Notes on the Neighborhood
A Legacy of Industry and Innovation.
There’s a stark contrast between the interiors of Ti-Pi and the neighborhood it calls home. Through a humble set of wooden doors, the three-story abandoned building is adorned with original molding, various brick fireplaces, and even a majestic stained glass window. While this type of interior may perhaps be commonly associated with the medieval architectural styles in Ghent’s city center, Ti-Pi is actually located in a contrasting industrial neighborhood right off of the city’s Dampoort train station (Koopvaardijlaan 3, Ghent).
Here, one finds a neighborhood in metamorphosis. On one side of Ti-Pi, there’s a contemporary angular building with grid-like windows designated as a co-working space. On the other lies a series of unfinished buildings whose skeleton is protected by layers of metal fences. Across the heavily unfinished, under-construction street is a plumbing supply store and a building material store. There are even large cranes sitting in the canal nearby and construction rubbish lining the street.
At first glance, this contrast might come off as strange, almost uncomfortably so; traditional buildings set against industrial ones. New pinned against the old. It’s almost as if there’s a tug-of-war between the two, but here, in this particular neighborhood of Ghent, change is winning.
Could it be that this area was always destined to be modernized? The presence of Dok Noord, the expansive office and shopping area just a few minutes further north of Ti-Pi, might make visitors think so. What is now a trendy area filled with shops, offices, and even residential units used to be home to heavy industrial activity once upon a time.
Dating back to 1834, Dok Noord began as a gas plant to provide Ghent’s public lighting. In 1862 it expanded as a warehouse for machine and engine construction and part of the area was even designated for a flax spinning mill in 1875. In the 1900s, the area was popular for electrical installations. In 2005, production stopped and plans to repurpose the warehouse began in 2006 with preserving the “industrial-archaeological identity” of the site.
But, Dok Noord isn’t the only establishment in the neighborhood cultivating a new space where people may interact with one another. Several coffee shops and bars, both grand and subtle, are generating a space for the creative communities nearby. Bar Bricolage turned its surroundings it’s an otherworldly industrial playground where people can enjoy tasty drinks of all sorts. There’s also Glasfabriek, which utilizes a similar setting to provide light tasteful bites between renovated docks.
In the grand picture, this industrial spirit has always been a part of Ghent’s identity. The deep desire for innovation and advancement has always had its roots in the city dating as early as the Middle Ages when Ghent was one of the leading producers of Wool in Europe. According to lore, Lieven Bauwens, a Belgium spy, stole British textile technology in sacks of coffee and flour. Called both the ‘Spinning Mule’ and ‘Spinning Jenny’ the machine allowed the city to become a textile production maven.
While Ti-Pi may be approaching innovation a little differently, it may be argued that its presence in the neighborhood is continuing the city’s lust for what’s over the horizon– always seeking new and always moving forward. It is true: placing art of various disciplines in an abandoned building breathes life back into what would’ve remained empty. And, in a changing neighborhood in an ever-changing city, the exhibition space also contributes to the growing community that will inevitably grow in the area by offering a hint of beauty and solace to it.