An innovative public space plan for the Brussels canal territory

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Submission Summary
The Regional Plan for Sustainable Development of the Brussels Capital Region identifies the canal area as the largest strategic development pole of the Region. It concerns a densely built, less-favoured, culturally diverse and segregated area. As a formal industrial area, it maintains an important economical role. In 2015, the Region launched the Canal Plan as a guiding tool for the redevelopment of the whole canal area. Since its establishment, numerous initiatives have been supported to translate its principles into concrete realisations. According to critical reflections by key-stakeholders, these projects showed the need to complement the vision with a specific strategy for the coherence, quality and identity of the public space, with special attention for social and environmental improvements. With this Public Space Plan (PSP), launched in 2019, better social and ecological relations, which are currently divided by the canal infrastructure, are sought. The renovation of the public space demonstrates the potential to form a new centrality, a common and inclusive platform between different neighbourhoods and its citizens. The plan can also allow for more active, and hence healthy, lifestyles in a more natural and attractive environment. Via an international competition, a consortium of multidisciplinary consultants was selected to participate in a framework agreement. They elaborated the PSP in collaboration with principal stakeholders. The plan forms a strategic framework, guiding all developers and designers of public and related open spaces. It contains ambitions and recommendations for the areas’ identity and usage (recreational and economical), its linear public spaces (mobility) and its landscape and sustainability (blue and green networks). By designing the crossings (in their form, materials and furniture) similarly on both sides of the canal, and treating the canal area as a new centrality, social barriers are expected to be lowered. By strengthening the ecological and social qualities and by redesigning its linear public spaces – with priority and more space for walking, cycling and recreation in a greener context – we foresee a reduction of social, green and public space inequities between different parts of the region and a decrease in the pollution levels caused by motor vehicles. In consequence, we expect local health and well-being levels to improve. The implementation of the PSP is supported by a central procurement agency and a follow-up committee with key stakeholders. Via the agency, all actors with public and or related open spaces can call upon the designated design team for their individual studies and projects. The follow up committee manages the convergence of all plans, studies and projects in line with the vision and ambitions of the PSP, stimulating efficient implementation of individual projects. Several local communes and regional agencies have joined the central procurement agency. A number of studies, leading towards realisations, have been completed. Authorities and private developers apply the PSP in their plans and projects. The existing dynamic of transformation is strengthened and ambitions come within sight due to this innovative and flexible approach. A PSP can offer added value for cities. Specific ambitions and recommendations of the PSP and its implementation methodology stimulate the reduction of existing inequities within the city and foster healthy and inclusive urban environments. Due to the integration of ecological and recreational ambitions in the PSP, physical and mental well-being can be improved. Such an PSP for a part of the city, supported by a central procurement agency and a follow-up committee to boost its implementation, is replicable in other urban areas. This innovative technique needs to be adapted to local contexts, ambitions and recommendations to achieve optimum integration, acceptability and overall success.
Submission ID :
Submission Type
Submission Track
6: Creating Healthy and Inclusive Urban Environment
Project Manager
Brussels Planning Agency
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