‘Metabolism of Antwerp’ is a research-by-design project by FABRICations, executed for the municipality of Antwerp. Throughout four dossiers, the project investigates the spatial impact of challenges such as the energy transition, circular economy, climate adaptation and air quality using a metabolic approach.

Within each dossier, the research elaborates on the social, economic and sustainability-driven motivations for tackling the challenge and what tackling the challenge would imply for Antwerp and its wider region. This is followed by systemic, historical and spatial analyses to illustrate the spatial relations between the causes and effects of the challenges. From these analyses, spatial hypotheses, or ‘blue cards’, are formulated to provide several options for potential solutions to the challenges. The blue cards are then projected and interpreted within the various urban tissues of Antwerp in order to create ‘potentials maps’ which shows the spatial opportunities of the (combined) strategies. As conclusion, each dossier features an exploration of potential stakeholders that could form a coalition to tackle the challenges.

Heat Network / Energy Transition
Antwerp’s challenge is to extend the heat network to a regional level in a sustainable fashion. FABRICations proposes to utilize residual heat from the petrochemical industry for city heating and by using future large-scale infrastructural projects (i.e. the covering of the ring) to install new sections of the network.

Air Quality / Healthy Living
The phenomenon of ‘street canyons’ contributes largely to the deterioration of the air quality in the city. The phenomenon is especially apparent in the busy city streets, leading to a conflict between accessibility and healthy living environments. A potential solution is found in a modal shift that can be supported by the tangential connection between important public spaces that is provided by the ring and the existing high-performing bicycle and public transport network.

Construction Chain / Vital Economy
The construction chain dossier investigates the possibilities for a circular construction system for the city and provides a deeper exploration into the logistics that support it. The research suggests that materials from existing buildings and infrastructures could be reused for future developments.

Drinking Water / Climate Adaptation
The structural challenge is to make the drinking water provision more decentralized and heterogeneous. However, doing so creates conflict with existing policy and infrastructure.
The analysis centers on the five large green structures that are defined within the Green Plan of Antwerp. These structures can give the necessary space to mitigate floods, buffer rain water and allow for natural purification and infiltration, while simultaneously responding to recreational and ecological programs. On a regional level, new coalitions between farmers, industry and water management con operate in improving quality and pollution in water.

A map exemplifying a potential extension of the heat network.

The axonometry shows how the extension of the heat network could be implemented in the built environment by placing it in infrastructure and combining it with public facilities.

A section showing varying levels of air pollution over the different urban tissues of Antwerp

The axonometry shows potential solutions to produce, store and transport building materials in Antwerp

The regional map showing the trajectory of the Albert Kanaal between the Maas and Antwerp and few significant stakeholders that are located along the canal.

Location: Antwerp, Belgium

Program: Development Strategy

Year: 2018

Commisioner: Municipality of Antwerp, OVAM

Partners: Universiteit Antwerpen, marco.broekman, Common Ground

Design Directors: Eric Frijters, Olv Klijn

Project Leader: Bas Driessen

Team: Caterina Vetrugno, Hongjuan Zhang, Marcello Vietti, Marco Chow, Matthew Barker, Mrudhula Kushi, Uarda Kellezi, Yara Alnashawati, Yingzi Wang, Zoe Goodman