Collective housing in a collective landscape


Wondelgem is a district of Ghent, just 15 minutes by bike from the city center. Yet its density is not urban. Throughout the seventies, eighties and nineties large parts of Wondelgem were developed at a density of about 10 houses per hectare. If the remaining unbuilt land in Wondelgem where to be built at a slightly higher density, the area would arrive at its saturation point at only 12 houses per hectare.
Flanders has decided to grow further without consuming more unbuilt land. In order to do so it needs to look at low density areas and investigate their potential for densification. This is the subject of our research here. Our aim is to set out a path which allows Wondelgem to grow to a density of 30 to 60 houses per hectare.
Parallel to the physical explorations of the spatial structure of Wondelgem, we have studied its real estate position. In the past two decades large parts of the open space in Wondelgem have been built up. This process has destroyed the feeling of a semi-rural landscape. The more the sprawl thickens, the less value each individual property represents. Further more, the inhabitants of the older suburban streets of Wondelgem are ageing. In the coming decades, houses built in the seventies and the eighties will come to the market. Its inhabitants will start looking for new ways of living that are more suitable for their age.

Most of the old houses are not energy efficient, and in need for thorough renovation in order to be attractive for a future generation. These issues have a negative effect on their price. Few younger families can afford the combined investment. On the other hand empty nesters are looking for an apartment within their own living environment. Yet Wondelgem has no typological variation to serve its elderly.
A transformation process could allow for young people to enter the market in Wondelgem and buy individual properties in groups, and redevelop them for 4 or more families. Hence the price of the older houses can be maintained at an acceptable level. Simultaneously apartments can be built on other plots which offer new housing opportunities for elderly and singles. A more rich and variegated living environment can slowly come into being.

  • Design teamDirk Somers, Markus Stolz, Vera Bannwart & Myrthe Geelen
  • LocationWondelgem
  • Year2019
  • In collaboration withMichiel Dehaene (Labo S) and Gwenny Moris (Orientes)