COLLECTIVE LIVE AND LIVE IN THE CITY
From the start of this project – with a competition organized by the parish in 2009 – the redevelopment of this abandoned factory site was an excellent opportunity for BOGDAN & VAN BROECK to strengthen its ambitions and visions of the spatial conditions for collective life in the city. . More specifically, the Bijgaardehof meets a number of important quality criteria necessary for the office: urban densification in the vicinity of housing assistance services and public transport; reuse, reassessment and greening of a neglected brownfield along the railways; share features to offer a higher quality of life at a comparable price; to combine urban nature and urban agriculture to strive for a quality of life that we have come to call ‘lockdown-compatible’ way of life due to the pandemic.
The commitment and vision of Sogent and the city of Ghent for the redevelopment of this abandoned factory site was crucial. They decided not just to sell the land to the highest bidder, but to focus on a program with social dynamics and a high-quality master plan. Via Energent, they provided subsidies for the production of geothermal heat, and they made access via the shopping center north of the site possible.
A ‘WORLD IN ITSELF’ WITH A NETWORK OF BUILDINGS AND OUTDOOR SPACES
The starting point for the design of the Bijgaardehof was formed by the triangular footprint of the industrial area. The perimeter of walls forms a simple and strong figure that defines the boundary between the ‘world within the wall’ and that outside. The strength of this figure gave impetus to preserve some of this world and its typical spaciousness. Due to its location in a building block – with a view to the back and the infrastructure, but also to the park – the old factory creates a surprising dynamic in that building block.
By building a little higher on a smaller footprint, space could be made for more greenery between the buildings. This ‘world in itself’ was given a strong individuality: neither inward nor closed, but porous, inner and outer open and penetrating. In order to preserve the echo of the former spatial qualities of the industrial site, it was logical not to choose one large multifunctional building, but a network of outdoor spaces and buildings that speak the same language. This network of outdoor spaces forms a branched system – largely green and partly mineral – that organizes and spatially connects all functions and buildings within a changing background of old and new contours.
GLAMOUS HISTORY AND GRAPHITE ART OF HIGH QUALITY
The name ‘Bijgaardehof’ dates from the Middle Ages. In the shadow of the mighty Saint Bavo’s Abbey lay a lush piece of nature within the city walls of 16th century Ghent: De Bijgaard. It was named after the bees kept there. In the 19th century, the factory walls within the triangular figure belonged to a much larger industrial textile complex. With the decline of Ghent’s textile industry in the 1960s, the buildings were taken over by the metal processing company Malmar. When they traveled in 1997, the hunt for a new interpretation began.
Years of vacancies, meanwhile, had attracted squatters, and graffiti artists had graced the walls. About thirty of these works were of an unexpectedly high standard. They turned out to be works of art by Roa: an anonymous, contemporary street art artist who has since gained international fame and created works around the world. With his drawings of animals and carcasses, he pays tribute to nature, but also its disturbing disappearance. From the very first competition designs, the team of architects has therefore strived to preserve a number of these iconic works of art. This provided an additional argument for retaining the factory’s former facades and interior walls where possible. Because the building stood empty for years after the architectural competition, only some of the works have been saved.
For BOGDAN & VAN BROECK, the design of a co-housing project is by definition a participatory process, a form of co-creation that goes far beyond the traditional design process. For example, the architectural team of Bijgaardehof could count on representatives of each housing group as a contact point to think about and find solutions to various issues such as mobility, sustainability, shared use and more. In addition, BOGDAN & VAN BROECK took the initiative to discuss their own housing needs with each future co-owner. Establishing this consultation structure and gathering different housing requirements into a balanced architectural whole was part of the design task. This has ensured that Bijgaardehof was not only the subject of an architectural design, but at the same time the design of a participatory process. The relationship between architect and builder thus became enriching and rewarding for everyone.
“I am very curious about how the ‘co’ in this ‘home’ will develop further in the future, and how the residents and users will acquire the place further. Now it’s up to them to let Bijgaardehof flourish, literally and figuratively, “said Oana Bogdan, founding and managing partner of BOGDAN & VAN BROECK.
A DESIGN FOR MEETING AND INTERACTION
The vision of the social dynamics in Bijgaardehof is translated, among other things, into the organization of the municipal circulation. To focus on interaction and meeting, BOGDAN & VAN BROECK have designed the circulation in the form of galleries located on the outside of the buildings. These galleries become high streets where residents meet, children play, plants grow and more. The pedestrian promenade from the street to its own front door is designed as a series of child-friendly rooms with quality accommodation.
The three living groups (Wijgaard, De Spore and Biotope) also each have a common area with a common kitchen, dining room, living room, laundry room, guest room and play and relaxation area. In addition, there is a quiet room, a conservatory, a shared studio and there is even a roof garden for urban agriculture. Biotope has also committed to building an inclusion unit that will serve as housing for refugees.
EXAMPLE IN SUSTAINABLE BUILDING
The rebuilding of this brownfield is not just a reactivation; the remediation and application of clean soil to the living layers of the garden has literally made the soil healthy. The preservation of the existing factory walls with the graffiti also creates cultural value for the neighborhood through generations.
In addition to urban sustainability, there is also a focus on sustainable materialization: Bijgaardehof is a completely gas-free plot. The primary heat source is geothermal energy and homes are heated with underfloor heating at relatively low temperatures. In addition, passive cooling is used in the summer. All upper roofs are ready for installation of solar panels. Rainwater can also be collected and discharged at the level of the common circulation before the water reaches the infiltration basins. Irrigation of the (roof) gardens will therefore take place in a planet-friendly way.
Circular processes were also used: the bricks on the demolished factory walls were cleaned (by the cohouses) and recycled. Tiles from the old factory also got a new life in one of the communal kitchens, and one of the play areas got recycled tiles.
A CIRCLE OF SUSTAINABLE INDOOR AND OUTDOOR SPACES
Landscape design also focuses on sustainability. The collective free space between the buildings forms a series of richly planted outdoor spaces with a diverse character. In addition to the raised garden Biotope and the ruin garden in De Spore, all outdoor spaces on the ground floor are divided by the living groups. The different outdoor spaces are equipped with comparable planting and covering, so they are experienced as a whole. The central courtyard is a quasi-square space of approximately 900m² that has been opened up to provide light and air to the whole. The hidden garden is a quiet garden that can be used sporadically and where tranquility is the norm. Here, nature can take its course and develop towards the eastern factory wall. Part of the steel structure is preserved against the northern factory wall. The same applies to the existing walls in the southwest zone. Due to its location near the neighborhood park and with the most public program from the Wijk Health Center as a neighbor, this place is the ideal place to open up the space for various activities in interaction with the neighborhood.
SUSTAINABLE LIVING IN PRACTICE
Given the city center and all surrounding urban facilities, the future residents undertook to make fewer parking spaces available than prescribed by the city of Ghent. The entire project includes only 25 parking spaces. Therefore, the bicycle sheds received extra attention in the design of the buildings. To facilitate use and accessibility, each building has its own secured and covered bicycle shed. Cars are parked on two floors above the ground, which can be reused later.
Sustainability in practice is achieved not only through a label or the issuance of an energy certificate, but above all through the way in which residents will handle these potentially sustainable instruments in the future. BOGDAN & VAN BROECK and all members of the design team are therefore happy to let the residents take over.