The Morphing Grid – Antwerp, Belgium © Marco Zaccaria

The Morphing Grid – Antwerp, Belgium

Marco Zaccaria

Mackintosh School of Architecture

Project Description

Located in Antwerp, Belgium, the project looks at a 7.5km long strip across the city of Antwerp and its surroundings. The project reacts to a complex, fragmented landscape: an unlikely mixture of farmland, port infrastructure, green belt, a modernist high-rise suburb, all in close physical proximity and simultaneously isolated from the city centre of Antwerp.

By using a 135x135m grid as a spatial ordering tool, the project aims at reconnecting the landscape, blurring transitions, enhancing the quality of space and accessibility. Deliberately opposite to the perfect, strong grids proposed by modernists, the proposal acts as an imperfect, ‘soft’ grid, an open framework continuously adjusting and integrating itself to present conditions, existing infrastructure, land subdivisions, settlement patterns.

In an age of increasing social and spatial segregation, the project acts as a visual manifesto for unity and integration, which stems from acknowledgement, respect and support for local communities, spatial and morphological environments.

Sustainability Agenda

The project takes a holistic approach in which social and environmental sustainability are inseparable.

Cutting through the green belt, the grid acts as a commentary on the fragile relationship between modernity and nature. Building a viewing platform over the refineries of the port of Antwerp creates a platform to question our dependency on fossil fuels and remote manufacturing.
But the gird also acts at a prepositive layer, constructing a physical sustainable infrastructure: in the countryside, farming is integrated with solar and wind farms, creating an integrated landscape of food and energy harvesting. The high-rise modernist neighbourhood is transformed from a forgotten outskirt becoming the centre of the new masterplan. Existing communities are preserved in their place, whilst the ageing fabric is retrofitted, and the green landscape enhanced. Throughout the masterplan, a permeable network of green routes and the new bridge over the river Scheldt promote pedestrian and cycle movement.