René Van Steenbergen, Church of Sint Jozef We© Olmo Peeters kman, Laakdal

René Van Steenbergen, Church of Sint Jozef Werkman, Laakdal © Olmo Peeters


Faith in the Pheriphery is a PhD research project by Charlotte Ardui and supervised by Sven Sterken and Roel De Ridder at the Faculty of Architecture of the KU Leuven. The research wants to explore the potential of post-war parish churches in strengthening the social and spatial resilience of the urban sprawl in Flanders.


During post-war years, a great number of parish churches were built across Flanders to serve the suburban expansion. Today, this infrastructure is confronted with several societal challenges:

  • issues related to ageing, mobility and climate change require an urgent - reconfiguration of the low-density peri-urban areas;

  • much of the building stock in these areas has come to the end of its first life cycle; criteria are therefore needed to decide what needs to be conserved, renovated, reused or demolished;

  • in a context of rapidly declining church attendance, the infrastructure for Catholic worship is increasingly becoming a (financial) burden for civil society: from different angles the demand for novel perspectives is rising.


We believe that research by design into the adaptive reuse of post-war parish churches can be the engine in such processes. To this effect the project seeks to develop a more balanced approach that takes into account their inherent material and typological characteristics and capitalizes upon their socially and spatially structuring capacity.


The research will be conducted to a large extent in parallel with the advanced master’s studio at the Faculty of Architecture, entitled OMG/VanGodLos. It will contribute to, and benefit from the interchange between education and research.