City of Ghent
  • Origin Architecture & Engineering
  • Daidalos Peutz
Agentschap Onroerend Erfgoed
Thomas Sweertvaegher

From the beginning of the nineteenth century onwards, Flemish cities like Ghent increasingly saw the rise of one of the most radical collective housing typologies ever built in Western-Europe. These so-called “beluiken” are workers housing complexes, often hidden within the perimeter of the urban block and with mostly tiny back-to-back houses accessed by a communal alley or small street. Houses were poorly constructed and generally inhabited by big families, what inevitable lead to unsanitary living conditions.

However, more than 130 beluiken survived countless sanitary operations and, driven by an affordable housing crisis, they become increasingly popular on the city’s real estate market. This has led to a lot of questions from both particular owners and policy makers concerning refurbishment possibilities of this unique industrial heritage in poor condition.


To cope with these issues, our complementary research team - POLO Labs, Origin Architecture & Engineering and Daidalos Peutz - was commissioned by the city of Ghent for an ambitious study on both the heritage value and sustainable renovation potential of these intriguing ensembles. A first part of the study contains a ‘Beluiken atlas’, a detailed inventory with geographic data and heritage evaluation of all still existing beluiken. In a second part we investigated the typology’s historical development and different heritage elements, and propose - via comparative case studies in different heritage categories - design scenario’s to improve the performance and livability of both buildings and in-between spaces.

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