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

From the beginning of the nineteenth century onwards, the City of Ghent saw the rise of one of the most radical collective housing typologies ever seen in Western-Europe. These so-called “beluiken” or “cité’s” are workers housing complexes, often hidden within the perimeter of the urban block and with mostly tiny one-façade houses accessed by a communal in-between space. Although they were built as a speculation product to house poor families of 10 people on less than 40m², and they often do not comply to contemporary housing standards and regulations, beluiken are increasingly popular on the city’s real estate market. This has led to a lot of questions from both home owners and policy makers about the refurbishment possibilities of this unique urban settlements.


During one year, POLO Labs was commissioned by the City of Ghent for an ambitious research study on both the heritage value and sustainable renovation potential of this intriguing housing typology. A first part of the study contains a Beluiken atlas, a detailed inventory and heritage evaluation of 131 still existing beluiken. In a second part we investigate the typology’s historical development and different heritage elements, and propose (via comparative case studies on beluiken in different heritage categories) design scenario’s to improve building physical conditions and the usability of the houses. Aiming for more climate-adaptive and social in-between spaces, also a design toolbox was developed.


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