Infrastructures as a Tool to Explore the City
The design studio “maib14 2018-2019” tutored by Cecilia Chiappini focuses on the value of infrastruc- tures as tools to explore the city, as they tend to gather qualities that give space to manifestations of urban- ity and collectivity, emergent appropriations and unexpected processes. The aim is to explore those quali- ties and to use them in design, as developing alternative urban models that questions the dialects between technical and a social assemblages.
During an intensive research-design studio, students will discuss conceptual issues, develop and test ex- plorative tools to address the topic, especially looking at “spatial configurations, marks of human presence and voices” around infrastructures;1 deploying a “learning from…” approach.2 The students will produce an architectural-urban design-case based on their enquiries on a specific location. Based on their explora- tions on-site, they will define the users and programmes, areas and scope of intervention. Infrastructures as urban spaces at different scales are to be at the core of the proposals. This semester’s site is the network of highways known as “The Round”, around Barcelona, Spain, particularly focusing on the North-East Ac- cess. The students will go on a trip to the city during the first weeks of the semester, and will develop their research and design cases at the campus Sint-Lucas, Brussels during the entire semester. During the trip, students will participate at the workshop on The Rounds, a major academic event.
1. As developed in close relation with the tutor’s PhD-research on Infrastructures under Transformation as Spaces of Collectivities”
2. Inspired by Learning from Las Vegas and Made in Tokyo. See References.

Infrastructures as a Tool to Explore the City

Studio Cecilia Chiappini

Bruno Peeters (OPO); Catherine Mengé; Laurens Bekemans; Livia de Bethune

Barcelonas Rounds – North East Access


The network of highways known as “The Round”, around Barcelona, Spain particularly focusing on the North-West Access will be the research-design case. The trip to Barcelona is no ordinary study trip but en- compasses a joint activity with students from the 6 faculties of architecture of Barcelona, in the “des-cobrir les rondes Hackató”, (in English: dis-cover the rounds workshop”). This event is coordinated by “CTPA- Corporació de Tallers de Projectes Arquitectónics” (In English: Corporation of Architecture Design Stu- dios) in partnership with a series of institutions such as the Municipality of Barcelona, Barcelona Regional, and the “Biennal del Pensament: Ciutat Oberta”, (in English: Biennale of Thought: Open City”). The occasion is the 25th anniversary of the construction of the infrastructural network of highways around the city of Barcelona, called “les rondes” (in English: the rounds). Students are summed up to experience their 36.5 km and to collectively rethink and exchange ideas on urban architectural design possibilities around them.3


Taking this unique chance and articulating it with the tutor´s expertise (her PhD on “Infrastructures under Transformation as Spaces of Collectivities” largely informs her teaching), the Design Studio will focus on the current conditions of the highways as generators of urbanity and triggers of architectural design interventions that embody visions at metropolitan and urban scale. The specific focus will be the accessibility of central residential and business areas from/to the North-East with the consequent crossing of the city: the link between the roads along the East margin of the Besos River (Ronda Litoral-B10), with entrance though Via de les Corts Catalanes (starting from the regional access C31) and the city centre, via Glories Square.2 Along this access, major transformation processes are taking place: 22@, La Sagrera High Speed Train Station, Forum, Glories Square; these implies, for example, the relocation of vehicular traffic from flyovers to the underground, the increase of density and the change of uses at the core of the city. Enormous financial, political and social implications are here involved.


The work will be conducted by actively participating in lectures, encounters, and tours around “The Rounds” in close collaboration with local students and academic staff. In practical terms, due to the ex- tension of the rounds and the large number of involved students, design studios and institutions, a close working relation will be established with those design studios that approach geographically or conceptu- ally related areas, such as the case of Profs. Felipe Pich Aguilera/Jaime Batlle/Iñaki Baquiero with their 30 students from UIC (Universitat Internacional de Catalunya); and Prof. Ibon Bilbao from ETSAB-UPC (Escola Tècnica Superior d’Arquitectura de Barcelona-Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya), with his 60 students. The exchange and working sessions will take place live in Barcelona during the trip and along the entire semester via shared reviews. Moreover, academic staff and researcher Patricia Tamayo from the UIC will act as local contact and support to ensure the total involvement between local and KU Leuven students.


Based on these exceptional experience, students will define their Zoom-In Areas, with users and pro- grammes, areas and scope of intervention for their design. The specific geographical areas will be jointly defined during the trip on the West margine of the Besos River, addressing the complexity of the involved aspects via concrete proposal. The results of the design studios are to be exhibited in Brussels and Barce- lona in January 2019. Confronting with a large audience guarantees a great visibility to the students work.


1.See Event’ Brochure


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Methodological Stages

Stage 1: Research Case

  1. Infrastructures as Urban Spaces: Conceptual references and identification of Definition of the main terms and focus spatial elements. (Group discussions)

  1. Case-Studies: Study of international The multicultural backgrounds of students will broaden the spectrum of cases. The cases will be restricted to infrastructural constructions with links to the site (main-

ly railways, stations and canals or waterfronts). (Individual)

Stage 2: Research-Design Site

  1. Spatial Explorations: For this stage a specific methodology will be tested. The aim is to explore and unveil the multilayered, overlapping, unexpected, volatile and fluctuant character of collective spaces when linked to infrastructures though a series of themes. These are “Spatial Configurations”, that explores the physical-material, domain and programmatic components of spaces; “Marks of Human Presence” that explores ways of use and appropriation of these spaces, and the atmospheres created, focusing on their spatial outcomes; “Voices” that brings in the immaterial forces linked to engagement, discussions, projects and imaginaries with a spatial impact; aiming to understand the physical impact of these elements and how (micro) negotiations couple material and immaterial realms. (2/3 Students per Zoom-In Area)

Stage 3: Research-Design Case

  1. Scenario / Vision / Design Position: Learning from… and identification of trigging elements for the definitions of a personal design The study of the Zoom-In Area is focused on the actual users and processes. This will lead tot he identification of a design-case including programme, and location. Infrastructures as collective spaces are the key aspects. The overall frame is the transformatino process taking place in the North-West Access, the previsions and works, addressing them with a critical innovative attitude. (2/3 Students per Zoom-In Area/possibility to continue individually)

  1. Design Investigations: Design of an urban-architectural proposal within or around the West Margin of the Besos (2/3 Students/ possibility individually)

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