Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-7635

Article | Open Access

Change in the Dispersed Territory: (Proto)Types for a New Urban Paradigm

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Abstract:  Dispersed territories such as Flanders (Belgium) have been amongst others described as layered territories, as a palimpsest landscape, or as both a selective and a-selective infill of the territory. In the constant re-editing and change of this territory, historical remnants remain visible and often form a departing point for further adaptations and changes. One of these remnants, the moated farmstead, has evolved from a historical (proto)type to a common typology in South-West Flanders and enabled inhabiting the territory dispersedly. Moated farmsteads are typically composed of a series of different buildings and are surrounded by an artificial water body. The moat formed the central point of a larger land management system. Nowadays, many of these farmsteads still exist, however, over time they lost their original purpose and transformed into a variety of uses. The design of a prototype, i.e., a first model later evolving into a type, a recurring model, as an architectural object can simultaneously relate to a larger theoretical reflection on the scale of the territory. Subsequently, these farmsteads lead to the question: What (proto)types have been developed to demonstrate the uniqueness of the relation between the land/labour/living in a dispersed territory? Can we re-interpret the moated farmstead as a new (proto)type to establish a more sustainable way of urbanising the countryside in a dispersed context? Therefore, this article first documents the historical figure of the moated farmstead as an architectural object, socio-economic and political organisation, and ecological land management, and documents its change throughout time. Then, a reflection is built on how, at the time of their emergence, these moated farmsteads were an exponent of a sustainable and ground-breaking type that enabled a dispersed settlement pattern. Finally, the potential of the farmstead as a new prototype for a twenty-first-century dispersed territory is discussed.

Keywords:  architectural prototype; architectural typology; Belgium; dispersed territories; Flanders; moated farmstead; urban transformation



© Maarten Gheysen, Sophie Leemans. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.