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The City of Ostend calls urban designers to the beach

New perspectives on leisure infrastructure and public space design

International design competition


  1. Throughout history, the coast has spawned various architectural types of public infrastructure which enabled and enhanced the coastal experience. The British invention of the marine pier for instance was an architectural innovation that allowed the first coast tourists to walk on water, as it were, only without getting wet or seasick. The seafront promenade in turn was the public place to be for the well-to-do dawdler, but at the same time also an integral part of coastal defence as well as an efficient real-estate instrument along which the first prestigious ‘Grands Hotels’ could be erected. Lastly, the modern installations balnéaires in Ostend, Knokke, and Blankenberge integrated showers, changing rooms, luxury cabins, ticket sales, and steps leading to the beach.

    This design competition sets out in search of an innovative type of infrastructure and an image quality to enhance the beach experience in the 21st century, outside of the classical tourism season. The design competition specifically looks for a way to enrich the beach experience outside of the summer season. During the fall and winter months, the seafront promenade is quickly lost to the apartment buildings’ shadows. A new walkway on the beach could give residents and visitors the chance to enjoy the Ostend coastline during the fall and winter months. Enjoy the mild winter sun, the salty sea air, the sound of the waves with your family. The design competition aims to develop both a visual language and strategies to allow these restaurant and facility infrastructures to make a contribution to the image quality of the historically renowned Ostend seafront. In addition, this beach walkway could grow into a striking bit of (landscape) architecture, allowing the walkway to develop into a tourist attraction in its own right.

  2. The design competition is being organized by the City of Ostend (Belgium), in close collaboration with Agentschap voor Maritieme Dienstverlening en Kust (MDK) of the Flemish government. The contracting authority is Toerisme Oostende vzw.
  3. The design competition in Ostend is aimed at young professionals and innovative design practices within the field of (landscape) architecture and urban design. This includes architects, urban planners, landscape architects, construction engineers, sociologists, communication experts, … Each team may have a multidisciplinary makeup, but must have at least one certified architect. A multidisciplinary composition of a team and support from a construction engineer are encouraged.

The call for applications is opened, publicly and internationally. In accordance with article 26, § 1, 1° a of the act of 15 June 2006, this assignment is granted by way of negotiation procedure without announcement.[1]

[1] The following regulations apply to this assignment:

  • Act of 15 June 2006 pertaining to government contracts and specific contracting of works, deliveries, and services, and later changes
  • Royal Decree of 15 July 2011 pertaining to the assignment of government contracts for classic sectors, and later changes
  • Royal Decree of 14 January 2013 for the determination of general rules of execution of the government contracts and of the concessions for public works, and later changes
  • Act of 17 June 2013 pertaining to the motivation, information, and legal remedies regarding government contracts and specific assignments for works, deliveries, and services
  • The General Regulations for Labour Protection (ARAB), Welfare Act, and Codex on wellbeing in the workplace
  • Act of 11 February 2013 laying down sanctions and measures for employers of illegally staying foreign nationals
  1. The competition aspires to investigate how a new type of beach infrastructure can contribute to greater enjoyment of the beach and the coast. In general terms, following a survey of image-defining elements, an investigation is launched into how a beach walkway may contribute to an enhanced image quality for the beach and seafront by means of synergies and spatial strategies at the programme level. The design examines how the beach passageway can operate as a micro connection, a local link that may contribute quickly and efficiently and in a relatively low-cost manner to the spatial quality and beach experience. The designs look into how this infrastructure can enhance the image quality of the coastal area, possibly in conjunction with the cabins, surf club, and/or the beach bars and other seaside infrastructure. The design searched for the ideal location of the walkway, taking into account the path of the shadows cast upon the beach by the high-rise buildings along the seafront, but remains above the level of TAW + 6.00. The designers demonstrate how the beach promenade can form the final element to the Green Ribbon. The team clarifies how the design is to be maintained, and estimates the maintenance frequency. The designers propose an assembly plan and illustrate how materials can be transported and stored. Lastly, the team formulates recommendations for participation.

  2. The City of Ostend is launching a website for the competition: in Dutch and English. This website provides a context for the programme, the partners, the jury, the site, an inventory for all required documents (policy documents, legal framework, CAD and GIS data, …) and all press documentation. This website will allow the candidates to download the competition brief and all data for the assignment. The files for the application at the first phase is sent by the design teams to ostendbeachwalk [at]

  3. This design competition, The Urban Designers in Residence is a selection procedure consisting of two phases:

    Phase 1: Team selection.

    A committee of experts with representatives from the City of Ostend and MDK, including members of the jury, study the candidates and select 5 teams for phase 2. This selection will be based on the selection criteria. (see point 15)

    Phase 2: Design workshop. During the course of a week, the five teams are invited to participate in a design workshop in Ostend to develop their ideas, in interaction with local partners and coaches.

  4. Each of the 5 selected teams will receive a fee of 3,500€ incl. VAT to participate in the workshop and travel expenses will be compensated to a sum of 1,500€ incl. VAT. Free lodging is provided by the city of Ostend during the workshop week.



  1. Throughout its history, Ostend has always attracted artists who would withdraw for a while, often in isolation, in order to draw inspiration for their work from the influence of the sea and its tides on the mainland. For this competition we are looking for “Urbanists in Residence”. During the workshop week, the designers will work from a fixed location in Ostend, close to the site. Each selected design team shall delegate (at least) two complementary designers as ‘urbanists in residence’, with a maximum of 4 team members in total. The city of Ostend provides a joint workshop in the architectural marvel that is the Ostend casino, where the design teams are briefed, have access to drawing and presentation materials, and where they can confer with the design coaches.

  2. The winning team shall be selected as special advisors to the city of Ostend up to a value of 40,000€ incl. VAT in order to develop projects to enhance the image quality of the coast experience. The proposals will be assessed by the judges according to the criteria under point 15.
  3. The results of the competition will be published in a brochure. The images of the selected teams will be presented to the general public at a temporary exhibition in Ostend during the tourism high season. The results will also be published on the website

  4. The jury

    The jury consists of nine experts who will participate in (part of) the design workshop, provide the teams with feedback, assess the results, and formulate recommendations to the jury chairman or chairwoman.

Marcel Smets (chairman) 

Marcel Smets was until 2012 Professor of Urbanism at the University of Leuven, and was from 2005 to 2010 the Flemish Government Architect. He has long been fascinated by the increasingly complex relationship between infrastructure, urban development, urbanization and landscape. Smets was a founding member of ILAUD and visiting professor at the University of Thessaloniki and the Harvard Graduate School of Design. He has been active in the fields of theory and history books about Huib Hoste, Charles Buls, the Belgian garden city movement, and the Belgian reconstruction after World War I. He was planning critic for Archis, Topos, Lotus and Casabella, as well as a jury member for many international competitions. From 1989 to 2002, Smets was director of the Projectteam Stadsontwerp, a research and design group that set the foundations for urban design in Belgium, and focused on the redevelopment of industrial and infrastructure brownfields. He led the groundbreaking transformation of the Leuven station area, and was also active in Antwerp, Hoeilaart, Rouen, Genoa and Conegliano. In 2002 he founded Smets Consultants in Urbanism, and since then has worked on projects including the Val de Durance, the port of Oporto and the sugar factory of Genappe, and the transformation of the Ile de Nantes.

Sven Grooten 

Architect, together with Evert Crols and Dirk Engelen B-architects. Antwerp architects put down new building, renovating old industrial buildings and focuses stores. One of their most notable projects is the renovation of the Beursschouwburg in Brussels and the Post Office in Ostend. Great studied architecture in Antwerp, Paris and Amsterdam.

Didier Rebois 

Didier Rebois is architect and architectural critic. Since 1990, as the Secretary-General of Europan, he is in charge of the coordination of the 22 National structures of Europan in the different european countries and responsable of the Scientific Committee, the Technical Commission, and the organization of the events. 

Also he teaches Theory and Practise of Architectural and Urban Project at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d'Architecture de Paris la Villette. He serves as a curator and urban mobility expert for the Institut pour la Ville en Mouvement (IVM). He organized interdisciplinary teaching programs between several international universities around the topic "Spaces of urban mobility".

Kristof Billiet

Director of the Public Services at Ostend City (Directeur bij directie openbaar domein Stad Oostende.)

Peter Craeymeersch

Director Toerisme Oostende vzw, General Manager Kursaal Oostende, Filmfestival Oostende

Valerie Deschamps

Director of (Directeur Ruimtelijke Ordening, Wonen, Economie, Milieu Stad Oostende)

Koen Lenoir

Bestuurder Centrummanagement Oostende CMO, voorzitter Verenigde Handelaarsbond Oostende, bestuurder Toerisme Oostende

  1. Coaches and advisors

    Two coaches will assist the selected teams during the design workshop in Ostend. They will provide assistance and information to the participants, monitor the competition’s progress, and report to the jury.

Maarten Van Acker

Professor of urban design at the Faculty of Design Sciences at the University of Antwerp. His research focuses on infrastructure and urban design. He holds a PhD for his research ‘From Flux to Frame’ on the impact of infrastructure design on the urbanization of the Belgian coast since the 19th century. In New York, Maarten continued at The New School his post-doctoral research on urban infrastructures. Maarten is a member of the Urban Studies Institute and represents the Research Group for Urban Development of the University of Antwerp. He is the president of the Spilliaert commission and member of the Stadsatelier of the City of Ostend.

Aglaée Degros

Together with Stefan Bendiks, Aglaée is director of the office Artgineering, an office for urbanism based in Rotterdam and Brussels. She devises and implements design strategies for complex (inter)urban conditions with particular attention to the role of infrastructure. In various research and design projects, she re-interprets the relationship between mobility, landscape and urban development. The work of Artgineering has won various awards and prizes such as Europan, the Karl-Hofer Award of the UdK Berlin and a Bauhaus Award nomination. Aglaée Degros is guest professor of urbanism at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. She was member of the board of the Stimuleringsfonds voor Architectuur and several juries (Open Oproep, ERDF, Passage, … ). Currently she is member of the Europan scientific committee and member of the advisory committee of Hasselt University.

In addition, two advisers will counsel the designers regarding spatial planning, urbanization policy, and the technical framework conditions pertaining to coastal defense.

  • Karel Vanackere: director of project and process management with AGSO
  • Kathleen Bernaert: Department head for Agentschap voor Maritieme Dienstverlening en Kust (MDK) of the Flemish government
  1. Calendar

    Phase 1: Preselection

    • 16 November 2015: competition launch, opening of the website, and release of data necessary to generate applications.
    • 29 January 2016: deadline for the reception of all applications (A3, digital) via e-mail and preselection by technical committee. 
    • 01 February 2016: announcement of the teams 

    Phase 2: Design workshop with the selected teams

    5 selected teams will reside in Ostend for a week to work on their projects.

    11 - 18 March 2016

    • day 1:                      information on partners, stakeholders, and site visit
    • day 2-5:                  development of strategic designs, assisted by the coaches
    • day 6:                      the 5 teams make their presentations to the jury. The jury provides feedback
    • day 7:                      the teams finalize their designs
    • day 8:                      the 5 teams present their designs. Public debate with jury members. Winner selection. 

    July-August 2016: exhibition of the entries.

  2. Submission & Criteria

    Designer candidates submit their proposal[1], at the latest by 29 January 2016, via ostendbeachwalk [at]

    For phase 1, the teams submit an application form, professional certifications, and photo identities to be eligible for selection. On the basis of the criteria below, the best 5 teams will be invited to phase 2. 

    The application form, a single pdf file, consisting of multiple pages containing the following: 

    * TEAM: describe the composition of the multidisciplinary team, including a brief statement or presentation of the team, the name, workplace, and brief bio/CV for each team member. (min. 1A3) It should also be apparent from the description that the applicant has sufficient manpower to effectuate the various duties in a continuous and smooth manner. He will also indicate the project leader. This project leader is the point of contact for the instructing party. As indicated above, the team must have at least one certified architect.

    * OWN WORK:present a selection from your own work (at least three projects) which you consider relevant within the theme of the beach walkway and seafront image quality, or illustrating the team’s design attitude. (at least 1 A3 sheet)

    * OTHER WORK: present a selection of (at least three) international design projects investigating the relationship between architecture, landscape design, and the beach experience in a manner with which your team can identify. (at least 1 A3 sheet)

    * REFLECTION: develop an initial speculative reflection highlighting your specific approach and team vision. The use of both text and imagery is encouraged. (at least 2 A3 sheets). This pdf file may contain at the most 6 A3 sheets, and have a maximum size of 35 MB.

    The professional certifications, a single pdf file consisting of multiple pages documenting the most recent and highest professional level of each team member. This pdf file may have a maximum size of 5 MB.

    The photo identity, a single pdf document containing digital copies of a valid proof of identity (identity card, passport, driving licence, …) of each team member. This pdf file may have a maximum size of 5 MB.

    The educational and professional qualifications of the candidates will be assessed by a technical committee. The following point system will be used in this assessment:

    team composition (25 points)
    own references (25 points)
    other references (25 points)
    reflection (25 points) 

  3. Selected teams as of 10 February 2016:

    collectif GRUE
    Metapolis Mejias Luna
    JPAM i.s.m. Bart Steenwegen + UTIL
    Crossing landscape




Details on context of design competition: download

(Aerial) Pictures: Download

PLANS and GIS-DATA: download + download