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

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-7635

Article | Open Access

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


  • Maarten Gheysen Department of Architecture, KU Leuven, Belgium
  • Sophie Leemans Department of Architecture, KU Leuven, Belgium


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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

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/up.v8i1.5949


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