Winston Churchillplein Gent
This project involves replacing the social housing at the Groene Briel site on Winston Churchillplein in Ghent. The proposal includes creating 63 residential units in a seven-storey building on pillars within the existing footprint.
The building to be replaced, designed by Jules Trenteseau, is part of the Groene Briel site and is an example of post-war modernism. Dealing with this late-modernist heritage has proven to be a sensitive task. It challenges us to create a new building that better serves the current and future living requirements than the existing building, while also upholding the ideals and ambitions of the past. Without turning a blind eye to the qualities and defects of this building, there is an intrinsic quality lurking within the unbuilt space of the entire plan. We believe that sufficient attention must be paid to the careful composition of the surrounding open space and the landscape, which can still express the spirit of the time in which Trenteseaux worked.
The positive and progressive post-war philosophy whereby green open space, light, air, and thoughtful orientation are considered the building blocks of collective and urban living is still seen as an unmistakable quality of this site. We are also aware of the problems of this modernity, such as the dated apartments, the low ceilings, the poor demarcation of public and private space, and the poor structural and physical state of the buildings.
The morphology of the current housing block is more in line with conservative modernism, planned out of context like a dogmatic housing machine. By replacing the building, there arises an opportunity to shift to a progressive-modernist view based on the meaning ascribed to the space in relation to the user, with the aim of achieving social sustainability. Prioritising future residents is self-evident to us and is the key starting point of our proposal.
Our design proposal includes 63 residential units with the right typology ratio, in accordance with the specifications. This means three more residential units than requested. The building volume meets the urban development conditions and the existing footprint of the building. Only the terraces and/or winter gardens fall outside this footprint.
The structure of the building is a modern interpretation of Le Corbusier's Maison Domino principle and consists of columns and floor plates, as well as a flexible shell. This allows for a highly functional layout. The space under the pillars will become a collective covered entryway, subdivided into three closed transparent entrance areas. These areas are spacious enough to hold social gatherings and will house letterboxes, a bicycle storage, and room to store an electric wheelchair or a pram.
The entrances will have a semi-sunken bicycle storage area that does not block the view of the ground floor. The spaciousness will also contribute to the grandiose impression upon entering the building. The transparent frame with safety glass is a nod to Mies van der Rohe (National Gallery, Berlin).
The building will divide the Groene Briel into two clearly demarcated outdoor spaces. The building is inspired by the modernist concept of pillars, with a view to extending the landscape. We believe this principle is more conceptual, as applied in many modernist examples from the past, as it rarely leads to high-quality spaces under a building. This is also the case in the Trenteseaux building. For this reason, we want to design the space under the pillars as a semi-public space that links the two green outdoor spaces. In a sense, the new building will serve as a mediator between the two areas. This principle was applied in the residential pillared blocks in Brasilia, after a design by Oscar Niemeyer and Luis Costa. Here, the space under the buildings was designed to create a spacious, covered entryway. This ensures maximum transparency while creating a clearly organised and thoughtfully designed space. We hope to apply this same principle in our own design.