A-LIVE Unlocking Brussels Aerotropolis

Design-thinking at the ascent of socio-technological disruption

A-LIVE tutors; Bruno Peeters & Frank Theyssen



Like many of its European counterparts, Brussels emerged out of a settlement strategically located along a river.  Gradually gaining importance within the region, a key-factor in Brussels development is its strategic location and ensuing facilitation of (commercial) transport routes.

Following Belgian independence in 1830, a major impetus to Brussels` status as Belgium`s main urban center was the early development of the first continental European railway network, firing up Brussels rapid expansion into its rural periphery.

In the course of the 20th century, the advent of private car ownership again dramatically changed the city`s development and lay-out, instigating a parallel and nefarious peri-urbanisation process of Northern and central Belgium.

The resulting almost total suburbanization now conjures unilaterally pejorative connotations among urban planners.  Suburbanisation became a highly politicized topic; planning, (design) development and overall advancement of now global 21st century transportation networks turned into a hotly contested topic on all sides of Belgium`s political spectrum.   Driven by often diametrically opposed socio-environmental and economic interests, a common denominator underscores a consensual undercurrent, questioning the viability of suburbia and its car-dependency.


Brussels Airport

Within this complex context, Brussels Airport takes on a particular importance.  Wedged between a multitude of actors, economic interests, socio-political constraints, territorial disputes and Belgium`s abstruse politico-linguistic federal make-up, Brussels International Airport, next to the Antwerp port is one of the country`s major crucial economic and mobility nodes contributing over 1.5 % to Belgium`s GDP.

The airport has been crucial in enabling Brussels to take on its complex role as the de facto European Union capital, NATO headquarters and scores of other international agencies and global industries.  However, rapid and accelerating growth of global transport links puts into question the future (growth) of Brussels airport, entailing fundamental questions about not just airport related planning and design but the entire spatial-urban configuration of the wider Brussels region.


Brussels Aerotropolis

Current design-driven proposals depart largely from negative connotations, compromising solutions `containing` Brussels Airport.  A key determining factor here is the immediate proximity of the airport to the city of Brussels, considered being a strong disadvantage.

Without any doubt, the airport has a huge environmental impact.  Yet current `nuisance` oriented solutions tend to undervalue Brussels Airport role and dormant potential as the main driver of Brussels` economy, business, urban development and last but not least overall mobility system.

In line with Brussels earlier 19~20th century railroad and 20th century highway transportation transformations, the airport`s role as a global connector therefore may be considered as the city`s main transformational engine.

Within such `aerotropolis` model, Brussels` airport proximity to the city, embedded within a partly disused railway `rustbelt` and catatonic high-way system while straddling Belgium`s complex socio-political linguistic fault-lines make for a highly pluri-potential juxtaposition.

Airports itself are currently undergoing rapid transformations powered by new technology and business models.  Particularly in Europe and North-America the `frequent-buyer` model definitely seems to have reached its limit; mainstream `airport-outlet` design duplication, societal & passengers` demographic change, disruptive technology and increasing public & civic awareness regarding mobility, ecology, security , … are just a number of factors influencing future airport-design.



A continued global increase of passenger numbers and air-traffic, technology advancements, Artificial Intelligence, digitalization and (building) automation in combination with Brussels International Airport complex spatial-political context make for a challenging case-study.  `A-LIVE` aims to explore and design future scenario`s with the explicit intent to unlock Brussels Aerotropolis full potential.



`A-LIVE` seeks to develop alternative design-strategies to which extent the conceptual model of the Design by Research project `fibercity` for the Tokyo metropolitan region serves as a backbone in opposition to ingrained constructionalist planning dogmas, characterized by an:


•    Internist approach

•    Simultaneity flow & place

•    Interwoven boundaries & identity

•    Fibers define flows

•    Autonomous interventions

•    Minimum interventions

•    Editing, rather than planning

•    Incubation & Cultivation



Read the full programme here.


Organized along the ‘Kenkyushitsu’ model, A-LIVE enables different skills to merge into an ‘as one’ performant design-unit.  With `fibercity` serving as a learning tool, A-LIVE Prepares students for an international career within larger international professional practices.  Student involvement will simultaneously encompass three levels of engagement, stimulating future `design-thinking` solutions;

(1)    Infrastructural (densification); collective work

(2)    (Micro)-Urban Design & Planning; team-work & individual

(3)    Autonomous (Architectural) pilot-projects; individual work & duo`s

Unlocking Brussels Airport Projects sem. 2 AY 2017-2018


a.    Unlocking Brussels Aerotropolis (3)

b.    The Loop (1) (2) (3)


c.    ROSAS (2) (3) (1) [Remote Off-Site Air-Side Cargo Faciltities]

d.    Airport R&D Center (1) (2)

e.    Green Lung-Soundscape & Permaculture (2) (1)

Individual & duo`s

f.    Midtown Terminal Brussels (3)

g.    BXL World Terminal (3)

h.    BXL Europe Hub (3) (2)



Apposing Brussels Airport Company`s Strategic Vision 2040 and KUROKAWA Kisho`s 1998 `Brussels Airport Unlocked` 2020 scenario, `A-LIVE` seeks to advance solutions through a process of fast-forward design-thinking.

Operating as a Design-Lab, A-LIVE seeks to generate a coherent output enabling to participate to public discussions in simultaneous dialogue with professional, civic and governmental actors & decision-makers.

Running for 4 semesters, students build upon a body of accumulated knowledge giving shape to an ambitious vision for Brussels Airport.  Through a process of smart reading and editing of Belgium`s contorted complex spatial context, design-assignments depart from 12 determining parameters defining the contours within which design explorations are to be investigated;


1.    Globalization & economic growth.

2.    Brussels Airport 2.0

3.    Economic Densification

4.    Remote Off-Site Air-Side

5.    Brussels bi-regional airport

6.    Brussels Aerotropolis

7.    Seamless Accessibility

8.    Seamless Interconnectivity

9.    Airport Loop

10.    Transferable Consolidation, suburbia reconfigured (Kukaku Seiri)

11.    Green Lung & Productive Soundscape

12.    Infrastructural densification

Design process;

In its third run, for AY 2018-2019 – semester 1, depending on students backgrounds, professional experience and interests, individual assignments may focus on different topics and formats of studio-collaborations.

A-    LIVE aims to generate design-output incorporating and blending four different scopes, infused by external expertise in the fields of Engineering, Research, Management and Dissemination.

A Architectural Design

U Urban Design

L Land- & sound-scape Design

I Infrastructural Design

A-    LIVE 2nd run, Sem 2 AY 2017-2018 – designated projects;

Students may continue developing first and second run `A-LIVE` outputs, or initiate new projects within the larger scope of the Brussels Aerotropolis.

Next to a focus on concrete design-output, projects are to be developed in a pointed dialogue with experts, enabling a permanent cross-disciplinary feedback.

Participation to A-LIVE gives access to a wide range of disciplines and societal actors.

Compulsory, design projects are advanced in corroboration with real-life airport actors and stakeholders.

Read more.

External Experts & Advisors;

Students are encouraged to pro-actively seek external advice; independent data acquisition, management and its incorporation in the design process are an important evaluation criteria.

Various site visits and consultancies will be organized individually, per team or collectively, depending on the chosen projects.  To this extent, A-LIVE fosters strong links with a wide range of external actors, citizens` platforms, consultants & experts;

i.    Schaerbeek Landscape (2) (3)

j.    Connecting Scales (1)

k.    Extension Pier A-West (3)

l.    Airport Housing

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