Thursday 7th July – Re-wilding the garden city
Today the students returned to site for their penultimate day of prototyping before presentation and handover tomorrow. Further sketches were produced to explain latest developments in each project. The construction of the interventions with bamboo and other chosen materials continued.
The groups received a visit from the rewilding rabbit to keep up the spirit of the project, and rabbit proof their interventions! This furthered community interest into the workshop and sparked and fun interaction between children and adults in the vicinity.
The day ended with some students joining one another for a meal in the city, enjoying the local frituur…
Wednesday 6th July – Re-wilding the garden city
Groups returned to site this morning with materials selected yesterday to continue mapping and prototype development. This afternoon the groups were visited by the workshop leaders to pitch their concepts, opening a collaborative discussion for idea development, allowing them to gain a new perspective on their approach so far.
The different approaches taken by each group is really evident at this point in the workshop – highlighting the diversity within this area for the need of a specific, site relevant response as well as the effects of designing as completely independent groups.
The day ended with the lecture ‘Abundance through scarcity’ from Josymar Rodriguez. This narrated the projects of her architectural practice, providing really relevant inspiration for public space reuse through limited materials. This was followed by a communal dinner at Barousel H which included discussions on materiality and a de-briefing for all teams to plan their intervention construction for the rest of the week.
Tuesday 5th July – Re-wilding the garden city
A trip to C-mine this morning included a guided tour of the disused coal mine and its’ adaptive reuse as a cultural center as well as admission to Balkrima Doshi’s Architecture for the People exhibition. This helped to underpin the understanding of the local area and the prominence of the mining industry in the creation of the garden city ideology found in the sites in Winterslag.
This was followed by the return to mapping of the individual groups sites, where sketches and ideas were collated to identify the existing problems, and look for areas for improvement.
The day concluded with a visit from an associate of 51N4E architectural practice, addressing the topic of ‘re-wilding’ through their master planning initiatives applied in Luxembourg. This sparked a thought provoking discussion on the social and political impacts of the architectural world and our responsibilities as designers.
Monday 4th July – Re-wilding the garden city
The internship kicked off with an introductory lecture at Hostel H by Liesbeth Huybrechts, regarding what is to come in the week ahead. The group then took the train to Bokrijk where they collected their bikes for the week to travel in true Belgian style! The route traveled to get to the sites in Winterslag was through woodland with a well-earned break to enjoy the view of Cycling through the water. This cycle route gave the groups an understanding of mining practices with the node wayfinding systems reflecting those of historic mining navigation. This tour led the groups to each of their sites, giving them a greater understanding of the location and allowing for initial discussions to take place.They built bamboo structures to mark their presence on site, brining attention to the programme.
This was followed by a visit to each site from the social housing company which later developed into a discussion with members of the local community, since noticing our presence on sites. Allowing them to voice their personal concerns and frustrations with the living situation in the area.
The day was rounded up with a communal dinner and informal de-briefing at Barousel H.
Re-wilding is a small-scale public space project in the historical social housing settlement of Winterslag, located on the outskirts of Genk. The project seeks to counter problems with street encroachment caused by lack of enforcement of urban regulation in the neighborhood. Situated in a context characterized by Flemish social housing typologies dating back to the 1940s, a cluster of families have appropriated part of the public space by transforming it to private parking outside their plot boundaries.
As the informal street-scape does not have formal boundaries between public and private, the physical divisions are produced by negotiations between residents and local authorities, resulting in encroachment on the streets, whereby the residents slowly alter the physical barriers marking their plots to take over parts of the street space.
This development causes a multitude of problems for the residents, including decreased social interaction in the public sphere, informal voids with underdeveloped potential, and issues of formalizing the landownership. Accordingly, street encroachment leads to the degradation of the garden city as great heritage value.
With three different proposals of intervention, based on site mappings and interviews, we try to engage the locals into taking leadership and furthermore taking back their street in order to regain a manageable relation between private and public.
The social housing in the Krokusstraat is an ensemble of 8 buildings and 68 apartments. There are several challenges in this multicultural neighborhood of Winterslag: e.g. the lack of parking, storage and common spaces, even though the area in between the buildings is owned by the municipality and its usable by everyone it is only used as circulation and traffic area and in the green areas solely grass is growing and social interaction is lacking.
Given those challenges the international student group of four is redefining in their project the public area by redesigning circulation pathways, parking area, storage spaces and introducing private areas to distinguish common public areas to allow social interaction and nature to grow. The result will be visible for a very short time until the next rain will erase it.
On the plot of the old neighbourhood Church is now a bus stop. Because of the continuous movement on the bus site, it is a place of rythm and continuity. Also, the Church takes care of important moments in life. The bus stop serves the mundane: the rituals of everyday life, going back an forth from work, meeting friends. The Church is made of brick, with small windows therefore feeling more enclosed. The bus stop is made of glass – you see everything that is going on. It are both public spaces, meant to serve people in the neighbourhood. Nowadays the Church is rarely used, whereas the bus stop is used many times throughout the day. Though the Church has a lot of benches, the bus stop only has one. People linger around waiting for the bus. Through adding a construction to the site this project makes it possible for people to connect with each other in a new way while they wait for the bus or for a ceremony in the church. The two worlds come together in a newly connected park.
This project wants to establish a link between different worlds in the neighbourhood in Winterslag, seeing beyond a boundary/wall, using a self-build periscope. By taking pictures via the periscope the project aims to enable a reconnection with the horizon beyond the fenced gardens: some places are controlled, others wild, some surprising in nature.
The neighborhood center presents as an opportunity to foster and deepen relations between the inhabitants in this low density residential neighborhood of Winterslag. It is also the starting point of the necklace forest surrounding the build environment. The neighborhood center is currently an introverted infrastructure with no relation to the lush forest and hidden from the inhabitants. Walls, fences, dense bushes and a vast array of built elements are used to assert private and public functions in the area which limits the possibility of engagement with the center and between neighbors.
After discussions and drawing activities with the youngest residents (6-8 year old) and their parents, it was evident the need for spaces to play and the interest in exploring nature, but als – mainly – to rest and sleep. Our aim will be to show the possibilities of integrating nature into the Center as a way for children to find a place to rest, reclaim the forest as a site for enjoyment and relaxation and, question the role of fences in the community.