Brussels needs a radical and innovative project. The challenges of the immediate future, the challenges related to demographic expansion, employment, teaching and training, environment, social inequality and internationalisation all oblige urban planning policies to fit into a completely new framework. A spatial vision, structuring transport networks, a method of urban planning that moves away from preconceived ideas from the past and takes into account the experience of the last few decades and what they have given us. Without renouncing its tradition, Brussels is not so much in need of a policy of incremental improvement than a radical reform: in terms of ideas, practices, projects and action. In our opinion, this has to be radical to be able to truly capture the needs of change and its potential.
A Horizontal Metropolis
Brussels is nestled within its territories of reference, metropolitan and global, in the heart of the North Western Metropolitan Area. Going against the grain, our plans started from the bottom. Our thought process was based on taking a fresh look at the city. Thinking about Brussels as a horizontal metropolis, a city with vague and uncertain boundaries which in this plan concerns the territory of the three valleys of the Dender, the Senne and the Dyle.
The study attempts to show how a series of modular concepts can guide the understanding and interpretation of the territory by unveiling certain themes.
How topography can become a topology that makes sense of a place; how diversity can make the different echelons of society filter through the new urban fabric; how a town usually considered fragmented can make use of the idiosyncrasies of each and every one; how transport networks can become social hubs; how concepts such as hierarchy and isotropy, which seem apparently opposed, can become complementary, and how finally the urban space, particularly limited by an institutional and political vision in Brussels could work better for all.
Different from other cities, the Brussels horizontal metropolis could be the opportunity to develop an original and innovative sustainable model, tackling a reduction in energy consumption and emissions, developing biodiversity, raising individual and collective comfort, and building a living space of a high environmental quality. It can develop projects to adapt to climate change by exploring the whole range of mobility methods beyond that of the car and concentrating on public transport. It can also make more space for water by placing it in the centre of a reflection on the nature of public spaces. The horizontal metropolis will not be homogenous; on the contrary, it will value differences: the qualities of places and areas, beyond the divide.
A vision, in order to be realistic, has to take stock of the available time and resources, or those that could be freed up by the vision itself, but it must also get the involvement of all the stakeholders to engage them with a common purpose. For this, attention to detail is vital. And even at a detailed level, improving the environment and quality of the habitable space in Brussels requires a radical position.