Within the framework of the “Over de Ring” design process, various design teams worked in a co-creative process to develop both a long-term vision for the complete "capping" of the ring road, as well as strategic projects that could improve the quality of life in the short term.  The focus of this study is on the new socio-spatial issues that arise as a result of this "cap".Districts that have been separated from each other due to the barrier effect of the infrastructure will be connected in the future by new spatial links and new shared public spaces. In addition, it will take at least another ten years before the project is realized. During those years, the neighborhoods will be separated from each other by a gigantic construction site. A local understanding of the issues and necessities in the affected neighborhoods is therefore necessary. At the same time the temporary aspect of the construction site may create new social and spatial opportunities for the neighbourhood.

This project focuses on how different neighborhoods in these project areas surrounding the ring road can be connected (spatially and socially) and how local residents and initiatives can be involved in this story, not only in the future but certainly during the meantime (construction period). The project area selected as a research case is the planned connection between Luchtbal and Merksem. The aim is furthermore to develop a methodology for a qualitative socio-spatial analysis that can be used for similar urban areas and challenges elsewhere in Antwerp; to apply this method to the case; to reveal the needs and wishes of the neighborhoods in the selected project area; to provide input for other urban renewal projects; and finally, to develop a proposal for a program of social interventions that can be realized in the Luchtbal-Merskem area.

The research consists of 5 tracks, each exploring the project area through a different approach: (1) desktop research, (2) in-depth interviews with actors from the Over De Ring process and local area workers, (3) a socio-spatial analysis of GIS data, (4) fieldwork with ethnographic observations and informal street interviews and (5) a participation experiment with urban tactics in the context of the International Design Workshop week of the Faculty of Design Sciences (see also IDW2020). The project was led by Common Ground, while researchers of the Research group for Urban Development took the lead for research tracks 4 and 5.

Researchers: Marleen Goethals, Nina De Jonghe and young professionals: Lotte Groven, Eline Herthogs, Minne Somers
Commissioned by: City of Antwerp (funded by Flemish Urban Policy)
Period: September 2019 - September 2020
Partner: Common Ground (Hella Rogiers, Stefanie Cornut, Elke Dolfen en Muriel Claeys)