Belgium’s housing prices have been on the rise since the mid-1980s, and the Flanders region is facing a shortage of affordable housing due to the dire economic situation. De Ark, a Belgian company specializing in social housing projects, responded to this problem by planning to construct a complex of 22 social residences in Dessel.

Project name: Social Housing in Dessel
Project location: Dessel, Belgium
Architect: Studio Farris
Client: De Ark
Contractor: Artem
Photographs: Koen Van Damme, Martino Pietropoli

Social Housing in Dessel, Belgium by Studio Farris Architects - Sheet3
©Koen Van Damme, Martino Pietropoli

Studio Farris Architects, the Antwerp-based firm headed by Italian architect Giuseppe Farris, won the competition launched by De Ark in June 2012. Construction began in 2018 and was completed in 2021, with landscaping finalized in 2022. All 22 residences have been assigned and include 6 houses of 119 square meters, 8 apartments of 92 square meters, and 8 apartments of 78.5 square meters.

Studio Farris designed a residential complex with a large public garden that serves the neighborhood and a shared pedestrian area for relaxation. Each housing unit has a small private back garden for a more intimate atmosphere. The layout of each housing unit includes living room, dining room, kitchen, and service bathroom on the ground floor and bedrooms on the upper floor. The facades and room configurations vary to give each dwelling its independent unit identity within the complex.

Social Housing in Dessel, Belgium by Studio Farris Architects - Sheet6
©Koen Van Damme, Martino Pietropoli

There are 22 houses in a complex with 7 buildings. The buildings are placed side by side with a green area/park between the street and residences. Each building is made up of two parallelepiped volumes with constant width and varying length, placed orthogonally to the street. The buildings differ in height and protrude and recede variably, creating an ever-changing interplay. Private gardens are located at the back of the buildings.

Studio Farris used a common and prevalent local solution of building with brick for the compact, flat-roofed houses but added slight variations by incorporating different mixtures and colors between the buildings. The facades also have ample openings and a loose composition.

Social Housing in Dessel, Belgium by Studio Farris Architects - Sheet9
©Koen Van Damme, Martino Pietropoli

The rainwater collected from the roofs of houses and carports is reused for toilets, garden irrigation, and washing machines in the residences, allowing residents to minimize their water usage. Any excess water is directed back into the land, eliminating the need for a sewage system while also replenishing the natural groundwater level.


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