High-Rise Study

site Ghent, BE
client City of Ghent, Department of Urban Planning, Woodrow Wilsonplein 1, 9000 Ghent, BE
architect BOGDAN & VAN BROECK, BUUR and dept. ASRO K.U.Leuven
team O. Bogdan, L. Stellamans, P. Stessens, L. Van Broeck
surface 15.600 ha
timing study 2009
status study completed
project code 0020HOO


This study aims to display a balanced picture of the problems and possibilities of high-rise in Ghent. It is not an uncritical apology of towers. Although the first signs of an improved image arise, we wonder why the present towers, built over the past decades, gain a rather bad reputation. From this perspective we conclude that high-rise appears at the starting line with a series of historical, cultural and perceptual handicaps and with a high-degree demand for professionals conceiving it. However, if used judiciously, it could be an economical solution to problems of land use, urban and landscaping structure, and urban densification.

For the making of an informed “Advisory note high-rise”, it is necessary to thoroughly explore the underlying cultural, social, architectural and urban layer. Also, we should emphasize the importance of communication with the population, of showing good examples, of setting up proper selection procedures for designers and developers, etc. Our cities bear a key responsibility for the sustainable development of our environment. High-rise will be an increasingly important part of this task, which is only possible if there is sufficient political and public support.

The multiple objectives of this advisory note are the following:
1. creating a vision of high-rise buildings in Ghent within a detailed theoretical background;
2. creating an impetus for a wider political and public support for high-rise;
3. supplying elements for further research and feeding the debate and the awareness about high-rise
4. the delivery of quality criteria and assessment tools necessary for the licensing policy.

In the ‘analysis’ section, we briefly examine the phenomenon of high-rise buildings in general, with definitions of high-rise, with references and high-rise advisory notes from other countries and cities, and with a theoretical framework on the perception of high-rise, the concepts of scale break and change of scale, the quality of high-rise and a taxonomy of different high-building types.
Next, the Ghent context is examined, through a description of its high-rise history through the centuries until the modern times, through a photographic analysis of the Ghent skyline, through a setting of Ghent’s high-rise in international perspective, through an assessment on the relation high-rise – density of available urban green, through an analysis of the existing regulations in Ghent, through a suggestion of what ‘high-rise’ today and tomorrow in Ghent can mean, through some case studies of existing or planned high-rise, through a number of interviews with key witnesses, each of them in one way or another connected to Ghent, high-rise, architecture or urban planning.

In the ‘advice’ section, the study assesses the volume of high-rise to be expected in Ghent in the coming decades, although part of them has already been planned, and the spatial and policy actors that may affect those projects. Subsequently, a number of areas where high-rise is more likely or desirable have been identified. Finally, based on all these, Ghent is invited to make choices and to define a high-rise policy.

The elements that will allow the implementation of this high-rise policy are handed in the proposal for further research: the use of tools for the evaluation of quality, the creation of a proactive policy frame promoting quality and the conduct of a communication and awareness policy.