design. My first interest was the heritage Noeveren had to offer, so I started out by studying the different structural elements of the built environment. Doing this I made use of the four haptic experiences. Taking notes and making sketches where my tools to attain a sense of space of the area.

XII.A. Sketching - Structural study drying sheds Sam Verschoren 226

XII.B. Modeling/Sketching - Structural study ring kiln Sam Verschoren

XII.C. Sketching - The past industrial river bank Sam Verschoren

XII.D. Sketching - Structural study ring kiln Sam Verschoren 227

Discovering the transition zones By studying the site while working towards a design, I came across the ‘transition zones’. At first these alleys seemed places where people just sat in front of their house, but later on it became clear that the inhabitants meet each other in these zones and have conversations like it was a living space of collective housing project. This observation lead to interviewing the people that live there to get to know their experiences and opinions.

XII.A. Mapping - Transition zones Sam Verschoren 228

Out of these interviews I learned that the transition zones are public back alleys they use collectively but consider as their private back yard. And although all the streets are officially called ‘Noeveren’, the inhabitants give names to the streets depending on their location. Getting into these transition zones, they acted for me as an inspiration to take on the entire townscape Noeveren with a strategy that could expand towards the surrounding areas.

XII.B. Imaging - Bassinlei transition zone Sam Verschoren

XII.C. Imaging - End of backyards, start of forest Sam Verschoren

XII.D. Imaging - Blauwe pan transition zone Sam Verschoren

XII.E. Imaging - Road towards backside of transition zone Sam Verschoren

XII.F. Imaging - Noeverse plein transition zone Sam Verschoren

XII.G. Imaging - View from in between two sheds Sam Verschoren 229

XII.H. Sketching - Sectional study existing transition zones Sam Verschoren 230

XII.H. Modeling - Sectional study existing transition zones Sam Verschoren 231

b. Townscape strategy Noeverenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s zoning plan Looking at Noeveren both top-down and bottom-up, the area can be divided into different zones, with each its different character. I did this by walking through it while looking at maps found on the Internet, as well as maps drawn myself into the jotbooks, which gave a better sense of space. The entire area of Noeveren can be divided into four zonings: 1. Closest to Boom is an industrial area, where busy working is the main activity. This industry is expandable further towards Boom as there are empty industrial grounds ready for construction. 2. Further to the center (Noeverseplein) of Noeveren are the abandoned industrial brickworks, which will later become my architectural project, with next to it the hamletâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s park. This zone represents a collective and public space, which would be favorable for activities taking place in it. 3. On the other side of the Noeverseplein is the artifact site Frateur, with the remnants of the past brickworks clearly present and restored for the people visiting it. This is a more quiet area, where people can sit down, have a chat or visit the heritage of Noeveren. 4. To the North, towards Hellegat, is a big natural environment. This area is completely taken over by nature and evolved into a dense forest. The forest stands for quietness and has a relaxing atmosphere.


Industrial area Abandoned Artefact site Quiet forest

XII.I. Mapping - Zoning of Noeveren Sam Verschoren


Further development of the neighbourhood After a basic zoning was made, there seems to be emptiness in between the zones. These spaces are filled mostly by residential buildings and a few businesses. This is where the transition zones are located. These back alleys are parallel to each other and perpendicular to the Rupel. This causes there to be no connection parallel to the Rupel. To study Noeveren in the direction of the Rupel I made three sections, as shown in the image below. Along these three section lines, there will be designed pathways that will act as an interconnection between the different transition zones and the four zonings of Noeveren. In the present, the only connection is the ring road, which is used by motorized traffic, making it troubling for pedestrians to walk through Noeveren. The pathways are pedestrian only roads, that act as an alternative for the ring road. They also are expandable towards the surrounding area, making it able for them to start attaching the Rupel regionâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s scattered parts. They will go through, besides and around my building, so the unintentional visitor is able to develop a sense of space passing by.

XII.J. Section - Noeveren along the Rupel Sam Verschoren 234

XII.J. Mapping - Noeverenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s townscape strategy Sam Verschoren


c. Architectural intervention The industrial brickwork factory After the zoning scheme was finished, I became drawn to the collective-public space where there should be an activity taking place. Noticing the old industrial brickwork factory, I saw potential in the building to give home to this activity. Without knowing what the actual function would be, I started to make notes, images and drawings of the building.

XII.K. Imaging - Exterior factory Sam Verschoren 236

While studying the buildingâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s past and future, it became clear that the city of Antwerp intends to demolish the building in order to put new housing units on it. As an alternative to its demolition, I started to look into functions the building could internalize so it can be of use for the municipality of Noeveren.

XII.L. Imaging - Interior factory Sam Verschoren 237

Methodological framework Once I established a good sense of space of the factory, it was time to start designing it. This is where the research by design strategy was most important to me. It was necessary to learn how to take steps back to get to a final design proposal. Also the actual function the building would get, was formed by a step by step process of drawing plans, section, modeling and making case studies of existing projects.

XII.M. Drawing - One of the original plans of the current building state Sam Verschoren 238

XII.N. Drawing - Examples of step by step designing on plan Sam Verschoren 239

XII.O. Mapping - Examples of designing the neighbourhood Sam Verschoren 240

XII.P. Drawing - Examples of schematic designing on plan Sam Verschoren 241

XII.Q. Case studies - examples of inspirational and practical case studies, running parallel to design process Sam Verschoren 242


XII.R. Case studies - examples of inspirational and practical case studies, running parallel to design process Sam Verschoren 244


Towards a final design proposal All this knowledge allowed me to shape a final design proposal. The old industrial brickwork factory will be renovated and obtain the function of a professional crafting facility, focusing on ceramic, glass and bronze creations. Activity will be the keyword of the entire design, for it is not a hobby center, but a place where people will professionally craft their ideas. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a place of intense working, where artists and professional craftsmen can exchange ideas and knowledge. The facility will offer private studios and shared studios, to create more possibilities for the target group. They will get to choose whether they want to work together to learn from each other or whether to work alone and concentrate on a job. To attract international people, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s necessary to provide temporary residencies, which will be located across their private studios. The alley between these two will become a new transition zone. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s designed in a way that all the four different transition zones will have a different typology, with the same outcome that people use it as an alley from one part to another, meeting each other in the process.


XII.S. Drawings - Original facade versus renovated facade Sam Verschoren

XII.T. Drawings - Ground level plan Sam Verschoren 247

XII.U. Drawings - Activity in the main crafting hall Sam Verschoren 248

XII.V. Drawings - Original interior vs renovated interior Sam Verschoren

XII.W. Drawings - First floor plan Sam Verschoren 249

XII.X. Drawings - The main crafting hall Sam Verschoren 250

XII.Y. Drawings - The transition zone Sam Verschoren 251

Giving a new face to the project The old factoryâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s structure is still stable enough for it to be kept. To create comfortable spaces it is necessary to insulate specific rooms. The insulation will be attached to the exterior of the structural brick walls. The new finishing facade will be inspired by a brick but have a different expression. It will be made out of a metal frame. The frameâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s dimensions will be based on the measurements of a module 65 brick (190x90x65), one of the most used brick formats around the world. Bricks of this format will be stacked in the frame in a way that they will allow sunlight to pass through it and people to see through it.

XII.Z. Drawings - Research by design, new facade Sam Verschoren 252


XII.AA. Models - Research by design, new facade Sam Verschoren 254


The technical aspects of a design Detailed sections are drawn to show how the newly designed facade is technically possible. Insulation is glued to the existing structural brick wall. Rhepanol foil protects it from sunlight and rain. The frame is founded and attached to the edge of the roof to maintain stability. Images on page 75 show the contrast between the brick and the frame facades.

Roof tiles Roof battens Rhepanol foil Wooden beam 20 cm Insulation 15 cm Vapor barrier Finishing ceiling

Steel frame 25cm (x5cm) Brick pattern 25cm Cavity 2cm Rhepanol foil Insulation 15cm Brick strucutre 19cm

XII.BB. Drawings - Details new facade Sam Verschoren 256

XII.CC. Drawings - Contrast new facades Sam Verschoren 257

Designing a project like this, it’s important to have knowledge of its technicalities. As an architect it’s a necessity to inform about what you are creating. In this case, it’s the production of ceramic, glass and bronze craft-works. Each of the different materials need a different type of kiln or oven to be heated to the required temperatures. All of them are fragile materials that need to be handled with care. So in the design, the sequence of the rooms is crucial for the building to work as a functional professional crafting facility. Working with a massive amount of heat, it’s beneficial for the building to be able to recover the heat produced by the kilns and ovens. This warm air can be used to warm up the comfortable rooms of the building, such as the reception hall and the design studios. The described process is part of the building technologies.


XII.DD. Imaging - Glass fusing kiln Warm-glass

XII.EE. Imaging - Fused glass & ceramic sculpture Rose Hagan

XII.FF. Imaging - Ceramic kilns Kilncare 259

XII.GG. Imaging - Bronze casting, lost wax process A4A

XII.HH. Imaging - Bronze melting furnace A4A 260

XII.II. Imaging - Bronze pouring mechanisms A4A

XII.JJ. Imaging - Inspiration, George Grardâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s bronze sculpturing Lieve Lambrechts 261

Building technologies The crafting complex uses a lot of ovens in all its processes. These ovens produce an excessive amount of heat. This heat can be used to warm up the comfortable spaces of the building. A basic scheme shows how this is possible using three different techniques: heat recovery, heat storage and district heating. The heat produced by the ovens will be extracted and processed with fresh air by an air unit so an amount of heat is recovered. The recovered heat will be used to warm up the buildingâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s comfortable rooms, like the studios and lobby. Because the ovens produce too much heat, the leftover warm air after the heat recovery process, will be stored by using either a water tank or a vertical drilled geothermal storage unit. The hot air warms up the water or vertical unit, afterwards it is possible to use this heat to warm the surrounding housing units. This process is called district heating. So the leftover hot air from the crafting complex will be stored underground and afterwards used to heat up the temporary residencies. This way, the hot air produced by the ovens can be used as an advantage for the entire design and the neighbourhood of Noeveren.





8 heating

District heating

extraction fresh air heat pump

heat recovery polluted air


heat storage

heat storage

XII.KK. Schemes - Building technology Sam & Pieter Verschoren


XIII.A. Models - Practice model 1/200 Sam Verschoren 264


XIII.B. Models - Surroundings model Noeveren 1/2000 Sam Verschoren 266


XIII.C. Models - Comparing facades model 1/20 Sam Verschoren 268


XIII.D. Models - Detailed facade model 1/5 Sam Verschoren 270


XIII.E. Models - Crafting Complex model 1/200 Sam Verschoren 272



Notes 1 Gantois, G. (2014) The Protocol for Walking. Master Dissertation KULEUVEN 1 ICOMOS (2008) The Burra Charter [online] Available at: 1 What is Cultural Heritage [online] Available at: 2 Van Schaik, L. (2008) Spatial Intelligence: New Futures for Architecture. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons. p28 3 Landscape as Heritage or Heritage as Landscape? [online] available at http://www. 4 Gravari-Barbas, M. (2014) New Challenges for Cultural Heritage. [online] available at 5 Gravari-Barbas, M. (2014) New Challenges for Cultural Heritage. [online] available at p9 6 Van Schaik, L. (2008) Spatial Intelligence: New Futures for Architecture. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons. p28 7 Pieper, J. (1980) Ritual Space in India: Studies in Architectural Anthropology. London: Art and Archaeology Reasearch Papers. p65 7 Gantois, G. (2014) The Protocol for Walking. Master Dissertation KULEUVEN 7 Gravari-Barbas, M. (2014) New Challenges for Cultural Heritage. [online] available at 8 Gravari-Barbas, M. (2014) New Challenges for Cultural Heritage. [online] available at p11



Bibliography Gantois, G. (2014) The Cuesta of the Rupel Region, New Challenges for its Cultural Heritage. Master Dissertation KULEUVEN Gantois, G. (2014) The Protocol for Walking. Master Dissertation KULEUVEN What is Cultural Heritage. [online] Available at: Van Schaik, L. (2008) Spatial Intelligence: New Futures for Architecture. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons Landscape as Heritage or Heritage as Landscape? [online] Available at: http://www. Gravari-Barbas, M. (2014) New Challenges for Cultural Heritage. [online] Available at: Pieper, J. (1980) Ritual Space in India: Studies in Architectural Anthropology. London: Art and Archaeology Reasearch Papers Lampo, J. Jan Lampo: Blog over literatuur, geschiedenis en Antwerpen. [online] Available at: Definition of Cultural Heritage. [online] Available at: Keiller, P. (2010) Robinson in Ruin. [film] British Film Institute. Landscape as Heritage or Heritage as Landscape? [online] Available at: http://www. What is a Living Landscape? [online] Available at: Olick, J.K. and Robbins, J. (1998) Social Memory Studies. [online] Available at: http:// Assmann, J. (1988) Collective Memory and Cultural Identity. [online] Available at: http:// Martyn, E. (2014) Heritage Counts 2014: The Value and Impact of Heritage [online] Available at:


Thanks to... ... my mentor Gisèle Gantois for her weekly consults and substantive feedback. ... my father, Jan, brother, Pieter and mother, Ingrid for their opinions and thoughts and for supporting me unconditionally during the entire master dissertation process ... the people of Noeveren and surroundings for sharing the needed information.


familiar landscapes Matthijs sioen




Table of contents



Stories and faces



‘The Cuesta (‘kwεstə) of the Rupel Region’



Answer by questioning

Project focus



Overall design strategy


] in [ formal

Applying the design strategy


One site, some functions

Elaborating on the design


We, I, he, she, they, who



Manage, write, design



Citations and references



Preface Stories and Faces

When the end is in sight, it is easy to lose yourself in doubt, in fear for what is coming next and in nostalgia for what you are leaving behind. Throughout the five years of study nothing created a stronger bond with other architecture students than the shared balancing between personal struggles and the search for professional acknowledgement. We are trained to become competent architects, in service of society, but for not to lose touch with it, we are above all participants. Interwoven with its complexity, part of its stories and wanderers along its trails. Alone we cannot act, without support we cannot move on. During the course of this study, support came from many sides. Sometimes paths diverged, but along the way many familiar faces accompanied me to this point.

Without the guidance of my academic promotor Gisèle Gantois and the many fruitful discussions with my tutors Paul Lievevrouw and Marc Dubois, the profoundness of this Master Dissertation would have been nowhere near. This chapter in life was and is marked by these familiar faces. Among the acquaintances that I can now call my friends, some have truly offered guidance and support. I am definitely lucky to have crossed your paths. When one chapter is closed, it is permitted to long for the next. Impatiently I look forward to continue the adventure along this other contant during the past years, Martijn.

First of all my thanks go to my parents for making it possible to achieve a masters degree. It is the start whence everything evolved. Opportunities were offered, not in the least by the school itself. Hereby I would thank anyone involved in the operation of the student council, where I have developed skills and set up projects that would not have been possible elsewhere. The teachers, both professionals and academics, have been of undoubtable assistance during the past years, some of them I can now count among my friends. In particular I would like to stress the importance of my teacher and tutor Eddy François, who passed away last year.

opposite: La Clairvoyance, 1936 - RenĂŠ Magritte 283




Introducing ‘The Cuesta (‘kwεstə) of the Rupel Region. New Challenges for its Cultural Heritage.’1

cuesta n 1. (Physical Geography) a long low ridge with a steep scarp slope and a gentle back slope, formed by the differential erosion of strata of differing hardness [Spanish: shoulder, from Latin costa side, rib]2

‘The built’ and ‘the natural’ evolved from a specific industrial routine, generating living conditions and mentalities that created a cultural landscape that can be found not only here, but in all regions where clay strata occur in combination with waterways, where the culture was shaped by the landscape, by the similar living conditions.

Our site is determined by the geological formation of the cuesta of Boom, located North of the river Rupel. The river’s origin lies in the confluence of the river Nete and the river Dijle, and it ends twelve kilometers further where it meets the river Schelde. Along the Rupel and on top of the cuesta of Boom five villages are located: Hemiksem, Schelle, Niel, Boom and Rumst. All are marked by that combination of circumstances that created a flourishing brick industry.

Coincidence cultivates conditions that control the future development of areas.

Bricks were baked there from the 13th century until now. Monks were followed by peasants, thereafter the craft evolved towards a cluster of family businesses. Competition first drove them towards industrialization, but from the 1970s onwards it resulted in bankruptcy. International efficiency took over, only one - global - brick manufacturer still digs craters in the front slope of the cuesta of Boom: Wienerberger. The furthest away from the water the clay was extracted, leaving a man-made topography behind. Then it was brought closer to shape it by slamming the raw material into the moulds and lay it to dry in the sheds. Then it could be baked in the Hoffmann kilns with their specific morphology, the closest to the water. From there on it could be carried to the ships, ready to export the products across Flanders, Europe and the World.

The cultural heritage of the Rupel region is a product of different communities that once were focused on one industry, a kinship. Since the decline, nothing replaced the brick manufacturing, leaving people and their habits behind, along with a series of holes in the ground, and five towers in the air. Within the complexity of these five villages, we are asked to select a site and a programme and develop a design through which we believe the entire region can benefit.

Title of the Master Dissertation Studio of Gisèle Gantois and title of the Atelierfiche, published on 8.10.2015. 2 Explanation of the term ‘cuesta’, published in the Ateliefiche by Gisèle Gantois, found on, last checked on 22.04.2015. 1

opposite: plaster model of topography with the cuesta of the Waasland, the water gap of Hoboken and the cuesta of Boom. overleaf: historical pictures of the brick industry in the Rupel region. 287

1864 288

1970’s - Alex Vinck 289


Positioning Answer by questioning

As mentioned in the Introduction, the cultural heritage of the Rupel region is strongly connected with the brick manufacturing. The active presence of Wienerberger in Rumst and Schelle, enforces this industrial memory. Everyone in our studio is finding a way to implement the cultural heritage of the region in their projects. To define the meaning of cultural heritage the question: ‘What do we inherit?’ arose. A cultural heritage is a complex intertwining of a tangible and an intangible culture and natural heritage. This includes buildings, monuments, books, works of art, artifacts, folklore, traditions, language, knowledge, landscapes and biodiversity.1 As architects and designers, our ‘product’ is physical. But with this tangible intervention, we have the possibility to evoke intangible effects. As an answer to the question of what we inherit, the response lies at the site where material and immaterial significance can be found with regards to the cultural heritage of the region, which is linked with the brick industry. The built heritage has lost a lot of its massiveness. From the multitude of drying sheds and ringovens, only one representative site remains: Noeveren in the municipality of Boom. Alas it feels anecdotically. The strength of the atmosphere in the Rupel region during the heydays of the brick industry lay not in the beauty of the singular buildings, but in the enormity of the scale on which they operated. It is not here that we will be able to integrate the heritage to such an extent, that it can lift the area to a next phase with its cultural heritage. What did survive the decline of the industry was the man-made landscape of the claypits.

Altough some were leveled, used as a landfill and later as a construction site for industrial sites, or new housing, an impressive 4.500ha retained the character of a clay pit. Most of them were reclaimed by nature, becoming a natural reserve, others are being maintained as a recreational area and some just wait for future use. This is the true heritage of the area. A potential that is already discovered, but where it is crucial that its future use recognises the role this landscape is playing at the moment and could be playing in the near future. After the very intensive weeks in the studio of Anuschka Kutz, where we investigated the relationship between habits and routines and the effect they have on the physical environment, I approached the region of the Rupel with the same mindset. On my first visit to the region I came across a tent, in the middle of the clay pit area. It seemed well equipped with bins, bycicle tracks all around and a little fire pit with a pan a bit further. Whether this was an encampment of local teenagers, or a fully equipped residence of a homeless person, that was not clear, nobody seemed home and it was not the kind of setting where you feel at ease to go knocking. Nevertheless it made me wonder how intesively the former mining areas are being used, both by the newcomers, who might be overwhelmed by the surprising sight of the pits and feel the urge to leave a trace, as by the locals, who by birthright can lay claim on this common territory. Herewith my first questions arose: What is the actual use of the clay pit areas and how do they play a role in the hidden social constructs? Extracted from the description of cultural heritage on the webpage, visited on 22.04.2015


opposite: one of the collage panels with a first exploration of site and topic 291

By interviewing the locals and following trails, I hoped to find traces of these social constructs, in such manner that I would be able to reconstruct the pathways and their meaning. When a complete sketch was made of such interaction, my design task might be to interveine within these constructs with a physical intervention, or leave the areas as found, to protect the function if it would prove to be too fragile. So this path could have resulted in designed interventions in or around the clay pits of the cuesta of Boom, being: the active claypits between Schelle and Niel, the former pits of Niel and the Natural Reserve Walenhoek, the recreational site De Schorre, the Terhagen Natural Reserve and the active Wienerberger clay pits in Rumst. As this might sound as a very clear concept, reality proved that a lot remained open for interpretation. The urge arose to add a more theoretical and research-based level to my work, so designs could be motivated in a decent academic and scientific way, through studies of geology and by exploring academic and professional writings on landscape, heritage, the notion of a home and about how people interact with their surroundings. What is the cuesta of the Rupel Region? As quoted in the introduction, a cuesta is a geological formation. Layers of different hardness shift above each other and create a steep front slope, and a gentle back slope. In the Rupel region, these layers are the Formation of Zelzate, the clay of Boom and the sands of the Berchem Formation on top of the clay. At its highest point, the cuesta reaches 32m above sea level, situated in Reet. The river Rupel flows at 5m above sea level.


The further you move away from the river Rupel, the deeper the clay is situated. How is landscape generally perceived? When thinking of landscapes, images come to mind of American canyons, Swiss mountains, African deserts, far stretching woods, Tuscan slopes... . If Belgians would pay attention to landscapes - which is a first difficulty for most - the Belgian landscape wouldn’t bother them in the slightest. Firstly, exotic or adventurous destinations would be considered, before turning to the flat and little exiting Belgian topography. For most landscape is linked with nature. Landscape photographers like Eliot Porter - who showed nature at its purest in his exhibition ‘Intimate Landscapes’ at the Met in New York choose to portray landscape as an idyllic scene, with no human traces W. Land Art on the other hand with people like Robert Smithson and Richard Long explicitely choose to engage with the landscape and when Long states that walking is an art, the result of that walk lifts the landscape to another level. Where the one perceives landscape as an exclusively natural environment, the other applauds the effect of human traces. Perceiving landscape does not only have to do with the way people think about the landscape, but also how they move through it. The speed at which you pass by, move through or fly over the landscape does not only influence the amount of detail you can perceive, but also the amount of trails you can pick up, or by coincident encounters, by spotting casual traces, by noticing how your own traces mingle with previous ones, or by the stories you hear when walking through.

The slow experience of the meshwork that runs through our everyday lives, Tim Ingold describes as wayfaring. As a contrast he also determines transport, as a way of moving from one place to the other, passing by but not discovering. What is the meaning of a design? Noting that Gisèle is my academic promotor, in that sense that the work we produce is a tool by which an academic discourse can be set up. Questions like â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Is a landscape a strong enough actor to achieve a positive movement? If so, needs this landscape to be preserved through a natural focus, of can this be a functional landscape? The design becomes a subject to reflect upon the academic trajectory. Throughout the semester, designing by discussion proved to be the main design tool, and to my understanding a very helpful one. Since ideas need to mature, it is crucial that forced or voluntarily, you take a step back, reposition yourself and discuss the various options until decisions can be made without second thoughts. How was the cuesta modified? Over a period of eight centuries clay was extracted. The extraction itself was a continuous routine of digging and moulding clay. This process obviously developped throughout the centuries and can be categorised in four periods: - brick production by hand (13th century-1930) - pre-industrial period (1890-1930) - semi-automatic period (1923-1965) - automatic period (1965-now) The pits that were left behind after mining vary in shape, related to the techniques that were used to

extract the raw material. The brick production by hand was situated the closest to the river. It comprised a zone of around 400 meters between the Rupel and the road - called the extraction road. The shape of the claypits were everywhere around 400m by 400m, equal to a walk of about five minutes. Obviously this was hard labour, done by hand and clay spades. Unfortunately child labour was no exception. In the pre-industrial period the industrialisation and mechanisation was linked with the movement of the clay pits further North, and further from the river. The clay was dug more intensively and comprised larger areas. The bucket chain excavator slowly appeared on the scene. The pits were linked with the first excavation region by tunnels under the streets. Since all the processing of the clay remained at the river side, the housing did not follow the movement to the North. As a result also the social life remained in this first zone. In the semi-automatic and the automatic period, the bucket chain excavator became standard. Linked with the reconstruction after WWII this resulted in upscaling of the excavation. These were the heydays of the brick industry and the companies merged, resulting in less but bigger manufacturers. The first full automatic factories emerged. This excavation took place in the third excavation region, again a bit more up North. Today Wienerberger is digging clay on two sites: one smaller site in Niel, and the main site in Rumst. Because of the growth of the villages and stronger regulation, these excavations are punctual, clearly bordered sites. The company of Wienerberger is


projecting a production until 2055. How to intensify a locality? From all the questions I asked myself, this one proved to be the most meaningful. A locality is shared, a locality is derived from experiences that remain in your memory. An appropriation as we can find it in the clay pit areas, can be linked with the notion of common places (Wim Cuyvers 2008). For me they are spaces without rules, where nobody is watching and therefore the boundaries that exist in the world around it do not apply. A freedom like this forces people to formulate their own rules, to develop their own way of thinking and eventually handle the environment around them the way they want. In the appropriation of your own neighbourhood I see the strengthening effect of bonding with your heimat, to enforce the connection with the place you grow up and interpret what it means to receive liberty, find your place and choose to take up responsibility, to develop a sense of citizenship. Here lies the possibilty to create familiarity, to develop familiar landscapes. What is the future of the area? The province of Antwerp has been working on the region for years and has published its final report in 2014. At various levels they recognise the exceptional qualities of the landscape and implement connections and further development in the area of the former clay pits. The proposal to connect the natural zones and hereby creating continuous habitats for specific fauna and flora was well developped, and Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m convinced that the theory wil deliver results in practice. What I feel is forgotten is the sense of detail in this


landscape. The region is seen as the nature and recreational node between Antwerp and Brussels, and was assigned large functions like natural reserve, recreational area and a (eco) golf course. Too quickly the human presence is restricted in the natural reserves and are the recreational areas presented as large infrastructural developments. The co-habitation between man and nature is only roughly sketched, while I â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;m convinced that the succes of the future interventions will lie exactly there. How do I perceive the landscape? During my walks through the clay pit areas, I recorded my findings through video and photographs. In the images on the following pages, they are categorized in four groups: fires, rubbish, trails and structures. sometimes the difference between the one and the other is very small. When does a fire become a structure, or where stops the trail and start the structure? In some cases these four coexist, they use each other to create an area with many layers. Especially then, the rubbish pile, the fire where they burn some of the rubbish , the trails from the rubbish pile to the fire and then to the fallen tree, neatly follow each other. This is particulary visible when seeing the videorecordings. The structures are the most complicated. I define them as places of habitation. In one of the pictures you can see the bark of a tree. At one spot the bark is vanished and you can see the naked wood, next to it the fibres of the bark are torn, while a bit further the bark is slightly shiny, like the feet or hands of these bronze sculptures every tourist has to touch for good fortune or the promise of a return to the city

they visit. These are no longer trails, you can almost hear the stories the youngsters told each other on a late night swim, slightly cold, but enjoying every moment of their adventure. You can almost smell the as good as finished sigaret being rubbed against the rough bast. The bast of the fallen tree tells how it was being used - as table, bench, stage, ... - and shows signs of habitation. And this is where the structure destinguishes itself from the other categories, it is inhabited. Where do I position myself? Especially by visiting the site, walking through it and recording my findings, an awareness was developed. It will not take long before the unused clay pits will take up new roles. The development between the banks of the river Rupel and the borders of its cities has started: new industrial zones, comfortable housing developments and the infrastructure that comes with it is spreading. Very soon the area where Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m convinced that it is the closest to both tangible and intangible cultural heritage, will be reached. How can we ensure that the future developments in and around the claypits implement the feedom the landscape provides at this moment, and therefore connect with the surroundings in a positive manner.

overleaf: photographs of traces in the former clay pits of Niel and the Kapittel site 295

fires 296

fires 297

rubbish 298

rubbish 299

rubbish 300

trails 301

trails 302

trails 303

structures 304

structures 305

structures 306

structures 307

brick production by hand (13th century-1930), pre-industrial period (1890-1930) and semi-automatic period (1923-1965) 308

semi-automatic period (1923-1965) 309

semi-automatic period (1923-1965) and automatic period (1965-now) 310

automatic period (1965-now) 311

A line made by walking, 1967 - Richard Long 312

Plate 13, 1967 - Eliot Porter 313

Intervention on a cemetery, 2008 - Wim Cuyvers 314





0 - 195

2: 170


0 - pre

3: 195

zone 4: present - 2055


1: 120 zone

zone 4: present - 2055


bird view on the region with the demolished physical relicts (grey) and the remaining (black) 315











fragment of entangled paths where formal and informal meet PRODUCED BY AN AUTODESK EDUCATIONAL PRODUCT




responsibilities yes















O path

a series of sections through a path, drawn upto the point where the view is blocked, linked with the amount of responsabilities at that point PRODUCED BY AN AUTODESK EDUCATIONAL PRODUCT



early Eocene - 56 to 33,9 million years ago




middle Eocene - 56 to 33,9 million years ago




late Miocene - 11,6 to 5,3 million years ago

Quaternary - 2,6 million years ago to now



early Oligocene - 33,9 to 23 million years ago




middle Miocene - 16 to 11,6 million years ago


the geological story of the cuestas

from young to old: sand of the Formation of Berchem - clay of Boom - sand of the Formation of Zelzate clay - chalk



Project focus Mature

With my project I wish to design an environment in which a future development could implement both a functional program and provide the freedom for the landscape to keep playing its informal social role. By providing hidden zones, freewheeling zones, where individuals or groups of individuals can put up their own rules, experience the landscape in a way that suits them the best and by doing so creating an intensity that is not reachable outside of this environment, an opportunity is offered where anyone can familiarise with the landscape, whether these individuals are a group of local teenagers, living in the neighbouring residential areas, a group of employees of the factory around the corner, or a newcomer who has never seen this landscape before and is given the chance to enjoy with a safe feeling of solitude. Throughout the region you can feel free to appropriate and connect with the landscape. Hereby a sense of heimat and citizenship is intensified for the locals, while newcomers can appreciate the region in an individual way. In this way I feel that also the landscape can mature. It has had its infant year centuries ago, and was troubled by exuberant puberal years, leaving scars that will never heal. Now, at this moment, these scars are the starting point of a positive development. Although at certain points the teenage attitude reapears, the overall landscape is ready for the next step. Linked with the world where its scars can find their place.

opposite: photograph of the former clay pits in Rumst 321




Overall design strategy ] in [ formal

Humans move, they explore, experience, excavate and unveil the many curiosities in life. When we travel through space from one destination to another, we move at a certain speed and with a certain level of attention.

“ It’s unbelievable impressive when you can see this passage of time and become aware of the enourmous scale on which the world has changed.”

It is hard to grasp the life in that little village around the church that you pass by at 90km/h, and maybe you don’t feel the need to grasp it. When you arrive at your destination and you know you’re back home, noticing the neighbour’s mail still being stuck in the letter box and assuming he’ll be on that long awaited ski trip he mentioned two weeks ago, it might occur to you that after the many kilometres you’ve travelled, it is only now that you make meaningfull discoveries. If you’re a sensitive type, you might realise that you’re back within your familiar meshwork, as Tim Ingold states, “the trails along which life is lived.” In his book ‘Lines. A brief history’ (2007) Ingold is offering an insight into the link between the way we travel and the experience that brings with it. On one hand you have wayfaring (= traveling, esp. on foot1), where you trace movement, follow and make trails, wander from place to place along a “path of observation”(Gibson 1979).

It is this kind of awareness that also struck me when digging into the geology and its evolution in our area. When positioning our five villages into this much larger timescale, it was obvious how important the very short period (13th century - 21st century) of the brick industry was and still is for the landscape. It becomes a crucial point and it is the prelude of future developments.

“For inhabitants, however, the environment comprises not the surroundings of a bounded place but a zone in which their several pathways are thoroughly entangled” (Ingold 2007). This implies that the visitor, the newcomer, is entering a complex local whole, in which he or she can only assume certain connections, and by wayfaring uncover the missing links, untill after many years this stranger has created pathways of his or her own.

Günther Vogt - landscape architect

Yet it is here, in the future developments that the short timespan and the small scale play a crucial role. In my positioning I hope I’ve made clear that the experiential is what triggers my curiosity, that the narratives I’ve been walking along provided me of crucial information that has provoked a sense of familiarity. At a certain point the question was asked whether the filling-up scenario of the clay pits was an interesting path to engage with. As described above, the digging of the clay pits has been an influential step, in regards to the larger geological evolution of our landscape. Filling them up with rubble, the left overs of the infrastructural works along Flanders, would be a misrecognition of this evolution and the uniqueness of its features.


opposite: sketch of the situation of the site 325

This unique topography asks for a diverse approach. On the one hand the programme will be utilitarian, everything has to function ofcourse, so it could garuantee a long lifespan of any intervention. On the other hand it would almost be insulting not to stress the larger quality of the landscape features and to engage with a more sensitive mindset. It is the tension between the utilitarian and the poetic that gives architecture its great power (Pallasmaa J.). Because of this duality, I have tried to create a design through models, to consider the model as an interpretation and a reading of the site. Through making, re-making and re-modelling of these worktools, both the current condition as the enourmous labour that it has cost to get it there became clear. The clay pits vary in topography and size. This difference in shape is strongly linked with the evolution of the extraction of clay. The different routines that have shaped the pits, shifted through the zones we can recognise. The closest to the river the earliest pits were situated, crafted through an endless routine of digging the clay spade by spade in a more random order, carrying it with wheelbarrows to the dryingsheds where it was formed to stone-size and laid to dry and further baked in the ovens. After baking they were shipped across the world. For centuries the people of Rumst, Boom, Niel, Schelle and Hemiksem dug clay, the pits shifted to the North, as the ones the closest to the river were exhausted. Although the digging shifted North, the activity remained near the water. So it is not surprising that also the houses, bars and shops remained at that side of the road. The shape of the pits changed. Pre-industrial times


introduced more linear shapes, and very soon the industrial times enabled the companies to dig deeper. Tools were perfectionised, shapes became more precise. For long no-one cared about the abandoned pits. The forgotten was reused for settlements or was truly forgotten. Then wilderness took over and picturesque views arose throughout the area. The image of the mining faded away as the image of the â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;not made by humansâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; or archeiropoeton came forward (lecture Denis Dujardin 2015). Within this new landscape very soon the extraordinary qualities were discovered. It was the ideal playground for those that did not want to be seen, and a testing ground for individual rules. After this long neglect, the game has changed. Opportunities are now being seen and the landscape will very soon be exploited for the second time, now for recreational purposes, but not meant to be less profitable. the invisible the free the hidden the informal

the visible the controlled the seen the formal

These are terms that come to mind when trying to name what I have uncovered. Where on the one hand no-one really knows what happens in a certain place, unless you were part of the events, other places have such clear programming that locals and newcomers alike understand the role it plays. And yet it is true that both terms can apply for one place. The butcher is both a formal function, but for the local getting his or her sausages there every Thursday, the butcher can be a strong friend or at least a friendly acquintance.

So what is it that I’m trying to do? In the light of the current attention for the clay pits, it is striking how no-one is talking about levels of accessibility. To be able to give both locals and newcomers an environment where they can wayfare through both the informal zone as the formal, part of one landscape where, when taking the paths with a specific purpose, you discover what you look for. In classical antiquity nature was that which is outside the city, in medieval times landscape used to be a productive landscape. Thereafter arcadia (a vision of pastoralism and harmony with nature, a poetic byword for an idyllic vision of unspoiled wilderness, unattainable, seen as lost.) was a decisive step in te process of separating oneself - also mentally - from the idea of landscape as a place of production. (Vogt 2014) How do we want to approach landscape today? City walls are tourist attractions, the production of our food has long become part of a mega-infrastructure and the physical elimination of the contrast between city and landscape has led to a gradual blurring of the meaning of these terms. (Vogt 2014) With the project and the introduction of formal and informal zones, I hope we can see landscape as a functional park, with here and there blind spots. In this scheme it is important that both factors (formal and informal) are well defined, and their interaction is clear. The scheme can also be applied retrospectively, for instance in the case of the recreational area ‘De Schorre’.

The informal is what is hidden, unknown to most, mastered by the insiders. It is there where experiences are gained and intense memories are created. The formal is the known structure, there to be seen and read as it is, no secret knowledge, controlled by society. In the folowing two subchapters I will go deeper into each aspect. As in any project it is crucial to know how the locals and the wider public are responding to these ideas. Therefore I appreciate it very much that there will be a second presentation later this year for the province of Antwerp, so we can receive some feedback from the people involved. It was in an article in the landscape magazine Club Donny that I read of an artist installation being excecuted on the river Ugra. A group of people would build a raft, and make a journey over a river that was flowing through the woods. At the end of this journey the raft would then be transformed into a stage where one part of the group would perform for the other part. After the performance, they would deconstruct the raft and make a fire with the wood. While reading and together with the images that accompanied the article, I realised for the first time how important it was that the landscape was forming the decor or the scene for this journey and that the moment the fire burned out, the experiencing of the landscape was a basis to link this memory with. Because of this fact I felt strengthened in my idea to stress the importance of the clay pits being a functional landscape or park, so the act can be linked with landscape views that are similar for the whole region.


The informal zone

It is a certain experience that I have been trying to put into words. Perhaps you have experienced it before - I’m sure you have if you’re an active walker -, this evolution in the character of your walk. I started off having this walk, not necessarily for a reason, maybe it crossed my mind that it would be good to be outside for a while, get some fresh air. But while walking - after five or ten minutes or so - you start to drift away, drifting away from this big mess of thoughts, and going towards focused problems and dilemmas. You can get back to your priorities and try to figure out what are the best options for the issues you’re struggling with at the moment, put second guessing to an end by making decisions that thereafter are final ones. I feel it has to do with a sense of distance, the feeling that everyday life, pressure, exhaustion and this constant drive you’re in, are so far away that you have the freedom to order it all. This distant walk seems to give you the means to clean up your mess, get your stuff in order. You pause from time to time, enjoy the view, drink some water perhaps, or to confirm your conclusion at some point. Yet, the process of deciding happens while climbing and descending along the trails through the woods. It is this experience that draws me towards the wilderness: the possibility to reflect, that when you’re liberated from everyday impulses, you get sharpened up.


In an urban environment no similar experiences occurred to me. Perhaps the banal but timeconsuming operations are too nearby, too easily you can get drawn back into this mindless mode of answering your e-mails, checking your mobile device for messages and updates, attending meetings, and so on and on. It is this never ending choreography of trivialities where our lives are built upon that builds up towards an inevitable need for an escape. This escape from day to day trivialities can take on many forms and although it is not for the designer to decide or controll what happens there, as it is the nature of the place to be hidden, uncertain, risky, but free, I will share some of the thoughts behind this zone, and also some criteria necessary to guide this use. The artist Hamish Fulton is enforcing this concept by seeing art as an action, a performance, not a physical object, and literally names walking as an act of meditation. Lucius Burckhardt, a swiss sociologist, puts is quite clear: “The use of the term landscape already indicates that we mean a construct.” The landscape this is explored in the drawings, comprises not only the clay pit area, but also the other end of the trail, where does it start, which other paths does it cross, and who takes the same paths or where do they separate? In a second reading of the drawings, it becomes clear which conditions the informal zones require.

In the informal zone, it is key that feelings of freedom and solitude make up the central atmosphere. Therefore the informal zones that I’ve discovered acted as nuclei. They often had one trail leading towards the focal point, being bordered by natural elements: topography, water and vegetation. The four categories of traces that I determined in the Positioning - fires, trails, rubbish and structures - are characteristic of the informal zones, it is not in the formal zones that these type of traces are being left. The physical connection with the formal zone is organised through hierarchical paths. A watchful eye shall notice the narrow trail through the grass and bushes but others pass it by without noticing. Larger landscape elements, like water surfaces or swamps can connect formal and informal, but it will never be an easy crossing. A visual connection is exceptional. Because of the recurrent nature of the nucleus organisation, each construct is enclosed by very dense bushes, is positioned at another height or will be oriented in another direction. If there is a visual connection between formal and informal, the same comment can be made like for the physical connection, it will never be an easy crossing. Because of this very secluded nature of the informal zones, these are often seen as a refuge, an escape from home. The text by Mary Douglas, ‘The Idea of a Home: A Kind of space.’ made clear for me that home is not for everyone this secure nest where all sorrows dissapear, but it is very often the contrary:

its scrutiny and control.’, a well positioned opening of the article. This text opens up the discussion what the meaning might be in an anthropoligical sense of the informal zones. What do our acts mean? In what way does this freedom play a role in the transformation from boy or girl to man or woman? What do our acts tell us about our personality? These are questions that go far beyond my knowledge and would need a Master Dissertation an sich to explore possible outcomes. Nevertheless I would like to mention a following extract which felt related to what this project wants to talk about: We spoke of rage. Of women and landscape. How our bodies and the body of the earth have been minded. [...] “It has everything to do with intimicy,” I said. “Men define intimacy through their bodies. It is physical. They define intimicy with the land in the same way.” [...] “Many men have forgotten what they are connected to,” my friend added. “Subjugation of women and nature may be a loss of intimacy within themselves.” Extract of the memoir of Terry Tempest Williams. ‘Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place’ The informal zone is contrary to public space. Where in the one case the space you inhabit is linked with behavioural codes, determined by the culture, slowly evolving through generations, the other provides a more cleaner slate to start writing on.

‘The more we reflect on the tyranny of the home, the less surprising it is that the young wish to be free of


The formal zone

When elaborating on the informal zone some criteria about the formal already came forward: it provides the primary paths from with secondary can lead to the informal zones and it applies the natural elements of topography, water and vegetation to structure its landscape. In the Overall design strategy I have stressed the importance of combining the utilitarian with the poetic, the importance of accessibility through a variation of paths, the concept of a functional park with blind spots and the long term effect of linking the activity with the landscape as it happened with the raft on the river Ugra. As Juhani Pallasmaa states: ‘The essence of architecture is mediation’, it is in this zone, the formal, that the designer can be this mediator. Mediating as an architect between the past and the future is a starting point our academic promotor Gisèle Gantois is starting from as well. Picking up and continuing an existing narrative when constructing a project is a challenge within this formal zone. Between who do we mediate? The inhabitants and the decision takers? The elderly and the young? The locals and the newcommers? When we mediate, how do we stand with regards to past and future? How will we interpret former structures and can the past dictate the future? Is this development evolutionary or revolutionary? Now we see this landscape as heritage, many statements about built heritage seem to be aplicable to this natural heritage. “Heritage is being commodified and made tourist-friendly to such an extent that it risks becoming ‘Disneyfied’. Creative re-use and private uses of heritage proliferate.” (Gantois 2014)


Shall we preserve or adapt? It is in the formal zone that these questions can be asked. With our design we act within the tangible segment of cultural heritage, but it has an undoubtable connection with its intangible better half. The artist Anthony Gormley marks space with his sculptures. They draw visitors towards specific points in the landscape, points that according to the artist are potent for contemplation. His interventions are catalysts for retrospection. It is also in this sense that we as designers get the opportunity to mark places in the landscape more specifically, and it is our privilege to make choices that will benefit future visitors. What type of functions can we implement in this landscape? As mentioned before, they need to be stable enough to frame the informal zone, and have to have respect towards the landscape. Here I sum up some function that according to my intuition, and the references that I have found, would be suitable: Promatorium Funeral home Cemetery Retreat (spiritual) Corporate learning centre (pavilions) Some of these functions float between an industriality, infrastructureness and profitability and a peacefull impressiceness. This duality is striking for the landscape as well. Through economic motives an environment was created that evokes larger emotions. The routine that lies at the basis of this landscape is for me the strongest confrontation between these two modalities. The brutality of the single action is only

enforcing the beauty we see when looking at the larger picture. To express this aspect in a graphical manner, the work of Agnes Martin comes to mind. By a patient repetitive action, she produces drawings that communicate both the attention for the single stroke, as well as the image of the entire work. In my search for a suitable approach to design spaces like this, I firstly looked back to the theory and projects of Dom Hans Van der Laan. The harmonious sense that these buildings radiate was definitely something I was looking for. When rereading his theory about the Plastic Number, my enthousiasm slightly deminished. In my research question I state that the project on this site is to be about the preservation of freedom. It was upon reading a specific paragraph in a monograph about Sigurd Lewerentz that I knew what felt wrong. “On the whole, visual matters were important to him. He worked his way through the building by eye throughout. He sought out concrete points of visual interest, screened off the field of view, and thus created highly charged spaces. The details were also to be stimulating, but it was not mere decoration that he was after. The old brick factory at Helsingborg was a model. It was there that he saw bundles of light falling from openings in the roof, and there also that he found the remains of an old brick wall which fascinated him. It was dilapidated, attacked by frost and partially overgrown with moss. The bricks were partially sintered together in a strange symbiosis.

In this wall he found what he was looking for: it was precisely the image he wanted for the project at Klippan. [...] The dark area under the coat rack was finished in white, to lighten up the shadow. “That will probably be OK,” he said laconically. In this matter he continued from room to room and decided upon the different characters of the floor. The building seems to be based upon simple geometric formulations such as he had used before. But he was the first to deviate from his own rules when he sensed that they began to impede his vision. Rules were not there for their own sake. They, like he, were merely servants for that largers construction called life.” p172-173 This view on how to handle rules, feels more related to the nature of this master dissertation then the variety Van der Laan offers within his algorithmic system.

The wall was in itself like a story of the construction process. Here he found confirmation for his ideas concerning the brick architecture in Persia which he had seen in his illustrated works.

overleaf: scheme ]in[formal, collage panels with a first exploration of site and topic 331







The sea, 2003 - Agnes Martin 338

Aspiration, 1960 - Agnes Martin 339




Applying the design strategy One site, some functions

As indicated earlyer, my answer to the question of what we inherit, was answered with the area of the clay pits. In this region both active and former clay pits can be found, all in a variation of sizes and shapes. Therefore the question to answer when selecting a site is: â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Which site has the right measurements for the programme I propose?â&#x20AC;&#x2122; To express the different character of the clay pits, I show two sites: 1. The area where the former clay pits and the active clay pits lie next to each other on the site of Wienerberger in Rumst. In the North the village of Reet closes off the future excavations, in the South the contemporary brick factory lies in between Rumst and Terhagen, along the river Rupel. 28 ha 2. The site Kapittel in between the railway tracks through Niel and the Science Park of the University of Antwerp. The future developments have already been quite extensively researched. The extra buildings for the univerity science park and the related office buildings will start construction in 2015, the sales have started end 2014. 14 ha The former clay pits on the Wienerberger site will be the project area for my Master Dissertation. At the site of Wienerberger future developments comprise in a first phase the extraction of clay for at least 50 years and afterwards a remodelling of the clay pits to make it more appropriate for a natural park. The site is situated at the edge of this future development, with the water tower of Rumst, already functioning as a touristical information point for the region and is situated near a bus stop and bicycle lanes.

In the research bundle of the province of Antwerp regarding the region, a large natural core area is proposed in between the village of Boom, the cluster Terhagen - Rumst and the village of Reet. In this natural core area, the former clay pit landscape will play the central role. To the West the recreational area of De Schorre will close of, in the North the future extraction site of Wienerberger will be remodelled to be a retention basis for flooding risks, in the East they foresee a light recreational use and a connection with the woods of Stuyvenberg with paths, in the South the industry of Wienerberger will remain with next to it the Terhagen clay pits as a natural park. In total this natural core area should provide 75ha of swamp, 50ha of reed beds, 25ha of water surface and 15 ha of swamp forest to assure high quality biotopes with a vision towards aluvial forest and a half open landscape with wilderness, bushes and woods. In this target biotope fauna like bittern, crake, bluethroat, kingfisher, shoveler, wintering waterfowl and migratory birds, bats black tern, marsh harrier and purple heron, night heron and beaver should be attracted. Indigenous plans are the silver birch and reed. They propose a low intensive recreation with possibilities to walk and bike on foreseen paths and/ or guided tours through the natural core area. In the future infrastructural works will be needed to provide a more appropriate welcome for the visitors of the natural park. My design will implement the first step towards this infrastructure.

opposite: photograph of the former Wienerberger clay pits in Rumst 343

The site of the former clay pits of Wienerberger lie on the edge of the third extraction zone and the fourth - current - extraction zone. The extraction in Rumt will continue up to 2055 and is done by clay extractor in several phases. First from South to North along the Eastern border (the road connecting Rumst with Reet, and then from East to West along the village of Reet. The other extraction zone of Wienerberger is situated in Schelle where they will extract with mobile cranes from South to North. The extraction in Rumst will happen during weekdays from 7am till 7pm or from 5am till 9pm if there is a higher demand. The transport of extracted clay happens with a conveyor running centrally from the pits to the factory. The water (especially rainwater) is extracted with pumps to nearby ponds, on the long term the Northern part will act as a buffer for the natural core area. Noise pollution will obviously not be permanent and because of the situation of my project site near the first extraction zone, production noise will only be the case for a very short period of time and the noise that accompanies the remodelling of the site has a much lower intensity. The location of the conveyor is too far away from the project site to give vibration pollution. Both the conveyor and the clay extractors operate on electricity zo there is no airpollution. After the extraction the watersystem will be


restructured with new canals, infiltration zones, parcel directions and slopes. The remodelling of the new clay pits will make use of excavated earth elsewhere in Flanders that is transported over the river Rupel and brought to the site with conveyors operating centrally in the extraction zone, so far enough from the project site to cause hindrance. The proposed natural core area is not part of the Natura 2000 project, but the Schelde and Durme estuarium is, comprising 8.957ha of land, spread over the area from Ghent to the Dutch border, crossing the following municipalities: Antwerpen, Zwijndrecht, Lier, Duffel, Hemiksem, Schelle, Mechelen, Willebroek, Rumst, Niel, Boom, Puurs, Bornem, Sint-Amands, Destelbergen, Melle, Beveren-Waas, Temse, Kruibeke, Lokeren, Dendermonde, Hamme (OVL), Wetteren, Zele, Waasmunster, Wichelen, Laarne, Berlare. Because of the close situation of these natural areas and the proposed nature connections from the natural core area to the Rupel, natural corridors between the two areas can be developed.

Selecting a programme

On the Wienerberger site I propose a programme in which a cemetery implements the functions of a funeral home. First of all the function complies to the criteria as sketched in the Overall design strategy: it needs to be stable enough to frame the informal zone, and have to have respect towards the landscape. The function of a cemetery and/or crematorium came to mind when walking through the landscape, it is a peacefull environment, suitable for contemplation. In the neighbourhood both cemeteries and funeral homes are present but emit a poor atmosphere, it made me long for a more appropiate environment to position these in and I explored the possibilites. Firstly in terms of programme: a burial with a headstone is not acceptible, it would confront the site with problems of expansion, but even more important, the absence of this headstone, enlarges the focus on the landscape experience. So the cemetery would be a park cemetery with natural burial of ashes in the first 60 cm of the soil (aerobe decomposition within 6 to 12 months after burial) and the possibility of a donatium in the form of a pond. This is in line with the current evolution of burials in the West - already established in The Netherlands and applied in Belgium in SintNiklaas and Roeselare in the form of a planted forest. To offer a complete service it would be appropriate to include also a crematorium. When looking into the surrounding villages, new crematoria have been built in Sint-Niklaas and Nieuwrode, there is one in the city of Antwerp and a new one will be constructed in 2015 in the city of Zemst, all within the proximity of our region. During my search I also encountered a next development in the burial procedure: the promatorium: an infrastructure where they freeze the bodies instead of burning them. It proved to be more clean in terms of environmental pollution and the

procedure would take around the same time as the cremation. Introducing a promatorium on this site enforces the progressive character of the whole programme. By intruducing a funeral home into the cemetery environment opens up the possibility to offer one atmosphere for the entire ritual: the reception by the undertaker, the greeting of the deceased, the ceremony, burial, meal of Consolation and the visiting of the burial grounds all are included in the same landscape. The remembrance is not being contained by the architecture, that is primarily a shelter, but by the timelessness of the landscape and the associations it evokes. The landscape can truly become a pilgrimage, a scene for the processing of grief. I have visited the funeral homes and the cemeteries in the region to gen an idea of how they are implemented in their surroundings. At the cemetery of Schelle I had a brief conversation of Sonja Op de Beeck, who had her parents and a few other family members buried there. Sonja started talking to me spontaneously, I was walking towards the exit and she did as well, a few meters behind me, and said to me with a slightly louder voice, that it was quite a good day, referring to the weather. We walked around for a while, and she told me she would does this more often, walking around the graves, not to stop and see them all, but to look at the gravestones from time to time and have a look at the new graves to see who joined. She has seen others do it as well. Sometimes she would sit on the benches as well, not always and never for too long. The new constructions on the cemetery (a roofing on top of the columbaria in white painted steel and plastic) are very much to her liking. She enjoys the


colours of the many flowers near the columbaria and the graves, bringing some colour to it all. Despite the fact that she lives in Schelle, she has never been to the clay pits in the area, she says sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll do it in the near future. What I remember is the importance of a physical remain after the burial, something to go back to and pay your respects, but also the freedom to go and see the other relicts, have a stroll and pause from time to time. On the next page I added a text that I found by accident. The re-use of clay pits as burial grounds is apparently not so new, and it is even part of our vocabulary it seems.


“Then Judas, who betrayed him, seeing that he was condemned, repenting himself, brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and ancients, saying: “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.” But they said: “What is that to us? Look thou to it.” And casting down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed, and went and hanged himself with a halter. But the chief priests, having taken the pieces of silver, said: “it is not lawful to put them into the corbona, because it is the price of blood.” And after they had consulted together, they bought with them the potter’s field, to be a burying place for strangers. For this field was called Haceldama, that is, the field of blood, even to this day.” Matthew 27:3-8

Clay is being dug for ages, and the pits that are the result of this activity have been needing a purpose afterwards ever since. In this verse of the gospel of Matthew a disused potter’s field was bought to transform it into a burying place for outsiders. Untill today a cemetery for the unknown and indigent is called a potter’s field. Graves were often unmarked and a single monument or notice board should indicate the collective character of the place.

overleaf: collage panels with a first exploration of site and topic and explorative sketches, a general site plan, site plan of the Kapittel area and a site plan of the former Wienerberger clay pits, photographs of the active and former Wienerberger clay pits 347

Burial procedures and rituals

Natural burial


to bury and allow the body to recycle naturally

to freeze the body and by doing so, reduce it to dust

1. The body is contained in a biodegradable coffin, casket or shroud, or if cremated, in a biodegradable urn. 2. It is burried in a shallow grave where it can decompose through aerobic bacteria.

1. The body is placed into a chamber, designed for this process. 2. The cryogenic procedure: with liquid nitrogen at -196째C the body is crystalised. 3. Through shaking the body gently, it is disintegrated into particles within minutes. 4. To reduce the weight of the particles, they are freeze dryed, leaving only 30% of the original weight behind. 5. Metal is separated from the body by magnetism or sieving. 6. The powder is placed in a biodegradable casket. 7. This is interred in the top layer of the soil, left to decompose in as little as 6 to 12 months.

In the UK the first of this type was constructed in 1993 at the Carlisle cemetery as the Woodland Burial

There are now promession facilities in the UK, South Korea, South Africa, Germany and Sweden. The first active promatorium is to be expected in 2015 in Sweden.


Alkine Hydrolysis = Aquamation Bio-liquifaction Bio-cremation Green cremation Water cremation to speed up the decomposing of the body in water 1. The body is put in a silk bag and then in a metal cage frame. 2. It is loaded in the Resomator, a pattented device, designed for this purpose. 3. The machine is filled with water and lye (a strong base compound). 4. Within the Resomator the water is heated to 160°C and put under pressure, to prevent boiling. 5. Hereby the body breaks down into its chemical component to result in a green-brown liquid with soft porous bones. This process takes about three hours. 6. The bones are crushed to dust. 7. The mixture is separated in ash and liquid, both can be used for ceremonial purposes, or the liquid can be disposed of through the sewer system.

Sky burial Bya gtor, lit. ‘bird scattered’ to cut the body apart and let it be eaten by vultures 1. The body is being cut in pieces, or in other cases at least being cut with a knife by monks or ‘body breakers’ while they talk and laugh as they would do during another physical work. It is believed that that makes it easier for the deceased to move on from the uncertain plane between life and death onto the next life. 2. The body is then put on a ceremonial space, often a rock, sometimes with small temples adjacent to it, in the mountains, where it can be eaten by vultures. 3. The bones that are left are pulvered, mixed with the remaining flesh, barley flour, tea and yak butter or milk, and again fed to the vultures, crows and hawks until nothing remains. Tibetans believe that after death life has completely left the body, and the body contains nothing more than simple flesh.






















Biblioteca del Sol (2012) by Louis De Cordier

above, opposite and overleaf: photographs of the construction process and of the final project 370




the borders of the Rupel as part of the Schelde and Durme estuarium - a Natura 2000 project 374

an overview of the current and future natural developments (Natura 2000 + province of Antwerp) 375


Elaborating on the design We, I, he, she, they, who

A cemetery wich includes a funeral home on the former clay pits of Wienerberger inbetween the villages of Rumst and Reet. In this environment I will put my overall design strategy to the test. The design wil search the combination of the formal with the informal. A situation where the interaction between people will play a crucial role. Fitting in the informal in an intense environment like the cemetery and the funeral home, will be an exercise in giving an intuitive meaning to paths, because some will lead to places of worship, while others lead to bric-Ă -brac encampments. Approaching and entering each building is crucial, the step from path to building needs to go through various stages of enclosure. The materialization starts at the point of the paths. Since at some points the slope of the pit is rather steep, the base of the path also acts as a stabilizing construction, I propose to construct it in brick to confront the scale of one element to the larger whole of the clay pit landscape. This brick then continues to be the basic material for the paths, to be perceived as long landscape elements. When reaching the buildings, the brick path becomes a floor slab on which the ground level is also executed in brickwork, providing a warm but also heavy and enclosed scene. The slab on top of this ground level is in-situ concrete with a wooden plank formwork and in case of the visitation spaces and the aulas, I let in light by adding a higher volume on top, where the concrete of the slab is continuing in both the exterior and interior of the addition. The bricks that I use have the Spanish size: 275x125x5 cm and will be executed with wide extruded joints, roughly brushed. The construction of a diaphragm wall will be visible throught the headers at the point

of the inner stabilizing leaf. Within the larger sequence, I have one loop that can work on a more independent basis: the buildings that are linked with the visitation, so: the parking, the forecourt with offices and the visitation spaces with the promatorium and additional spaces in the basement. When going to a burial ceremony, you gather at the forecourt where an employee can guide you to one of the aulaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s. After the ceremony, you can choose to walk through the park, or can find your way back to the parking throught the secondary connection, which is also linked with the visitation spaces. The close relatives can follow the master of ceremony to the burial grounds or the donatorium. After the burial ritual of the urn they can continue their way towards the retreat, then along the water and through the woods and finally back up the slope whereafter they can choose to go to the belvedere, the teahouse or the parking. The belvedere has a double function. On the one hand it is positioned at a strategic viewing point, on the other hand it is the place where the names of the deceased are engraved on plates, attatched to the wall. The teahouse is visually connected with the belvedere and serves both the mourners as the visitors of the natural park. The materialization starts at the point of the paths. Since at some points the slope of the pit is rather steep, the base of the path also acts as a stabilizing construction. It is constructed in brick to confront the scale of one element with the larger whole of the clay pit landscape. This brick then continues to be the basic material for the paths, to be perceived as long landscape elements.


When reaching the buildings, the brick path becomes the floorslab on which the ground level is also executed in brick, providing a heavy, enclosed, but also framing scene. The slab on top of this ground level is in-situ concrete with a wooden plank formwork and in case of the visitation spaces and the aulas, I let in licht by adding a higher volume on top, where the concrete of the slab is continuing in both the exterior and interior of the addition. To briefly sketch: - start-up expenses funeral home: 18.328,99 euro - assests funeral home: 183.289,91 euro I suggest the plot is owned by the municipality of Rumst, and they rent the funeral home out to a private entrepreneur.

â&#x20AC;&#x153; The ashes are placed in an urn which is then kept temporarily in a niche in a room from which it can be retrieved for the burial.â&#x20AC;? Sigurd Lewerentz in a description of The Chapels of St. Knut and St. Gertrude.



The visual zone - m2

The funeral parlor

The park cemetery

parking - 58 + 92 parking places 1.983 + 2.670 m2 a forecourt, offices and showroom 550m2 a ceremonial area with two aulas 1.004m2 two visitation spaces 365m2 service areas and a promatorium 583m2 a restaurant and teahouse 757m2 a belvedere 287m2 a retreat 225m2 primary walkways

total m2 : 8.424


The visual zone - schematics

visitors parking

entrance visitation spaces




mortuary preparation spaces

offices showroom toilets


ceremonial area

storage spaces


area for meal toilets of consolation

promatorium belvedere



The visual zone - detailed description

parking - 58 + 92 places

a forecourt, offices and showroom

58 parking places for the cemetery 92 parking places for the cemetery and natural park 1.983 + 2.670 m2

structure to shelter the mourners providing a point of reception and distribution for the various functions 462m2

a 115m walk from the 92 parking to the 58 parking a 70m walk to the forecourt - 30m is slightly sloped a 75m walk to the restaurant / teahouse - 30m is slightly sloped

adjacent to: the forecourt the restaurant / teahouse the street secondary paths through clay pit landscape

2 offices - 4 people 2 toilets for the offices storage space 1 shop / showroom: exhibition space for: photo frames flowers coffins / caskets urns cold storage space for flowers 88m2

adjacent to: the parking the ceremonial area the visitation spaces the restaurant / teahouse secondary paths


a ceremonial area with two aulas

two visitation spaces

covered and uncovered transition zone 430m2

covered transition zone 189m2

large aula with 200 seats storage room for extra seats that can be opened and become a foyer storage space toilets for both aulas a bier for a coffin a socle for an urn 414m2

2 visitation spaces 2x62m2 toilets with patio 52m2 linked with the forecourt by a covered passage

small aula with 60 seats storage space a bier and a socle 160m2 additional information: an urn 30 cm high, 23-25 cm diameter a coffin lxbxh: 2.0-2.25 x 78-90 x 75-1.10 cm the passage width for coffin bearers 2.20 m a hearse (lijkwagen) lxbxh: 4.95 x 1.79 x 1.75 m adjacent to: a path linked with the parking the forecourt the donatorium and burial grounds secondary paths


adjacent to: a path linkeds with the parking the forecourt the service areas and promatorium secondary paths

service areas and a promatorium

a restaurant and teahouse

1 mortuary - 2 storage spaces for corpses 2 x 2.3m2 1 space to prepare the corpses 24m2 1 storage space related to the visitation spaces 24m2

kitchen bar dining area coat room

a bier working spaces storage space for coffins storage for tools and products technical installation for three rooms area to observe

adjacent to: the visitation spaces the road connecting Rumst and Reet the offices

work with and sell local products 1 area for a meal of consolation - 132 seats 300m2 8 toilets for the area for the meal of consolation 24m2 2 toilets ladies 2 toilets gents 4 urinals

adjacent to: the main parking the belvedere primary walkways



a belvedere

a retreat

a long sloping path a wall at the end of the path 12.000 engraved nameplates in green marble with white letters

secluded garden bench looking over the water large domesque room

adjacent to: the tea house primary walkways

adjacent to: primary walkways

primary walkways

executed in brick




PRODUCED BY AN AUTODESK EDUCATIONAL PRODUCT constructional concept: double leaf in-situ concrete on a diaphragm wall 389

580m to teahouse


PRODUCED BY AN AUTODESK EDUCATIONAL PRODUCT 1:250 - the retreat - roof plan 390

150m to donatorium






PRODUCED BY AN AUTODESK EDUCATIONAL PRODUCT 1:250 - the retreat - facade towards the pond 392


1:250 - the retreat - section through interior 393



PRODUCED BY AN AUTODESK EDUCATIONAL PRODUCT 1:250 - the donatorium - plan 394

176m to aulas


150m to retreat



90m to forecourt



176m to donatorium

1:250 - the aulas - plan 396


14m to temporal parking 186m to cemetery parking 310m to visitors parking






PRODUCED BY AN AUTODESK EDUCATIONAL PRODUCT 1:250 - the aulas - sections 398



1:250 - the aulas - facade towards the pond 399





1:250 the forecourt, visitation spaces and promatorium (basement) plan 401



RODUCED BY AN AUTODESK EDUCATIONAL PRODUCT 1:250 - the forecourt, visitation spaces and promatorium (basement) - facade towards the pond and section 402







1:250 - the teahouse - plan 404


60m to cemetery parking


1:250 - the teahouse - section 406




TODESK EDUCATIONAL PRODUCT 1:250 - the belvedere - section and plan overleaf 407







1:250 - the belvedere - section




1:200 - test model visitation spaces 412


1:200 - test model belvedere 414


1:200 - test models 416

1:500 - test model aulas 417

1:500 - test model forecourt 418

1:500 - test model visitation spaces 419

1:500 - test model belvedere 420

1:500 - test models 421

1:500 - test model landscape 422


1:200 - test model belvedere 424

1:500 - test model retreat 425

1:200 - test model aulas 426


1:200 - test model aulas 428

1:200 - test model forecourt 429

1:200 - test model forecourt 430

1:200 - test model forecourt 431

1:200 - test model visitation spaces 432


1:500 - final model belvedere 434

1:200 - final model belvedere 435

1:200 - final model belvedere 436

1:500 - final model teahouse 437

1:500 - final model teahouse 438

1:500 - final model teahouse 439

1:500 - model landscape 440

1:500 - final model aulas 441

1:200 - final model aulas 442

1:200 - final model aulas 443

1:500 - final model forecourt, visitation spaces and promatorium 444

1:500 - final model forecourt, visitation spaces and promatorium 445

1:500 - final model retreat 446

1:200 - final model retreat 447

looking for the traces of habits and routines in physical spaces - Master Dissertation Studio of Anuschka Kutz in London - from 8.10.2014 till 27.02.2015 survey in ‘The Little Crown’

route map of 08.11.2014

survey in a sports bar

route map of 13.11.2014

route map of 12.11.2014

survey survey in in ‘The ‘The Little Little Crown’ Crown’

guiding scheme




















finding local narratives in used places

responsibilities no
































































O path

investigating formal and informal zones: informal zones as an escape from responsabilities and as a testing ground to cope with its freedom




















the site ‘as is’

Master Dissertation Rupel region - 2014-2015 - academic promotor: Gisèle Gantois


Familiar landscapes

Matthijs Sioen - International Master of Architecture - Campus Sint-Lucas Ghent - Faculty of Architecture - KU Leuven - Belgium








0 - pres

3: 195


0 - 195

2: 170

Quaternary - 2,6 million years ago to now

from young to old: sand of the Formation of Berchem - clay of Boom - sand of the Formation of Zelzate - clay - chalk




late Miocene - 11,6 to 5,3 million years ago




middle Miocene - 16 to 11,6 million years ago


early Oligocene - 33,9 to 23 million years ago




the geological story of the cuestas



middle Eocene - 56 to 33,9 million years ago



early Eocene - 56 to 33,9 million years ago






zone 4: present - 2055


1: 120

zone 4: present - 2055


the physical relicts of the brick industry as a backdrop to engage with the cultural heritage of the region: a view of what was demolished and what remains: the architectural relicts feel anecdotal, the natural communicates in its own way - the zoning of the clay digging, related to extraction period, linked with extraction tools and as a consequence: with the shape of the clay pits

PRODUCED BY AN AUTODESK EDUCATIONAL PRODUCT a situation of the project site within the natural development projects: the Schelde and Durme estuary (Natura 2000), the Natural Development Plan with the extraction pits as a Natural Core Area, natural connections towards the Rupel and gates and local accesses as indicators of recreational co-use, with catering, info points, parking, etc. (Province of Antwerp, 2014)

Master Dissertation Rupel region - 2014-2015 - academic promotor: Gisèle Gantois

Familiar landscapes

Matthijs Sioen - International Master of Architecture - Campus Sint-Lucas Ghent - Faculty of Architecture - KU Leuven - Belgium




134m slope

direction teahouse















60m to cemetery parking









direction retreat



direction donatorium


N 10m



Familiar landscapes

Matthijs Sioen - International Master of Architecture - Campus Sint-Lucas Ghent - Faculty of Architecture - KU Leuven - Belgium


Written presentation

In the first couple of weeks, I worked in the studio of Anuschka Kutz in London, where we investigated in detail the habits and routines of a person and the effect they have on the physical environment. When changing to the studio of Gisèle here in Belgium, I experienced the Rupel region from that perspective. The stories that the traces throughout the region told me, made me curious to figure out what the constructs were that lay behind them. So in the subsequent months I walked through the landscape to dig into these trails and register their characteristics. On the side you can see some footage of these walks. In the end four categories of informal use could be extracted: fires, trails, rubbish and structures. Obviously the line between these four is often hard to draw. When does a fire become a structure, where does the trail stop and the structure begin, and how can we define a structure? The structures had for me a quality through their signs of inhabitation, you could read the intensive use by paying attention to every detail. There was a fallen tree for example and the bark of the tree was torn and damaged, at some points the bark was completely gone, at other places it had this light shine because of repeatedly stepping over it. And together with the other traces around it, you could imagine the bark being used as a table, a bench or a stage altogether. So the bark was the centre of the narrative you could pick up when walking through. Traces like these were found throughout the region, and by linking them with the surroundings, it became clear to me that these informal uses were playing a vital role in the functioning of


neighborhoods and in the process of understanding the various concepts of liberty. An awareness arose, that, because of renewed interest in this landscape by both private developers and governmental bodies, in the very near future, this landscape would be mined again. With my project I wish to design an environment in which a future development could implement both a functional programme and provide the freedom for the landscape to keep playing its informal social role. To communicate it easier I propose to work with two zones: the formal zone and the informal zone. In the informal zone, the use is not clear, there are no rules, no-one is looking behind your shoulder, it offers a certain freedom and it is not meant to be seen at once. Whereas the formal communicates immediately. From afar it is clear what its function is. Both provide the possibility to familiarize with the landscape. To implement these two zones on a site, I looked into the existing situation to determine the criteria to which both should comply. The informal occurs at secondary and tertiary paths and can always be recognised as a nucleus, enclosed by natural elements like topography, water or vegetation. The formal is easily accessible and provides primary paths along which its buildings are situated if there are any and it is fixed in volume and in area, and it needs to be able to act with a certain subtlety towards the landscape, since this is an exceptional environment to build in.

Simultaneously with uncovering the meaning of the structures that I found, I wanted to get to know this landscape from another, a more scientific angle. So Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve been going back in time to know how this landscape evolved to the point that we know it today. Firstly by looking into the geology: in the Eogene and Oligocene epoch, our areas were flooded and because of changing water levels, first a layer of clay was deposited, then a layer of sand and lastly another layer of clay, known as our clay of Boom. After a period of drought in which this layer cracked at several points, our areas were again flooded and afterwards we arrived at the stage where we were before the brick industry. The river Schelde found its way towards Antwerp because of heavy erosion in the Alps, blocking the existing route to the sea and hereby splitting the cuesta in two: the cuesta of the Waasland in the West and the cuesta of Boom in the East. It is because of these two conditions that the brick industry evolved so impressively in this area: the presence of the thick layer of clay near the surface, and the presence of the Rupel as an easy transport system. Everyone in our studio is proposing options for future developments in the Rupel region, linking it with its cultural heritage, which is of course a very complex concept. It implies both the tangible relicts as the intangible, which are not so easy to grasp. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m convinced that if we wish to evoke a sense of intangible heritage, we can do it in much more effective way if we us the physical remains as a backdrop. In the next drawing I show in black what remains of the physical relicts. It is clear, I think, that the

strength of the buildings lay in the multitude in which they occurred, and what remains today feels almost anecdotal. When looking a few hundered meters more inland, an impressive 4.500ha of clay pit landscape remained. And they tell the story of the brick industry in their very own way. Throughout time extraction shifted up North, together with the developments towards industrialization, resulting in other tools, and as a consequence, in different shapes of the clay pits. Now I have determined my field of interest - the combination of formal and informal zones - and the larger site - the clay pit area throughout the region, I selected a more specific site to apply the larger strategy. I chose the site near the current Wienerberger extraction zone, between the villages of Rumst and Reet, because it is here that the challenges are the most clear: large areas are vacant or will become vacant and within the proposed future function - a natural core area - I see formal and informal functions too little adressed. On this site I have selected a park cemetery with the functions of funeral home as a programme. This function provides an alternative for the coventional cemeteries and funeral homes throughout the region, a solid framework for the informal zones and provides the first infrastructure for future needs, linked with the natural core area and the tourist information point in the former water tower of Rumst. The drawing and the model show the site. It is situated in the third and fourth extraction zone, as we can read from the shape of the pits. More South - towards the river - we recognise oval shaped pits, linked with the first semi-automatic extraction with clay extractors on rails, laid out in an oval shaped track. More North, whe have the current extraction,


with the more advanced machines, working on straight rail tracks. On this site Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve provided the area for the informal use, and combined it with the buildings and paths of the cemetery. Throughout the stages of a burial procedure, your thoughts balance between a focus on the past, the presence and the future. My buildings are gradually opening up towards the landscape, linked with their timing in the burial procedure. When at the beginning there is a possibility to pay your respects individually, or in small groups, you often go to a tiny room at the funeral home, here the two visitation spaces are part of a first loop. It works on an independent basis and comprises the parking, the forecourt with reception and the two visitation spaces. This loop is putting all focus on the deceased and is only providing some glimps of the landscape the buildings are situated in. Underneath the visitation spaces I foresee a promatorium which has access to the street, the offices and of course the visitation spaces itself. A second loop comprises the parking, the forecourt and the aulas. At the day of the ceremony, a hundered meters long path connects the forecourt with the aulas, giving royal views on the clay pit landscape. During the ceremony, you focus on the ritual, the aulas are top-lit. Afterwards the larger group can find their way back to the parking through the secondary path while the close relatives can follow the master of ceremony to the burial grounds in the landscape, or the donatorium at the water for the final ritual. Thereafter they can continue their way along the retreat, around the pond, and up the slope, whereafter they can have a drink in the teahouse, visit the belvedere, or go back


to the parking. The belvedere and the teahouse are both oriented primarily towards the natural park on the other edge of the slope. Both buildings serve the mourners and the visitors of the natural park. The belvedere is positioned at a strategic viewing point, but is also the place where the names of the deceased are engraved on plates, attatched to the wall. The materialization starts at the point of the paths. Since at some points the slope of the pit is rather steep, the base of the path also acts as a stabilizing construction. It is constructed in brick to confront the scale of one element with the larger whole of the clay pit landscape. The paths are to be perceived as long landscape elements and when reaching the buildings, they become the floorslab on which the ground level is also executed in brick with a slab on top of this ground level in in-situ concrete with a wooden plank formwork, providing a heavy, enclosed, but also framing scene. In case of the visitation spaces and the aulas, I let in licht by adding a higher volume on top, where the concrete of the slab is continuing in both the exterior and interior of the addition. At the bottom of the pages, I include a selection of model photographs, and more images and plans can be found at the back of the reflection paper. Thank you.



Postface Manage, write, design

As for many others, these final months have also for me been entense months, not only in experience, but also in reflection. At the end of my study I can say that I have a good view on what the current framework is in which architects operate. It is diverse, touches many related professions, and each one of them is equally interesting and challenging. Yet, during the past couple of years, and especially during this final semester, it has become clear to me that my true interests lie in three fields: management, writing and designing. With the student council I’ve gotten the possibilities to get a taste of what it means to be a manager, and it has given more than satisfaction. Since high school, I’ve been encouraged to keep writing, and it is again with this Master Dissertation, that I’ve realised that it is not until the right words have been found and put in the right order, the story becomes a whole. Finally, designing remains a challenge that I love to engage with, because it is an accomplishment to know references, but it is the largest difficulty to design yourself and position your work among that of others. The luxury in these three fields, is that it is not related to one profession. As much as architecture interests me, it is too early to choose, but I’m looking forward to make the choice.


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Cuesta volume 2  

This is volume two of a two part series titled; 'The Cuesta of the rupel region". The publication is eight master theses combined. Each thes...

Cuesta volume 2  

This is volume two of a two part series titled; 'The Cuesta of the rupel region". The publication is eight master theses combined. Each thes...