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Martine Pollier
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T +32 50 322 420


Small scaled social housing

Quality housing for vulnerable groups in Ghent
28.09 2023
Theater Tinnenpot - Beckettzaal

With the support of:

In Ghent, the housing shortage is particularly high. As the city of Ghent is now growing, the amount of housing must grow significantly every year to keep pace. The social housing company WoninGent must provide an answer to the need for quality and affordable social housing for the lowest income categories in the city. They do this both by tackling existing buildings that no longer meet current energy requirements and by building new social housing. We zoom in on the small scale of social housing in Ghent.

  • Intro
  • Luce Beeckmans KU Leuven
  • Speakers
  • BLAF architects
  • HAMA-architects

For this evening, the framing speaker is Luce Beeckmans, professor at KU Leuven and involved with the City Academy on social housing in Ghent. Luce’s research is situated at the crossroads of migration, city and architecture. From her experience, she frames the evolution of social housing in Ghent, from an emancipatory project to a rather minimalist interpretation as a social safety net. Through a number of case studies over time in Ghent (Nieuw Gent, Watersportbaan, Bernadettewijk), she portrays the lived experience of living in social housing: an architectural ethnography of social housing. How are homes appropriated, when does this work and when does it not? What effects do increasing diversity and shifting family compositions have on the applicability of traditional social housing typologies? From this ethnographic perspective, she formulates a number of recommendations for designers.

The evening is organised as a ‘case lecture’ – i.e. as a collection of different, fascinating projects, brought by three agencies. This way, we get a picture of the current movements in the field of small-scale social housing in Ghent. To this end, we invited BLAF architects, HAMA architects and DENC-studio.

BLAF architects brings a reflection on the pros and cons of the small grain for social housing supported by some of its own projects (both realised and under construction).

Kaarderijskaai | BLAF architects

HAMA architecten brings an in-depth account of one project ‘Vogelenzang’ – from the historical fabric of the neighbourhood, the programme, the constraints of the plot and the ambition to create a welcoming architecture that connects with the street.
The project Vogelenzang by HAMA architects involves 13 sustainable, high quality, new social housing units as replacement of the outdated 1960ies apartment building that could no longer meet contemporary housing standards and qualities.

Karin Borghouts

DENC Studio brings an architectural comparison of three completed projects in Ghent. All three involve replacement buildings, each with similar constraints in terms of plot, timing, standards and rules for social housing, yet they are very diverse projects. The office reflects on the margin that the strict rules of play still allow or how to make architecture within these rules.

Heernis | DENC Studio

Luce Beeckmans – KU Leuven

Luce Beeckmans’ research is situated at the intersection of migration, city and architecture. More specifically, she focuses on the housing and accommodation of refugees and migrants, while linking this to broader debates about urban diversity and inclusion. She has published widely and curated exhibitions on these topics.

Her commitment to bringing about transformative change through the simultaneous process of taking action and doing research is well reflected in her engagement as chair of the board of the housing cooperative ‘Collectief Goed’ (‘a cooperative housing model for low-income and/or migrant families’, Antwerp) as a board member of ‘CAMPUS ATELIER’ (‘an open design studio for local residents of the Ghent social housing district of Nieuw Gent and surroundings’, Ghent). She feeds the architectural debate on migration and diversity.

The evening will conclude with an opening speech by Marc Heughebaert, chairman of Thuispunt Gent. Thuispunt Ghent is the housing company for the region of Ghent. Thuispunt Ghent manages more than 10,500 social housing units in the city of Ghent and its boroughs.
The chairman zoomed in on the specific challenges in Ghent and how Thuispunt Ghent is preparing for the future.