The subject matter of this series are the three Kielpark Towers in Antwerp. They were built between 1959 and 1961 by the public housing company De Goede Woning, now a department of Woonhaven Antwerpen. Every tower has 16 floors and 96 apartments. 

The towers are part of the public housing estate of the Jan De Voslei, built under the supervision of the architect Jos Smolderen, who also designed Antwerp’s Boerentoren. The estate as a whole is one of the best-preserved examples of the public high-rise ensembles that were built according to the principles of the modernist ideology. Moreover, when speaking of social high-rise estates, the Kielpark Towers are a rare exemplary project, because of the implantation in the urban design and because of the architecture, interior as well as exterior. 

The towers don’t meet today’s safety or comfort requirements, which is why renovation works started a while ago. The plan was to preserve the towers’ valuable characteristics like their implantation, volumetric composition and general appearance. Unfortunately, studies soon showed that the buildings’ supporting structure, a concrete frame, was no good. The conclusion of a new analysis is that there’s no way to provide quality housing in the existing structure: new buildings are the only option. And so the three towers will be demolished, one step at a time.

My photographic research is rooted in my love for these towers’ aesthetics and detailing. On the one hand, I felt it might make sense to document the state of the towers before they’re demolished; on the other, I wondered whether this architecture enhances the quality of life and contributes to the happiness of the residents. Who are the people who live in these towers, and what’s their experience concerning the buildings’ aesthetics?  Do they live here because they want to, or because they have to? How do the different residents interact: do they just pass by each other in the corridors or do the light and the spaciousness of the communal areas encourage them to socialise?