Wherever the feet go, …

PhD-r, modest heritage and suitability

Wherever the feet go, the eyes will follow soon
Wherever the feet go, the eyes will soon follow.
Free after: Wherever the eyes go, the feet will follow

An exercise in serendipity1

1 Serendipity means an unplanned, fortuitous discovery.
The term was coined by Horace Walpole in 1754. In a letter he wrote to his friend Horace Mann, Walpole explained an unexpected discovery he had made about a (lost) painting of Bianca Cappello by Giorgio Vasari by reference to a Persian fairy tale, The Three Princes of Serendip. The princes, he told his correspondent, were “always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of”. Serendip, is an old name for Sri Lanka (aka Ceylon), hence Sarandib by Arab traders. It is derived from the Sanskrit Siṃhaladvīpaḥ (Siṃhalaḥ, Sri Lanka + dvīpaḥ, island)
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serendipity


Trying to find an answer to following questions:

The first question has to do with the research methodology:

How will you go about finding that thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you?

A quote by the pre-Socratic philosopher Meno The second question has to do with the case this assignment is dealing with namely the hamlet of Noeveren in the province of Antwerp:

What is the answer to the urgent question about heritage sites ‘How to be continued?’


Studio strategy & framework.

The modus operandi of this academic project follows different steps:

  • Starting with on-site mapping following a specific three steps methodology, which builds up chronologically and which is developed by the academic promotor 2

    • Interactive Walking
    • Artistic mapping
    • Cartes Parlantes

  • Architectural design: starts from the atlas of Cartes Parlantes
  • Critical reflection, paper: starting from the beginning of the exercise constantly questioning the ideas and
  • Collecting site specific information, photos, interviews after the first
  • Reading: theoretical references on different themes: spatial morphology, sociology, anthropology, heritage, architectural theory to contextualise and deepen the own proposals
  • Case studies (best practice) to test and contextualise the own proposals


Interactive Walking starts from the idea that walking as a research method imposes a certain pace which is slow enough to connect to the environment and to dissolve in it. Time and slowness are the most important features of this method. Movement as well as the sights going by seem to make things happen in the mind, and this is what makes walking endlessly fertile as a research method. Interactive Walking combines observational walking with the skills of an architect which will be graphically expressed in jot booklets.


Artistic maps and models

As when you walk you can see only at the eye level, your perception of space from eyelevel is distorted. How far you can see is defined by the obstacles on your way. What you see is defined by the context. This distorted and very individual view will be expressed in artistic maps and models.

The artistic maps help the student to define an individual field of interest and unfold one or more research questions and this in an independent manner. The research questions are further defined in the course of the master dissertation project.


Possible questions to start with:

2 Gantois Gisèle, 2014-2018, Tracing the deep significance of built heritage through encounters with undisclosed protagonists. PhD kandidate in architecture KU Leuven, Promoters Prof. Dr. Yves Schoonjans, Prof. Dr. Krista De Jonge


  1. What are possible design strategies to develop heritage (heritage is here understood as what we inherit if we want to save it or not.) in its context differently by reading, mapping, unveiling and understanding its societal and cultural meaning for the individual or the community today next to the acknowledged architectural, historical or archaeological values?
  2. How can we relate with today’s societal change and its different factors such as hypermobility, multi-territoriality, urbanisation, multi-nuclear families, blurring of genders, multiple associative and societal ties, multiple cultural affiliations?
  3. How can we explore this notion of “cultural landscape” in which the tangible, the intangible and living elements are included and in doing so, come to more sustainable development?
  4. How can we define resilient strategies, considering scenarios of uncertainty?
  5. How can we rethink productivity for the study and intervention area?


The Cartes Parlantes focus on and reveal relational complexity, instead of being a neutral chart mapping only physical features, which generally simplify reality by slicing and cutting what naturally belongs together. These new maps narrate novel stories about the place by confronting existing data with own experience. The series or atlas of Cartes Parlantes has already the beginnings of an architectural project in it.


Content: program and theme

The study area (Noeveren) is situated in the region that covers the municipalities of Hemiksem, Schelle, Niel, Boom and Rumst, in the province of Antwerp, Flanders in Belgium. The region is bounded in the south by the confluence of the rivers Beneden Nete, Dijle and Zenne and the canal Leuven Dijle in the river Rupel, in the west by the confluence of the Rupel and the sea-canal Brussel- Rupel into the River Schelde, which leads to Antwerp and in the east by the highway E19 – Brussels

– Antwerp. The area is cut in two by the highway A12 also going from Brussels to Antwerp.


The whole region is marked by more than 400 years of clay extraction and brick manufacturing industry with many former clay quarries now littering the landscape. The heritage related to this industrial era is spread and conserved fragmented although a few valuable sites still remain present. The hamlet Noeveren is one of them. The industrial heritage played an important role in the identity, quality and social cohesion of the region. It had and still has meaning for the local community, but as this area has experienced industrial and urban decline leading to extensive disused sites new significance of the meaning of place is likely to be enacted, created, shaped, and negotiated.

Some of the former clay pits have already received a new future, some of them an in-between occupation (the time between the original occupation and the future one): nature areas, (artificial) fishing ponds, business park and a recreational domain. Functions became very diverse and the conservation and adaptive reuse of the built heritage remains problematic. Many of the areas have different owners so projects are confronted with different stakeholders having to liaise in order to see the project through. Following the last active excavation in Rumst-Boom some 300 ha of poor accessible land is still to be discovered and used by the public or re-discovered and re-used by the local community.


To combine all the different economic, recreational and natural usages, the provincial government of Antwerp, in collaboration with the Flemish and municipal governments, developed a spatial Framework Vision with an ambition to transform these “lost” spaces into a new multifunctional green heritage zone that would be appealing for users and visitors from the local towns as well as for major adjacent cities. The vacated space, the variety of habitats and the differing features, such as flooded mineral pits, have the ability to create multifunctional and connected parks, providing multiple benefits. This multi-historical green infrastructure is referred to as green heritage.


The Strategic Project 1 funded by the Flemish Government with the excavation area Rumst-Boom, Rupel area took part in the MaxiGreen (Maximising our Green Heritage funded by EU Interreg 2 Seas Iva [www.interreg4a-2mers.eu] ) program that focused on 6 projects areas close to the north Sea and English Channel.

The future of the sites depends of a range of aspects such as:

  • The planning of multifunctional use of the sites
  • The setting up of a global and integrated spatial policy framework
  • Finding a functional balance between future developments and the heritage of the landscape as well as the current ”


The Strategic Project 2 will focus on Niel, Hemiksem and Schelle with following topics:

  • This vision plan will develop furthermore a regional narrative
  • Focus on mobility and planning
  • Landscape development, heritage and nature
  • Economic

The local communities are not mentioned.

Since then multiple studies were made of the region but there is still an urgent need for a unifying vision for the whole region that links heritage policy with spatial planning and social and cultural sustainability. Developers are especially seduced by the green and vacant northern riverbank. The locals are worried about the proposals that circulate. We need to adopt a more complete concept when considering the social and cultural significances that are not strictly material or time based.


This studio pool will revisit the site from different viewpoints by walking it. The historical layers (green, material and immaterial heritage) not having a clear place may blur boundaries between the public and the private. Subdivision of the landscape fades into the background of human encounters because these experiences are omnipresent. Re-walking the lines local people walk is an indirect way of meeting them but moving on foot also seems to make it easier to move in time when considering heritage sites. As a lone walker you can be both present and detached from the world around, and what is important you can be more than an audience but less than a participant, which act will question the idea of participatory practices.

The student formulates design proposals based on a positive but critical attitude, relying on the position he /she takes as designer or researcher towards the potential of the area and within the newly developed strategy of the Vlaams Bouwmeester towards reinforcing and densifying existing residential areas. The student has to frame the context, trying to see the big picture, next to the task


to re-read this context, making proposals or defining program layouts, tested by the multiplicity of systems that define the different buildings, historical relicts, landscape, neighbourhood or region. They all lead towards a critical complexity, taking into account the historical, social, economic and environmental conditions and technical potentialities.

Re-visiting the site the student formulates an individual design or research project on the assigned theme. This proposal will work as a catalyst, a spatial mediator within its immediate context, but of which its ultimate goal extends way beyond the socio-cultural and spatial claims of the particular site. There are a few (real) projects that can be envisaged as generators for the area within the strategic project. The student however is free to formulate other propositions based on his/her research on the area, topic and program.

Developing resilient projects in the hamlet of Noeveren has a multi-faceted challenge:

  • Unveiling existing values and bringing new values to heritage zones with great potential
  • Lever regional development
  • Raise the awareness of this heritage and its specific interest for its surroundings, environmentally as well as


Walking, Wanderlust, Serendipity, Cultural Landscape, Heritage Cluster, Collective Space, Modest Heritage, Local Identity, Adaptive Re-Use, Appropriation, Heritage-Making, Social Meshwork, Community Based Approaches, Storytelling, Palimpsest, Resilient Environments, Green Heritage, Water Management, Borders and Bounderies.


Research by Design/Design by Research within the field of architecture

Prior to the five action fields formulated in the MD guidelines

  • novel way of (counter)mapping whereby the beginnings of an architectural proposal are already present based on an in-depth survey on


In parallel with or followed by four actions fields:

  • theoretical approaches that frame the way of reading or designing space and raise a critical consciousness
  • reference projects that illustrate similar challenges to the formulated topic and provide distance to explore different ways of analysing or intervening in urban space
  • case studies that allow the student to investigate all physical, cultural, social and territorial implication of the studied projects on different scales
  • systematic review and synthesis of all previous phases, to construct a coherent but critical back- up for reading or intervening in the built environment in the field of architecture or urban design, sometimes combined with a design or intervention proposal


To finally

  • unfold and refine the design of the initial architectural proposal towards a detailed intervention on the site, chosen by the student in coherence with the initial individual survey and the theoretical framework


The main objective of the master project is to make a proposal, an architectural design, based on the previous investigation, and leading to a critical reflection upon the project and its position in the contemporary architecture discourse with critical sustainability as the main reference.


Study material


Site specific:



Berger John, 1972, Ways of Seeing, British Broadcasting Corporation and Penguin Books, 1972 Burra Charter, 2013/1979, The ICOMOS Charter for the Conservation of Places of Cultural

Significance, first adopted at Burra, Australia as the Burra Charter in 1979, a set of principles that have been adopted to create a nationally accepted standard for heritage conservation practice in Australia.

https://www.environment.sa.gov.au/our-places/Heritage/conserving-our…/Burra_Charter Buijs, Xavier, 2017, Verdichting van dichtbij bekeken, Politeia

Caruso Adam, 1998, The Tyranny of the New, Blueprint, London, UK, may 1998, Issue 160, pp. 24-25 Certeau, de, M. , The Practice of Everyday Life. University of California Press; oorspr. L’invention du

quotidien. (1980)

Corboz, A., 2001, Le Territoire Comme Palimpseste et Autres Essais. Paris, Les Editions de L’Imprimeurs, Collection Tranches de Villes

Del Marmol Camilla, Morell Marc, Chalcraft Jasper, (eds.), 2014, The Making of Heritage: Seduction and Disenchantment, London: Routledge.

Emelianoff Cyria & Carballo Cristina, 2002, ‘La liquidation du patrimoine, ou la rentabilité du temps qui passé’ in Les Annales de la recherché urbaine, Volume 92, Numéro 1, pp. 49-57

Faro Convention, 2005, Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society,

Council of Europe


Gantois Gisèle, Schoonjans Yves, 2017, ‘Narrating the Cultural Landscape; tracing the actual significances of heritage’ in Representing, Communicating and Experiencing Cultural Environments by Anetta Hepczynska-Walczak (ed) , Territorio 80 by Angeli Franco (ed), Politecnico, Milano 1863

Grafe Christoph, Dierbaar is duurzaam, Zes stellingen rond architectuur, cultuur en ecologie. 2011, Vlugschrift Vlaams Architectuurinstituut. + artikels omtrent ornament in Oase.

Gravari-Barbas, Maria, 2014 March, Synthesis of the works of the Consortium PA.TER.MONDI., New Challenges for Cultural Heritage, Synthesis of the final report. ANR, Paris

Habraken N. John, 1986, ‘Towards a new professional role’, in Design Studies, Vol 7 No 3, Butterworth & Co (Publishers) Ltd: pp. 139-143

Habraken N. John, 1998, The structure of the Ordinary, MIT Press Combridge ICOMOS, 1931, Athens Charter for the Restoration of Historic Monuments

ICOMOS, 1964, International Charter for the conservation and restoration of monuments and sites,

Venice Charter

ICOMOS, 1994, The Nara Document on Authenticity

ICOMOS, 2011, Heritage, a driver of development: Rising to the challenge, XVIIième Assemblée Générale, Paris. See also Mouton Benjamin, 2013.

Ingold, Tim, 2007, Up, across and along in Lines: A Brief History. London: Routledge. pp. 72-103. Ingold, Tim, 2013, Making; Anthropology, Archaeology, Art and Architecture, London and New York:

Routledge. p.12

Lee Vergunst Jo and Ingold Tim, 2008, ‘Introduction in Ways of walking: Ethnography and Practice on Foot’ in Anthropological studies of creativity and perception England, Ashgate: pp.1-19.

O’Rourke Karen, 2013, Walking and Mapping. Artists as Cartographers, The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, London, England.

Rossi, Aldo (1985). The Architecture of the City, Original Version: L’Architettura della citta, 1966.

Massachusetts: MIT Press-Opposition Books, p.201

Solà-Morales, de, M., 1992, ‘Public and Collective Space: The Urbanisation of the Private Domain as a New Challenge’, in La Vanguardia, May 12th, Barcelona, reprinted in A Matter of Things, Nai Publishers, Rotterdam 2008.

Team AWJGGRAU@DVVTAT, The Ambition of the Territory. Vlaanderen als ontwerp. Territorial strategy – Begium Pavillon of the 13th International Architectural Biennale of Venise – 2012.

Verachtert, E., I. Mayeres, L. Poelmans, M. Van der Meulen, M. Vanhulsel, G. Engelen (2016), Ontwikkelingskansen op basis van knooppuntwaarde en nabijheid voorzieningen, eindrapport, studie uitgevoerd in opdracht van Ruimte Vlaanderen. https://www.ruimtelijkeordening.be/NL/Diensten/Onderzoek/Studies/articleType/ArticleVie w/articleId/8954

Waterton Emma, Smith Laurajane, 2010, ‘The recognition and misrecognition of community heritage’ in International Journal of Heritage Studies, pp.1-15

von Schaik, L., 2008, Spatial intelligence New Futures for Architecture, Published in Great Britain by John Wiley & Sons Ltd

Zumthor, P., 1998, Thinking Architecture. Birkhäuser Basel.

Timing and organisation

see MD guidelines Method of evaluation see MD guidelines Criteria of evaluation see MD guidelines

The Brundtland report (United Nations, 1987) defines sustainable development as ‘development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’. The United Nations in 2005 referred to the ‘interdependent and mutually reinforcing pillars’ of sustainable development as economic development, social development and environmental protection.

Translating these three pillars for sustainable architecture, they would entail: providing access to high quality and healthy living and working environments for all, finding ways to create socially sustainable environments at different scales and a wise use of natural resources. Technical considerations, together with more conceptual or strategic issues, are dealt with in this two-year program about architecture and sustainability.

Based on a highly interdisciplinary learning process of integrated research, students are expected to elaborate a theoretical stance on current issues with particular emphasis on how aspects of sustainability, universal design, urban ecology and energy-efficient technologies may contribute to the development of more sustainable architecture for human settlements. Critical reflection about architecture and its social, cultural and environmental role for society is central to the program.


Course specific competences Master Dissertation Project:


  • 4A1 The student is able to act methodologically throughout the designing process in an independent

  • 3A1 The student is able to develop a critical argumentation on the position of his/her design project within the international architectural

  • 4A3 The student is able to establish his/her own research or project

  • 3C1 The student is able to critically frame and place a complex architectural

  • 3C2 The student is able to reflect on contemporary and innovative architectural-theoretical perspectives.

  • 5A2 The student is able to develop a research based design

  • 4 The student is able to develop his/her own research or project strategy.

  • 4B2 The student is able to develop a relevant design, taking into account quality of comfort and sustainability.


Contribution to generic competences Master Dissertation Project:


The student is able to critically assimilate and integrate information through research and study in order to proceed methodically, exploratively and creatively in his/her architectural design.


The student can reinterpret his/her personal frame of references in relation to architecture and specifically in the field of sustainability. He/she is able to develop an architecture project in which he/she integrates the different aspects of sustainable development.


Output demands

see MD guidelines


Study trips


Trip Timing C or O


Following the general calender, Several visits  


No results found