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Leuven team suggests three regeneration projects for Doel

10:14 19/06/2019

Architects at KU Leuven have put forward three regeneration projects for Doel, the village on the Scheldt river recently reprieved from demolition by the government of Flanders. These include creating a meeting hall, a studio for artists, and accommodation combined with a campsite.

Doel has been under threat for nearly 50 years. Plans drawn up in the 1970s to expand the port of Antwerp required its demolition, and most residents were bought out and left.

Those that remained, however, put up a spirited resistance and, after a legal challenge, the government announced alternative arrangements last month. Now the question is how to regenerate the village, much of which is derelict or abandoned.

This is something that architects at KU Leuven have been working on for several years, most recently in a project asking students at the Sint-Lucas campuses in Ghent and Brussels to choose a spot in the village and create a design for it.

The result was nearly 50 building projects, from a market stocked with local produce to an observation platform for watching ships on the river. “It was exceptional,” said Daan De Volder, one of the professors involved, talking to the KU Leuven campus magazine. “We looked at Doel through a fresh pair of eyes and said: It can be done differently.”

Even though it has lots of ideas, the Leuven team is not advocating a massive transformation of the village right away. “It would be unwise to lay down an urban master plan now,” said Joris Van Reusel, another professor on the project. “Instead, we have to take small steps and provide breathing space. With a gradual approach, you can save the soul of the village.”

So they have put forward plans for three specific buildings. The chapel of the former convent could be transformed into a public meeting room. A warehouse attached to an electrical store could become a studio for artists and a repair shop for boats. And the old tram station could become accommodation, with an adjacent campsite.

And if the other ideas also strike a chord, so much the better. “We hope that our Doelland Plan will be an inspiration to the Flemish government as it thinks about the future of the village.”

Photo: Rob Stevens/KU Leuven

Written by Ian Mundell (Flanders Today)