Between highway, palace & canal

Research by design into the sustainable values of forgotten space on the fringe of the Brussels metropolis
Photo: Outdoor class along in the green belt along the Van Praet avenue en the royal palace park of Laeken

Studio instructor: architect-urbanist M.Sc. in conservation Livia de Bethune



An important part of the structure of the Brussels metropolis has been shaped by the urban politics of king Leopold II and his urbanist Victor Besme. At the end of the nineteenth and early twentieth century he laid out the middle ring, several avenues and at least 1000 hectares of park spread across the region. The numerous Brussels parks prove today their worth more than ever through their daily busy use by a very diverse attendance, unlike other urban structures from Leopold’s time that are today only at the service of the car.

The question is how do we deal now with the pressure these structures undergo in terms of mobility, real estate, … ? Should we de-infrastructure the city and define a new urban framework ?

Today, some of these historical structures have degenerated into city highways that divide the surrounding space and generate a lot of residual space. In a dense metropolis, where every square metre is valuable, one should be very careful.

These structures and spaces are an opportunity to give them new meaning for Brussels. Taking into account :

– the urgency in the area of climate change

– the demand for a greener and more liveable city

– the current insights in the area of mobility

– the possibilities of the emerging (electric) traffic modes

– the further constant population growth in the Brussels region

– to broaden the limited housing supply



In the studio we will investigate the surrounding of the royal park in Laeken. Today, various plans are being worked out for this area situated in between the A12 motorway, the royal palace and the Van Praet bridge over the canal, a little known area, mainly mentioned for its recurrent traffic congestion. It’s an area that has much more to offer in terms of landscape, urbanism and architecture. Creates one there full-fledged green corridors ? Soft mobility trail ? Connection sites between neighbourhoods ? Recreational meeting spaces ? Or urban developments ?







1. A reading of the layers of the past

The students will analyse, in small groups, the development of the city of Brussels, through the important historical periods

Layers : geology, water structure, landscape and green infrastructure, the urban politics of king Leopold II, the urban politics in the perspective of the 1958 exposition, …

2. A critical mapping of the present

The students will question, in small groups, the ecological and urban infrastructures of the site surrounding and expressing the complex relations through mapping. Layers : population and urban growth, mobility, energy, fertile soil and agriculture, weather and climate, the canal plan(s), …

3. The design of a vision for the future

Start with a day workshop ‘imaginary future scenarios’ based on the research findings

Each student develops further a future vision for the site environment as final output of the studio.

No results found