House for Seasonal Neighbours

Contributors: Ciel Grommen & Maximiliaan Royakkers

How to create a space where seasonal neighbours can enjoy free time and take part in the the local community?

Seasonal Neighbours was founded in 2017 by Ciel Grommen. Her fascination for unusual forms of cohabitation led to a dialogue with Polish and Bulgarian seasonal workers in her hometown Borgloon; a group that makes up 1/5th of the population there in the summer. During this personal experience, which started from working side-by-side during the fruit-picking season, Ciel found out that her seasonal neighbours rarely escape the realm of work during their stay in Belgium. As a result, life is very much narrowed down to working and making money. 

Yet, there was one specific spot and one rare moment where seasonal workers meet weekly and become consumers instead of labourers: the local discount supermarket. With this intervention Maximiliaan Royakkers and Ciel Grommen wanted to celebrate this place.

They designed and built a “house for seasonal neighbours” as a public space for a private time. Two regional archetypes, the row house and the container house, are rescaled, skewed and overlapped to form a familiar but simultaneously alienated hybrid. The resulting mobile unit is dropped as a temporary guest into the existing urban fabric to serve as a symbol for a hybrid social living environment in which notions of home and hospitality are being questioned. It aimes to be a strange, almost comical, fragment in the generic parking environment, operating simultaneously as generator and archive for discussion.

During 65 days, the maximum period ascribed by Belgian law for seasonal workers in agriculture, it descended in a field bordering the supermarket and served as a place for refuge and otherness, open for everything except work. It was a place for gathering amongst seasonal neighbours, for coffee meetings, for taking selfies and ultimately for an open conversation about the changing living conditions in the rural region of Hesbaye today. Three events were organised to actively invite permanent and seasonal inhabitants in. (For pictures check the archive in the Calendar page ︎︎︎)

A collaboration of vzw Heisa! and Jeugdhuis ‘t Biejke, with the support of Advokatenkantoor Orij, Boerenbond, stad Borgloon, z33 and Flacc.

Website updated in May 2024