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City of Brussels 2040


Tutor: Roeland Dudal
Engagement: Urban Cultures / The Brussels Way
Academic year 20-21, semester 1, Brussels

Context and approach

The majority agreement of the current Council of the City of Brussels is promising. The City of Brussels is currently drawing up a new spatial policy plan, in which citizens will also be involved, as well as they are preparing new mobility plans, a water plan, a climate plan, positive energy districts and so on. The reactions to the transformation of the central avenues of Brussels are generally positive. Many new projects are underway, such as the transformation of the former Actiris building or the new ZIN office tower. The future of the capital of Europe looks bright.

But is the City of Brussels really ready to accommodate the major social transitions that lie ahead? The mobility policy is not getting enough grip on the modal shift to the mobility of the future, with safe traffic in healthy air. Who will pay the bill for the transition to sustainable energy districts, for which thousands of buildings will have to be renovated? What are the models to make housing affordable and neighborhoods socially inclusive? How can green and water policy arm the city against the effects of climate change, such as heat islands and floods? Where to host the urban economy in the future?

In this studio we will also confront our discipline with a post-COVID19 reality. The COVID19 pandemic has once again – and this time boulder hard – made many people face the facts. The way in which we organize and shape our lives (living, working, leisure, …) is under high pressure. We are (rightly) concerned whether the current global economic model, the current forms of democracy and our gigantic ecological footprint are the right systems to make living conditions at least as good or better for future generations. The depletion of Mother Earth’s resources, the lack of redistribution of wealth, migratory pressures, global warming, drought and access to (drinking) water, … these are just some of the problems we are getting a better picture of, but which we feel increasingly powerless against.

However together with many experts in various fields (mobility, energy, sociology, …), architects and urbanists have beautiful building blocks in their hands to realize the necessary big yards of society, the future places in which we want to see our children and grandchildren grow up. Imagining and designing the streets, the buildings, the neighbourhoods, the city and the landscape that we want and are able to want, as a sum of all kinds of small and large projects, that is the plan for the future that many architects want to help build.

Architecture is storytelling. Therefore, we need to collect stories on the one hand and scale them up on the other hand, in order to arrive at new socio-spatial practices.

Studio Set Up

The studio work starts from a critical exploration of the expected future of the very diverse neighborhoods of the City of Brussels. We evaluate the impact of the envisioned objectives on our society. The production of a collective atlas of the neighborhoods in 2040 will look back on the expected evolution of the city in the next 20 years. Is this the future we want? We are placing major transitions for the neighborhood on the agenda of that same future, from the reuse of old industrial buildings for new functions such as housing, care, sports and education, to creating space for the urban economy, biodiversity and new forms of mobility.

This first phase (7 weeks) of the semester will be organized as a collective work.

In order to achieve this, we have to invent. We will need to design Future Places for the City of Brussels. We need to organize the interaction between public and private forces differently. We have to invent new typologies of buildings and reclaim public spaces. We need to rethink real estate models and ownership in the city. Step by step, we are looking for the conditions for a decisive and inclusive Brussels 2040 alliance, as an accumulation of Future Places. Design research on an architectural scale will demonstrate how we can tune the future of the city by taking smart decisions today. This will be the second phase of the semester (7 weeks). Every student will need to develop an individual design on an architectural (human) scale, within the collective vision.