Campus Atelier

Campus Atelier is an open cooperative design atelier in the Nieuw Gent district. Together with local residents, schoolchildren, neighbourhood organisations and passers-by, the initiators of Campus Atelier go in search of public space in an urban fabric struggling with privatisation, commercialisation, segregation and gentrification. They 'find' that public space and afford it (temporary) meaning by transforming empty buildings into collaborative workplaces, by rethinking existing (semi-)public spaces, and especially by crossing current urban boundaries.

Campus Atelier is based on a sensitivity to the dynamics that underlie the current urban development logic. The initiators, Elly Van Eeghem, Maarten Jolie and Olivier Giot, question the difference between who currently plans the city and who uses it. With Campus Atelier, they put the users of the city forward as city makers. The design atelier takes participatory urban planning a step further by co-producing the district together with the residents and users. The public space of the Nieuw Gent district forms the co-production site. Together with the residents of the district, Campus Atelier aims to shape what public or open space means and can mean. The key question is how to turn the public domain into public spaces that connect people. For Campus Atelier, public spaces are both large and small, ranging from a lawn, a square or a street to a hole in the public road or a privatised open space.

Campus Atelier’s work is often carried out in the border area between various parts of the city with different characters: the social housing estate of Nieuw Gent, the garden district of Steenakker and the Miljoenenkwartier. Campus Atelier operates from the Open Atelier in an old drinks factory and focuses on the immediate surroundings of the Nieuw Gent residential district, which is surrounded by a university campus, a hospital campus and schools. Campus Atelier responds to changes in the public domain that are part of the urban renewal project 'Nieuw Gent Vernieuwt'. In this environment, Campus Atelier strives to transform the 'boundaries' - or breaking points where transfer is impossible - into 'borders'. Borders are porous and unruly, but offer opportunities for openness and interaction, and make it possible to establish connections between the various parts of the city and the surrounding campuses. The initiators want to use Campus Atelier to create 'borders' by intervening in the public space, activating and/or creating more open space, making the existing hidden green open space visible, and connecting the scattered pieces of open space in the neighbourhood. By working in the boundaries between the neighbourhoods and not in the centre of the neighbourhood, Campus Atelier aims to bring people from different communities and backgrounds together in the public space. The local residents and neighbourhood organisations are the devisers, designers, builders and users of these interventions in the public space. Campus Atelier enthuses, coordinates and facilitates. New social dynamics are thus set in motion and shared places on the border are developed collectively.

In concrete terms, Campus Atelier organises small-scale interventions in the public space from the open atelier. These include a pavilion in the park, a bench in the neighbourhood square, a shady spot for allotments and a stage on a piece of wasteland. In addition, local residents can also use the Open Atelier for their own projects. Finally, Campus Atelier also attaches importance to the social activation of the public space by eating and drinking together in the open space and by organising walks in the neighbourhood, passing by public places. The daily operations of Campus Atelier are actively supported by the City of Ghent. This collaboration will continue until 2023. Campus Atelier also works closely with various local organisations, such as community health centres.

partners and actors
Elly Van Eeghem, Maarten Jolie, Olivier Giot
innovative aspects
participation, solidarity, cultural change, local development?, temporary use

Campus Atelier in the spotlight
Campus Atelier puts the users of the city forward as city makers. Together with local residents, schoolchildren, district organisations and passers-by, the cooperative design atelier searches for ways to rethink the neighbourhood and its public space.

(Dis)Place In-terventions: making public space in urban landscapes
article(Dis)Place In-terventions: making public space in urban landscapes
"What makes a common landscape a public space?" Together with the residents of the neighbourhood, first and foremost, Campus Atelier wants to shape what public or public space means and can mean.

(Dis)Place In-terventions: making public space in urban landscapes

photo: Elly Van Eeghem, KASK School of Arts Ghent

articleDesign Dialogues: Design and Public Space
Elly Van Eeghem investigates the role that design and art can play in the development of public space in urban contexts, and the impact it has on the current urban development logic.

photo: Annelies de Vet, Elly Van Eeghem, Leo Van Broeck. Design Museum Ghent, Ghent 2021

Campus Atelier walking map
imageCampus Atelier walking map
Campus Atelier developed five walking routes through the Nieuw Gent social housing estate, the Steenakker garden district and the Miljoenenkwartier, starting from the border between the different areas.

Campus Atelier walking map