·     Area of study: International Master in Architecture, Design Studio Brussels
·     Beginning and ending date: 
Sept 25 – Jan  8, 14 weeks
·     Number of students: 
40-45 international students
·     Schedule: 
every Tuesday 9AM-1PM, 2PM-5.30PM, semester 1
·     Credits: 
15 ECTS credits (10 Designstudio / 5 Theor. Component)
·     Teaching team: 
dr. arch. Kris Scheerlinck, arch. Bruno Peeters, dr. arch. Caroline Newton, dr. sociol. Pascal De Decker

·     Cluster: Belgium – Paraguay – United Kingdom

Theme: Rethinking Low Dense Landscapes.
Within the contemporary landscape, many global and local transformations take place: recent specialization and segregation of urban space, together with a different model of productivity and related mobility, changes the way cities grow in a physical, social, cultural or environmental way. Exponential growth of the non-traditional informal city, next to the (re)branding of more traditional cities, define different spatial models and constituent architecture. In the case of most western developments, we seem to rely on building isolated bungalows in spreading low dense landscapes, on increasing commercialization of urban environments by planning car-dependent thematic hubs or malls, on building “leisure infrastructure” in fragmented natural landscapes or on over-programming all available  open spaces.
In this ever-changing society, where the representation of reality often substitutes reality (Jean Beaudrillard), we need new tools to disentangle the complexity of our environment and to rethink organizing principles to produce or transform space. Simultaneously, an exponential change of scale, at an increasing speed (Françoise Choay), challenges architects and planners to update systematically our reading and intervention techniques.
This design studio will focus on rethinking low dense landscapes and try to come up with new reading and intervention techniques, as well as to look for alternatives to foster social cohesion within, to increase coherence with the (still available) natural resources, to reduce mobility problems and propose architectural interventions, based on critical collective strategies to share and divide properties.
Though the concept of the ‘compact city’ is now largely acclaimed by architects, urban and spatial planners as a desirable strategy, a suburban lifestyle in a low dense environment is still regarded as ideal by most citizens. The (questionable) proximity to nature, the desire to build a successful life in a single-family house, the higher social status of “not having to share” in low dense neighborhoods has lead towards an increasing growth of suburban formulas as a global phenomena. The fact is that suburbia is there, has become a dominant lifestyle and makes up the main asset of a vast part of the population to whom planners’ preoccupations with compactness have little appeal.
However, this suburban reality is facing some severe problems at different scales: from growing mobility problems, a fragmented natural environment, an ageing population and related social isolation, lack of basic facilities (education, health care, leisure…), till increasing CO2 emissions.
During one semester, this (integrated) design studio, organised at Sint Lucas Architecture School, as a (parallel) pilot project of the ALFA III, ADU_2020 program, will focus on the region of the Flemish Coast and its suburban dimension: from the ‘60s onwards, a recreational suburban lifestyle predominantly defined the growth of the area, by means of campings, bungalow neighborhoods or luxury villa communities. The recent transformation of these suburban areas into primary residential zones adds complexity and pressure to the Coast area.
Within this context, the design assignment seeks to read, understand and map the growth or transformation dynamics of the area and in a second phase, explore micro-urban strategies and solutions as how to “empower suburban areas” to adapt to these mentioned challenges, respecting as much the current composition of inhabitants and their future needs. The social dimension, together with its environmental and architectural equivalent, will be the main criteria of approach to this topic.

Objectives of the local design studio
Reading, understanding and mapping the growth dynamics of the selected low dense areas, based on multiple site visits and interviews with local agents and inhabitants.
Development of potential urban micro-strategies through exploring alternative architectural solutions and simulations in a given suburban context, taking into account the larger social impact of architecture through small-scale projects within a complex urban context in transition.
Development of architectural research into high level projects, giving proof of sufficient insight in the technical feasibility of the proposed design.
Inter-disciplinary collaboration within an international team and as part of an international network.
Develop insights, affinities and student’s capability to research, define and disseminate their findings to third parties.

ADU aims to be tested
1.   Interdisciplinary working dynamics (mixing different professional disciplines): testing the ability to integrate the visions, working methods of different disciplines in the parallel design studios and its related production of knowledge. eg. how does the incorporation of a sociologist affect the outcomes of a design studio? Please define what is the difference between trans/cross/inter-disciplinary. Is trans-disciplinarity a work method to tackle complexity, while interdisciplinarity is merely appropriate for simplicity? Please elaborate.
2.   What is the relation of this studio to creative thinking? How is this stimulated in the design studio? How does it affect the working dynamics and outcomes? What is the relation to experimentation and innovation? How do you deal with critical thinking as a mean to generating new ideas? Creative learning environment: different ways of producing and discussing knowledge: is there a relationship between the used working methods and the outcomes? Can we stimulate creativity by applying variations in the way we evaluate the different proposals? Which part of the studio refers to “artifact oriented” studio and which parts to “research oriented studio”, the first referring to produce knowledge, the last to question the already obtained knowledge? What method do you use in order to promote innovation and creativity? How much focus is put on research in order to investigate the design situation and on the problem solving in order to design the artifact?
3.   Learning environment and working methods.The level of involvement in academic, professional or pragmatic environments, in a simultaneous and parallel way: are the PPP/WS requirements based on top-down learning models or do they occur on an emergent basis? Which learning activities are part of traditional master-apprentice relationships, which ones are based on a non-hierarchic way of producing knowledge? Which are advantages and disadvantages in each case?
4.   Relation with recent phenomena in ADU: how is this PPP/WS activity connected to recent phenomena in ADU? How does the link with “hot topics” affect the outcomes and abilities of students? (Eg. fencing, programming public space, new keywords and concepts)
5.   The social and cultural relevance of the contents and outcomes: is the creative process based on social and cultural references, provided by site choice, program, theme? Does the international dimension of the participants and its inherent socio-cultural understanding of reality affect the project’s outcomes?
6.       What is the understanding and how is dealt with “materiality” in the studio: from the process (making physical models, impact of site visits,…) till the proposal (scale 1:1, prototypes, simulations, hand on studio…) (Eg. are the projects considering their materials before or after their processes?)

Methodology and relation with partners
“Rethinking Low Dense Landscapes” should be seen as a way to discuss the advantages and problems of both compact and diffuse models of urban growth and its constituent architecture and urban design. One of the rising questions might be: how to deal with the growing desire to live in a less compact environment while demographics and recent social and cultural needs denies this guarantee? By dealing with this general topic, the pilot project can focus on models of proximity in architecture and urban design and discuss ways to deal with the suburban reality by trying to insert new activities within mostly monofunctional low dense landscapes. The design studio will explore ways of how to intensify an existing urban fabric, how to propose new urban growth areas, incorporating the need for privacy and space, while dealing with sustainable parameters of collective use. The aimed outcomes might target the definition of “the new suburban domicile”, based on social cohesion in low dense landscapes. The studios can take into account technological issues, morphological dimensions or social significance of a low dense reality, in relation to more dense or central areas of urban growth or transformation. The variety of cases studies, chosen by the respective partners will guarantee a critical and open discussion on the general theme and the produced outcomes.

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