Brussels, Belgium, January 2014
TYPE/ Competition - Individual project - strategy for reactivating public spaces
The Canal area in Brussels is a complex zone, at the intersection between its traditional industrial activities, a mix of different cultural identities and a recent gentrification phenomenon.
The perimeter I chose to investigate is in the southern part of the Canal area. It is located between two train stations, West station and Brussels Midi station (the largest railway hub in Belgium). The Anderlecht Abattoir, which stands in the middle of this zone, is a well known market place organized around a massive industrial hall and a modern slaughterhouse on the edge of the site.
The Abattoir site is a strategic place with historical value and it plays an important role in the economic and social life of surrounding neighborhoods. Recently, a masterplan was designed in order to introduce new activities such as an urban farm, housing, events and connections with the university campus nearby.
Overall, this area is characterized by a large amount of secondary sector businesses along the Canal, a dense transportation network with numerous public transport connexions. Moreover, the population living there is relatively young and multicultural. Inhabitants are coming from different parts of Europe, Africa and Asia, which makes the atmosphere of this place quite unique. But statistics show that the population's income level is low compared to the rest of the city.
Despite these opportunities, this part of Brussels suffers from a negative image. Public spaces are fragmented by both physical and psychological limits.
There is a risk that the new masterplan project doesn’t really meet the actual social and economical context and accelerate the gentrification process.
Therefore, the main question is : how can we bring changes in this specific urban structure without disrupting its fragile organization?
The main goal of this project is to bring together the multiple components of these neighborhoods and introduce an original link between them by revitalizing public squares and streets that link the 3 main public spaces (the two railway stations and the Abattoir) and their surroundings. In order to do so, a path materialized by colorful installations would be created according to 3 principles.
Identity is seen, in this project, as a way to question the past, present and future of this area. Aesthetic plays a central part in this project, as a playful way to reinvent everyday life places by creating contrasted, surprising landmarks. It is also a tool to encourage social activities and citizen empowerment, giving them the opportunity to share ideas/stories and change or reinforce their public spaces appearance (design workshops) .
The first two concepts used here are serendipity and tempo . Serendipity is used to trigger users' curiosity while leading them from place to place. This path should be structural element that connects places with different atmosphere, some extremely vibrant (Brussels Midi Station) and some more intimate.
The third principle is reflecting the diversity of cultural identities. Collectively made public installations should emphasize the diversity of its inhabitants cultural background.