1718Architecture and Policy Whispering

The DiEM25 benchmark
Our architecture studio is interested in testing architecture’s capacity as an unsoliticted and pro-active tool for political policy making. How can architecture critically inform and challenge socio-spatial policies? Can the architect perform as an effective “policy whisperer” for the sake of the public good? And is architecture’s ‘final’ role to reactively answer a brief or can it actually prefigure the brief, and even the client for that matter?

Through the method of prospective architecture design we wish to challenge and inform “a client who doesn’t know yet he’s a client”. This semester we will zoom in on the social visions developed and expressed by DiEM25*(https://diem25.org/manifesto-short-version/). On February 9th 2016 the alternative European movement DiEM25 was founded at the Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz Berlin. Spearheaded by the former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, DiEM25 is a pan-European alliance of European citizens for the democratization of Europe. It’s mantra is constructive disobedience vis-à-vis the contemporary draconian travesty that has become Europe, that has become ‘Brussels’. DiEM25 wishes to claim real political alternatives to the dogmas of austerity, social inequalities and ecocide.

However needed and fresh this movement might come across, we need to critically and vigorously test their policy intuitions through the lens of architecture. In the end DiEM’s quest – as every other political expedition – is ultimately a socio-spatial one. Hence we will take on DiEM25 as our “client” using their Manifesto for democratizing Europe and the European Green New Deal as the studio’s ethos. In these abstracts DiEM25 implicitly hints at pressing metropolitan urgencies such as green energy transition, affordable housing for all and an equitable circular industry. DiEM25 however systematically avoids offering any real-time and spatially concrete imagination in regard to these socio-economic urgencies. This is where our studio’s work comes in.

The architectural leitmotiv we wish to implement in order to test DiEM25’s assumptions revolves around the socio-economic and ecologic co-habitation in dense European metropolitan areas. Our speculations will start from the typology of multi-tenant infrastructures, merging i.a. collective housing, energy generation and circular industry. What to learn from democratic co-habitation models such as Dom-Komuna, Phalanstère, Rotterdam Groothandelsgebouw, Chicago Merchandise Mart, Zürich Kalkbreite, …? And how to eventually surpass them?

Our generic test site will serve as a pilot project for innumerous other European locations dealing with similar urgencies. The site put on offer is the De Ferraris plot/building in the Brussels Northern Quarter, a seemingly no-man’s land flanked with patches of anonymous housing and leftover fringes of public space. Since De Ferraris will be sold off by the Flemish Government in a nearby future the time seems right to pro-actively whisper development alternatives into the market’s and public policy makers’ ears.

The studio’s architectural projects and speculations will be synthesized into an inspirational green paper that will be communicated to DiEM25 as well as the Brussels Bouwmeester Team.

* Democracy in Europe Movement 2025



Promotoren: Nel Janssens & Peter Swinnen

Guests: Sven Stremke (Associate Pofessor Waeninge University / Energy Specialist), Roeland Dudal (AWB), Team Brussels Bouwmeester, Freek Persyn (51N4E), Sven Lenaerts (up4north), Erik Edman (DiEM25)

Dit project kadert binnen de doctoraatsstudie van Peter Swinnen.

Beeld: courtesy Filip Dujardin


We wish to work as a regular architecture collective, with regular deadlines and equally regular responsabilites for each team member. Our studio space will be located on the 24th floor of the WTC1 in the Brussels North Quarter. Our neighbours and peers will be amongst others 51N4E and AWB (Architecture Workroom Brussels).

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