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Martine Pollier
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New Ghent: park, street, square

Transition from a social housing enclave to a sustainable future perspective
14.12 2023
Kapel Universitair ziekenhuis

In collaboration with:

With the support of:

New Ghent is undergoing a metamorphosis. This large-scale operation is part of the ambitious vision of the social housing company Thuispunt Gent to provide more high-quality social housing in the growing city of Ghent, which is struggling with severe housing shortages. Various teams of architects follow two main lines in creating a contemporary residential park: making connections to the larger urban whole and creating cohesion on a human scale. We dive into New Ghent.

  • Intro
  • Elly Van Eeghem
  • Speakers
  • De Smet Vermeulen Architects + De Nijl Architects
  • DBLV architects + TABarchitects

Nieuw Gent is a social housing enclave behind the Zwijnaardsesteenweg. Five of the seven high-rise strips will be replaced by open building blocks, with low-rise buildings on the street side and towers in the park. The park, set up around a wide path, will be enlarged and given new access squares. The plan provides a sustainable future perspective for the neighbourhood and a spatial framework for the new buildings, the improvement of facilities and connections and a rethinking of the existing public spaces.

De Smet Vermeulen Architects + De Nijl Architects: Revitalisation New Ghent – Development plan and implementation of subprojects

This team worked together on the masterplan for New Ghent from 2016-2018. According to them, the revitalisation of New Ghent calls for an urban project in which urban planning, architecture and public space are developed simultaneously and coherently. Together with two urban sociologists, Els de Smet and Arnold Reijndorp, they conducted a research in depth and breadth in the neighbourhood, which not only focused on spatial aspects but also worked on the development of long-term social policies. The study resulted in 2018 in the development plan “Revitalisation Nieuw Gent”.

The current urban structure offers too few anchorpoints for the spatial implementation of architectural projects. The current scale in New Ghent oscillates between two extremes. The large scale of high-rise buildings with wide-open space and the small scale of buildings in (open) blocks. Both scales should be more closely related to each other. This is done by introducing an intermediate scale, which mediates between high and low, between separate buildings and open space. Around the Rerum Novarum square, the space is better bounded by relatively small new construction projects, ‘urban repair’. This strengthens the square as a link between Park and Steenweg. The high-rise zone will be replaced by compact clusters, providing a better boundary and articulation of the open space, both along the Kikvorsstraat and along the park.

The development plan is the basis for several subprojects. De Nijl Architects and De Smet Vermeulen Architects have started designing a cluster in the central area. The ‘urban repair’ as a first step means that the moving-mechanism can be set in motion (residents from the flats can move on to new homes within the district before the flats are replaced) and the community centre will be tackled first, before the phased renewal operation around the park starts.

DBLV architects + TABarchitects : New construction of 192 social housing units in Nieuw Gent

This team started working on the design of one of the subprojects within the development plan for Nieuw Gent in 2022.
Two existing high-rise volumes (Jupiter and Mercurius) will be demolished for a new ensemble of low-, medium- and high-rises around shared front portals and courtyards.
This will give Kikvorsstraat a new face and continue the much-needed renewal of the neighbourhood.
The team is strongly committed to a few key themes: inscribing the project in the neighbourhood and the master plan, robust future-proof building and generous housing quality.

The existant Nieuw Gent was characterised by urban planning interventions on a large scale, in which the final user became almost an abstraction. This is precisely why the team around DBLV and Tab took the opposite approach in their design research: starting from the smaller scale of the resident and working from there towards a larger story.
The house as a building block of a building, the building as part of an ensemble and the neighbourhood.

By putting user and resident at centre stage, the team aims to introduce a housing quality that leaves behind the stigma of social housing. The building not as a straightjacket in which as many flats as possible are realised, but as a result of decisions taken on the smallest scale. In their presentation of this unique housing project, Jürgen Vandewalle (DBLV architects) and Bert Bultereys (Tab Architects) take you through this quest for added value, from the smallest scale of the dwelling, over the intermediate scale of building and ensemble to the larger scale of neighbourhood and city.

DBLV architects (Dierendonck – Blancke – Lust – Van De Ginste) was founded in 2020 and grew out of a long-standing collaboration between Dierendonckblancke architects and L.U.S.T. architects, two firms with a great affinity for each other’s work, approach and vision. The multidisciplinary team assists clients in planning, developing and designing residential projects and public buildings, but is also involved in creating public spaces and landscapes. From a critical perspective, complex parameters and (boundary) conditions are consistently translated into a clear and readable scheme. Much attention is paid to context, residential quality, experiential value, technical execution and fine detailing.

DBLV architects has a diverse portfolio focusing on projects with high social and community impact. It includes completed projects such as student restaurant ‘De Brug’ (UGent) and social housing project ‘Nekkersput’ (SHM De Gentse Haard), projects in progress such as ‘Kaai24’ (SOGent) and an office building (UGent), and projects in the research phase such as social housing projects ‘Europark’ (Woonhaven), ‘Nieuw Gent’ (Woningent) and ‘Studentenplein’ and ‘bicycle parking’ (UGent).

TAB Architects was founded by the experienced duo Tom Debaere and Bert Bultereys.
Tab Architects has signed on to a variety of extraordinary projects, from private to public. They all have one thing in common: iconic in all their simplicity, which manifests itself in a clear plan, pure forms, balanced materials and an eye for tactility, rhythm and proportion. They go in search of iconic architecture in harmony with its surroundings.

Elly Van Eeghem

Elly Van Eeghem founded CAMPUS in 2017: a collective design studio for public space in the southern edge of Ghent. This studio builds the imagination and experience of the square, the street, the park, the car park,… together with people from the neighbourhood as co-makers: inventors, designers, builders or users. They set to work with a focus on all open or hidden green spaces in and around the neighbourhood, looking for places for people.