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ERINN SAVAGE – Performance
Tomorrow 15:00 GMT

The Agonistic Assembly

The thesis is set in 2029 Antwerp, whereby following the results of the general election, the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) break the imposed cordon sanitaire and form an alliance with the far-right Vlaams Belang party. Together they initiate their common mandate for the establishment of a newly independent nation of Flanders. The thesis proposal is for the Flemish National Assembly, a public institution that integrates governmental ministers, NGOs, activists, and the wider public within one building. Several conflictual relationships will be enabled between diverse demographics through the intersection of high/low culture political and public programmes. The proposal seeks to establish an agonistic architectural language through the creation of a contemporary 'Polis', defined by professor Eric Swyngedouw as "the site for public encounter, democratic negotiation and radical dissent".

Insurgent Polis

Belgian Archipelago

I propose a reading of Belgium as an Archipelago of politically and geographically distinct islands. The federal government is formed from a complex arrangement of language based communities, cultural regions, and local provinces, that are fundamentally divided between the Capitalist and Socialist camps of Flanders and Wallonia. Geographically, Belgium is a low-lying country divided into 3 distinct regions: the coastal plains in the North-West, the low-lying polders in the centre and the Ardennes Plateau in the South. Similarly, Antwerp can be seen as a pluralistic composition of discrete islands, held in a dialogue through the urbanisation that connects them.


The proposition is situated around Antwerp's Bonaparte dock in Eilandje, at the threshold of the old medieval city. The unique urban room created by the old docks contains the features of the wider Belgian morphology, as represented by the six historic artworks. The thesis accentuates each feature through a landscape proposal that recreates the three distinct geographical regions of Belgium. The assembly creates an agonistic relationship with each of these constituent parts through a rotated grid that unapologetically interrupts the city whilst simultaneously allowing it to flow through the heart of the scheme.

Flemish National Assembly

The built proposal seeks to express the conflict inherent in pluralism through the intersection of three formal political objects, a public field and the MPs offices. The objects house the debate chamber, the library and the committee rooms, and together they contain the lobby - the space of conflict and encounter between the MP's, activists, lobbyists and public. Each object has a formal masonry crust, containing the political programme, and a lightweight timber nest, which hosts the space of public conflict. The MPs offices are contained within a new city block, that reads as part of Antwerp’s grain. Suspended above is the field - a three-dimensional ruin that contains the public programme of the assembly (studios, broadcasting suite, workshops, press offices, and exhibition halls). This surrounds the government, creating a constant tension between political and public life, whilst remaining open to the city.

Tectonic Pluralism

The detailed design of the assembly is driven by the principle of Tectonic Pluralism, which is defined as the dialogue between discrete design languages. The assembly is composed of masonry crusts, timber nests, a 9x9m concrete frame, CLT boxes, and steel servicing and walkways. Each distinct space follows its own material logic, resulting in duplicated structures and enclosures. The threshold between each enclosure becomes a terrain vague, a liminal space in which the public and political can engage in agonistic encounters.

Parliamentary Lobby Section

The Lobby & The Field



The work exhibited thus far was completed in March for the purposes of an interim review, and is therefore not final. The thesis has since developed in several key ways as illustrated in the bottom row of sketches. Programmatically the changes densify the scheme, by introducing four political objects (library, committee rooms, broadcasting suite, ministers officers), moving the debate chamber into the lobby and surrounding the heart with more playful and engaging public programmes. Architecturally the proposal has become considerably more open and loose, by breaking down each object into a collection of distinct elements. The work is ongoing, and the current intention is to complete the thesis in July. Any developments towards the final project will be recorded and published on my upcoming website.