Inclusive urbanism as gatekeeping

Conclusions of Metrolab’s 2017 MasterClass


Inclusive urbanism as gatekeeping

Conclusions of Metrolab’s 2017 MasterClass

What have these two weeks of intensive joint work taught us? What overarching conclusions can be drawn from the partial conclusions that were presented for each of the four sites? In the pages that follow, we first take a look at some of the distinct features that the MasterClass' four sites and projects have in common, in particular their specific structure: they are at the same time havens within the city, gateways to the city and thresholds between urban territories. Then we examine the various positions that the teams of students and Metrolab researchers have adopted regarding each site's specific issues. From their investigations, we draw some questions regarding the ethics and politics of urban inclusion. These considerations lead us to propose the following idea: as far as these sites are concerned, whether in terms of spatial design or policy process, inclusive urbanism is above all a matter of gatekeeping. The challenges of urban politics understood as gatekeeping would be : identifying and investing on qualitative, ample urban enclaves capable of extending the city’s accessibility and welcoming potential ; enhancing the interior values and qualities of the enclosed space ; questioning the limits of the enclave, exploring social-spatial continuities with the surrounding areas, neighbourhoods ; ensuring that its gates fulfil their role both of openness and closing ; establishing procedures and rules that make gatekeeping a collective responsibility, so that the principles governing the accessibility and control of the areas concerned are defined through an inclusive and democratic process. Our text ends with a last exercise : a brief re-description, based on the new terminology (havens, gateways, thresholds), of both Abattoir and Abbaye projects, understood as inclusive enclaves.

1. Relevance of the selected sites

1.1. Multiplicity and interdependence of inclusive aspects

The activities that brought international students and Metrolab researchers together as part of this MasterClass were intended to test the inclusive or hospitable nature of certain projects funded by the ERDF programme for Brussels, which Metrolab examines as a laboratory for public policy analysis. As mentioned in the introduction to this work, a city becomes inclusive only by increasing throughout the accessibility of the manifold spaces and functions that it is made of. A city cannot be said to be inclusive if it offers high-quality public spaces open to all on the one hand, while implementing exclusionary policies in terms of health, education, and housing on the other hand. On the basis of this idea, we have identified four projects that illustrate four complementary challenges for urban inclusion: food (Abattoir), health (Médecins du Monde), culture (Abbaye de Forest), and leisure (Droh!me). These are certainly four essential topics, whether in Brussels or anywhere else, that measure a city's inclusiveness:

  • In a city sharply divided on an economic level, access to inexpensive food and consumer goods is a basic need. How can a retail space like the Abattoirs and Marchés d’Anderlecht (famous for its large weekend market) evolve to attract new, wealthier customers while remaining true to its core purpose?
  • Belgium's singular healthcare policy is democratic and largely accessible. A region like Brussels, where a large part of Belgium's poor and immigrants live, puts this policy to the test. The Médecins du Monde project intends to make the healthcare system even more inclusive, by opening an institution that offers unconditional care to migrant and homeless populations who do not have access to social protection. How can this ideal be pursued in the specific context of a neighbourhood (Cureghem) that is undergoing a transformation?
  • Culture is a sensitive topic in a city-region that is about to open a large contemporary art centre, giving rise to a number of expectations and concerns, including those related to elitism and exclusion, and in a district (Forest) in which recent signs of gentrification are related to the development of cultural institutions (especially the Wiels contemporary art centre and Le Brass municipal cultural centre).
  • Leisure facilities and their shared access are another major issue. Together with schools and workplaces, leisure and sports areas are places where social and cultural intermingling is likely to happen. In a city as fragmented as Brussels is, leisure spaces have a strategic role regarding social cohesion. How has this been taken into account during the repurposing of the Boitsfort racetrack as an urban green space, located at the edge of the city-region?

We should mention that within the 2014-2020 ERDF programme for Brussels, only the Abbaye de Forest and the Médecins du Monde projects receive specific funding for social inclusion (axis IV of the ERDF's operational programme for Brussels). The Droh!me project's main goal is to contribute to the region's environmental quality (axis III), and the Abattoir project in Anderlecht is part of an economic development initiative intended to support businesses (axis II). Still, the latter two projects also involve matters of inclusion and diversity, as all subsidised projects are asked to contribute to a broader strategy of the European Union for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. It would much likely make little sense for a policy promoting sustainable development to fund environmentally-friendly projects on one side and polluting projects on the other. A policy for ‘inclusive growth’ and ‘social and territorial cohesion’ cannot fund inclusive projects through one axis and exclusionary projects through the others. Thus, and taking into account the interdependencies that exist between the various aspects of urban inclusion (food, health, culture, leisure…), we decided to approach and appreciate the four projects based on the quality of their contributions to a more inclusive and democratic city.

1.2. A selection that illustrates evolutions in ERDF's strategy

Among the four sites studied, three are located in the Senne valley (Abbaye–Abattoir– Médecins du Monde ), a post-industrial territory located at the heart of Brussels' priority urban renovation area and in which many initiatives have already been implemented such as the ‘Contrats de Quartier’ (neighbourhood contracts), the more recent ‘Contrats de Rénovation Urbaine’ (urban renovation contracts) (2017), but also previous EU initiatives such as Objective 2 (2000-2006) and the recent ERDF programme for 2007-2013, which concentrated resources on this area by establishing an area of prime concern (zone d’intérêt prioritaire - ZIP). The Droh!me site, located in the south of Brussels, is typical of the current ERDF programme (2014-2020), which abandons the principle of concentrating financial resources in central and socio-economically challenged areas, and spreads out funds throuhout the city-region. This recent strategy has led, within the current programme, to providing funds for certain projects located in the city's outer ring, such as the international students city project on the ‘Casernes – Couronne’ site in Ixelles, the ULB/VUB Learning Centre on the ‘La Plaine campus’, a cancer research centre on the Erasme campus, or the ‘Maison des Médias’ at the Reyers Mediapark. The Droh!me site is located in an area of the Region (Uccle-Boitsfort) that is rarely targeted by the city's Regional initiatives, outside of controversial sector-specific policies promoting mobility or public housing, or less controversial ones in favour of the environment. In addition, unlike most ERDF projects in highly urbanised areas, this one has a strong environmental component due to its proximity to the Sonian Forest, a 5,000+ hectare suburban forest covering areas in all three of the country’s Regions and designated as a Natura 2000 area.

1.3. Inclusive enclaves?

With the exception of Droh!me, the sites studied were still in the planning stages at the time of the MasterClass and concrete architectural projects had not yet been started. This encouraged students to come up with their own proposals to contribute to the debate on what to do with these sites. However, the chosen projects were not blank slates: each area's pre-existing situation and context had to be taken into account. Three sites undergoing transformation (Abbaye, Abattoir, Droh!me) still bear many traces of their past and have specific relationships with their surroundings. Each of the three corresponding ERDF projects attempts to launch new activities and develop the potential of each site, with the location itself being considered as a key resource of the project. The three sites' previous uses almost make them heritage sites, and their architecture strongly evokes their past purpose and function. It should be noted that in their initial state, the three sites were urban enclaves (Van Gameren et al, 2011) or ‘cities within the city’ (Ungers & Koolhaas 1977). We mean by enclave that the three sites show topological and architectural features that set them apart from their surroundings: physical boundaries, specific internal workings, and—in their initial design—controlled access. They have since been transformed and repurposed, with the challenge to become open and welcoming places, to contribute to the development of an inclusive and hospitable city.

  • The Forest Abbey was founded in the 13th century as a religious complex, at the same time as the municipality of Forest. The existing buildings, as well as the surrounding park, date back to the 18th century and have been used since 1964 for activities related to the municipality's town hall; the site is more or less centrally locatedwithin the municipality, but is at the edge of the Brussels-Capital Region. The project to repurpose the Abbey as a cultural centre is part of a wider project by the municipal authorities of Forest—aiming to reactivate the municipality's ‘civic centre’ that includes the town hall (currently being renovated) and the Saint-Denis square—, in the context of an ongoing initiative launched by the ‘sustainable neighbourhood contract’ (contrat de quartier durable) for the Abbey, which focused on public spaces and how they can bring together the various components of the municipality's symbolic, historical, and political heart. The heritage aspect is a fundamental one here: the Abbey and its surrounding area have been designated as a historical site in 1994. This former religious enclave lends itself to recreating centrality.
  • The Abattoirs and Marchés d'Anderlecht is a large 10.5-hectare site used by private concession, that combines a slaughterhouse and the largest general market in Brussels, held three times a week on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings. In 2009, the site's owners launched a reflection process on its future and considered increasing its density. The architecture office ORG (Organization for Permanent Modernity) defined a Masterplan in 2009, aiming for development by 2030. The plan includes a monumental structure centred on the large covered hall, creating an environment that emphasises the site's urban setting along Heyvaert street rather than the uses of the Abattoir itself. With its wide open spaces, the site is an example of ‘central periphery’ (Brunetta, 1998) and is destined to evolve. An early initiative, jointly funded by the previous ERDF programme, was for a food hall called ‘Foodmet’, a first step towards clustering—within a single permanent covered building—activities that had until then been offered outside or in temporary structures.
  • The Boitsfort racetrack was the only infrastructure dedicated to horse racing in the Brussels-Capital region. It was built in 1875 and the last races were held in 1987. Only minor renovations were done on the site before it closed down, and so it has kept its original character. This vast 32.5-hectare site, which belongs to the Société d’Aménagement Urbain (the main institution involved in the region's land policy), was granted on a concession basis from 2014 to 2029 to Drohme, a private company, for the development of a green area dedicated to sports and leisure. The project is progressing with some difficulty, showing conflicting logics : profitability issues for the private concessionary, openness and inclusion requirements set by the region, environmental concerns related to the surrounding natural areas, and the tranquility of the local residents of this wealthy area in the south of Brussels.
  • The Médecins du Monde social and health centre in Cureghem is planned on a site that was identified in the context of the ‘Canal-Midi’ neighbourhood contract in Anderlecht (2010), which helped call the Regional authorities' attention to the southwestern quadrant of Cureghem and its opportunities for land development. City Dev, the institution in charge of economic and housing development in the Region, has gradually acquired land in the area, and the Region has developed the Citygate programme, which involves three projects, totalling 90,000 m² of housing area. The Citygate project is spread across three locations acquired by City Dev in 2010 : ‘Kuborn’, ‘Marchandises’, and ‘Goujons’. The Médecins du Monde integrated social and health centre will be developed in the Goujons area, with 4,400 m² of housing and a 1,500 m² social centre run by Médecins du Monde, an association providing services in the healthcare sector.

This sample of four sites and projects suggests a significant evolution in contemporary urban policies: the attempt to extend collective urban life beyond what is recognised as the general, open public space, and to expand it into sites characterised by physical and functional enclosure.

1.4. Reconciling openness and enclosure

In this attempt to extend the city’s collective life through the inclusive repurposing of urban enclaves, the challenge is to reconcile qualities of openness and qualities of closing. Indeed, the four sites of the MasterClass study represent at the same time havens within the city, gateways to the city, and thresholds between territories.

i. Havens

The enclosure that characterises these sites enables or favours:

  • autonomous spatial organisation,
  • dedication of the site to specific functions,
  • relative covering and protection of the hosted use(r)s from the outside,
  • pedestrian mobility on the inside,
  • architectural coherence,
  • a feeling of interiority and a sense of retreat from the surrounding city,
  • the development of a specific inner social life, with its own tonality, atmosphere, pace, etc.

ii. Gateways

Considering their crucial function (food, culture, leisure, health) and their significant zone of influence, the projected sites can be thought of as urban hubs, places of convergence and identifiable access points to the city (be it for the affluent suburbanite or for the destitute foreign migrant).

iii. Thresholds

Each of these ample urban enclaves is called to play a role of interface, transition and mediation between the surrounding territories and communities that it separates (between two different parts of a district, between the city centre and an industrial neighbourhood, between the city and the forest, between the city and its outskirts,, etc.).

The qualities of ‘haven’, ‘gateway’ and ‘threshold’ — and the mixed principles of closing and openness that orient these projects of inclusive enclaves — are expressed most clearly in the cases of Abattoir d’Anderlecht (in the masterplan elaborated by ORG - Organization for Permanent Modernity) and Abbaye de Forest (in the project proposed by A-PRACTICE and :mlzd GmbH).

2. Intervention strategies

2.1. The many ways of urban design

After examining sites characterised by different contexts and conditions, the four Master-Class teams took different approaches. The participants explored various ways to practice urban design, which is not limited—as Master tutor Miodrag Mitrašinović reminded in his methodological instructions—to designing buildings but can also include developing procedures, partnerships, governance structures and participation formats. Each project was approached from the perspective of its capacity or potential for inclusion, and all suggestions, criticisms and counter-proposals were made with this in mind. As a reminder, inclusion is not just a mere study topic that was arbitrarily chosen as the basis for a student exercise. It is a fundamental issue, related to the EU's strategy for sustainable urban development, which the Brussels-Capital Region financially supports and which is meant to be either a priority (Abbaye, Médecins du Monde) or a guiding principle of action (Abattoir, Droh!me), both for the public authority in charge of the policy and for the public and private organisations who receive the funds. The goal of Metrolab's 2017 MasterClass was to highlight these issues, to bring them to the attention of the project initiators and the Regional government, by formulating proposals that, while sometimes radical or utopian, provide a strong reminder of ideals such as democracy, social justice, and equality that are inseparable from the concept of an inclusive urban society. How did the students and researchers go about this? For the Abattoir project, the site already had a masterplan guiding its development until 2030. The MasterClass team drew up an alternative, more flexible masterplan that acknowledges the important role of producing and selling meat in the heart of the city, while also giving inclusion and hospitality a central role in the Abattoir project. Building on the venue's main function as a source of food (‘Belly’), the team planned the development of social services and information for new residents of the neighbourhood (‘Heart’) and of a knowledge and culture centre (‘Brain’). This latter centre, which targets a specific audience of students and more culturally active residents, must be designed with the Abattoir's existing function in mind and must be compatible with the popular class of customers who already frequent the site.

file Fig. 1 The proposal is based on the idea of the creaction of three new clusters of acivities that all together will be progressively developed in the masterplan. Each cluster is imagined as a coalition of different stakeholders and functions which will create synergies and allow for new forms of production, engagement and education. The three clusters (belly, heart, brain) represent future thematics to be developed on the site.

For the Droh!me project, the proposal highlights the importance of publicly accessible infrastructures by looking into the project's governance and developing relevant proposals. The proposal is based on two hypotheses: the first of these (called « PPP+ ») builds upon the existing management model and completes it by adding a board of directors that includes members from the local civil society who make sure the project keeps public accessibility among its priorities; the second governance scenario involves putting the entire project back into the hands of the Regional authorities and redesigning the site's programming process by taking into account the new land use situation.

file Fig. 2 Visualization of the new Public-Public Partnership governance proposal. The proposal integrates the creation of a board of directors which insures the continuity of the inclusion of the community, local educational institutions and the values of social responsibility in the project.

For the public projects (Médecins du Monde and Abbaye), the proposals also call for vigilance with regards to the target groups. In the case of the Abbaye project, the team identifies a risk that the cultural infrastructure could address only certain groups, and suggests setting up a neighbourhood forum that would have a say in the venue's organisation and cultural programme. Vigilance is also important in Cureghem, where the group of students and researchers identified a risk that the Médecins du Monde centre might remain isolated in its attempt to provide healthcare to Brussels’ most destitute population; to counter this, the group suggests building a network of associations and creating a social cooperative platform.

file Fig. 3 Diagram showing the new relations between the Abbaye of Forest with the wider Saint-Denis area. The proposed scenario shows a public use of the Abbey and how it will work,on the example of a festival.

file Fig. 4 Creation of a new cooperative model around a common vision of health, through the networking of existing neighborhood associations and the involvement of the main stakeholders of the site.

For all projects, whether they are run by public, private, or non-profit players, the working groups underline the importance of communicating with the immediate and extended social environment. Each group seemed to believe that getting the target groups on board with the projects (whether local residents or visitors from all around the city or Region) required setting up a community of various players who should be recognised for their contributions to the project.

2.2. Idealising, generalising and prospective insights

Although they were carried out in a specific context, the various groups' reflections went beyond each project's restrictions and characteristics. The Master tutors even insisted upon this process, which had been encouraged in previous MasterClasses given by Metrolab members over the past few years. Like any other infrastructure project, ERDF projects are subject to considerable constraints, be they financial, legal, institutional, functional, technical, operational, to name a few. The goal of the MasterClass is then to strike a delicate balance, taking into consideration the complexities involved in action constraints while also not thinking of the constraints as being set in stone. This means alternative versions of the projects can be looked into, pushing towards higher ideals of inclusivity. To this end, it was especially interesting to involve foreign students from different national backgrounds and with different political and civic cultures: this allowed each project to be approached through a more global perspective of inclusion, with discussions between a diverse group of students, researchers, and teachers whose profiles were very different. The process drew from the concept of ‘urban hospitality’, going beyond the strictly economic, productivistic, and individualistic perspective that appears in EU texts on this topic (see Antoine Printz' contribution in the present publication, p.). The exploration of the normative meanings related to the qualities involved in urban inclusion segued into a search for the forms and processes that were the most likely to contribute to these goals. Here, it was suggested to move away somewhat from traditional project-building processes and their limited view of urban design, in order to broaden the reflection and investigate issues of governance, networking, mediation, communication, and so on. Some proposals ventured into the sensitive topic of the joint ‘social responsibility’ of subsidised private actors and subsidising public institutions in designing the city, and pointed to certain challenges and potential pitfalls of the current framework, launching into a reflection on how to oversee public-private partnerships in order to place more emphasis on social inclusion (in terms of access to the infrastructures created) and political inclusion (in terms of access to the governance process). Lastly, along with defining inclusion objectives and the procedures that serve these objectives, the projects' time-frames were discussed and negotiated by the four groups in the MasterClass. They designed their proposals based on different constraints than what had been defined by the ERDF (projects completed by 2020), sometimes involving longer-term horizons. Some groups even made proposals for future programming periods. The results of this MasterClass were more of an idealising, generalising, and prospective nature, which is an obvious hindrance to their being applicable to ERDF projects in immediately operational terms; however, applicability was not the point of this exercise. As learning and research experiments, the micro-investigations carried out by the four groups over the two weeks of the workshop have led to results and conclusions that should not be taken literally. Rather than being an end to the reflection process, the results of the work carried out on the four sites are intended to create a space for cross-cutting discussions on how to account for urban inclusion in the EU's public policies. This dimension of social inclusion—its definition, objectives, and procedures—remains somewhat vague and ambiguous in the EU's sustainable development policy, especially when compared to economic and environmental aspects, which are better delimited. The work carried out in this MasterClass intends to kick-start an in-depth reflection on the qualities of openness, accessibility, and hospitality of urban projects supported by the ERDF; we hope this reflection can contribute to the development of future operational programmes in the Brussels-Capital Region. While they build on the empirical reality of the four sites, the MasterClass research projects also took on a more ‘outside the box’ approach of inclusion issues. While their idealising, generalising, and prospective nature does inevitably result in a utopian dimension, this is because they follow higher standards of what the concept of inclusion should involve in terms of results and meaning. Demanding that public policies that aim for social inclusion should reflect seriously on what this concept means in various situations and locations is not a fantasy, nor an abstraction. It is rather a practical consideration, which acknowledges the fact that so-called ‘inclusive’ policies demonstrate their actual intentions through their concrete realisations. Thus, the groups in the MasterClass developed ‘practical utopias’ (Albert, 2017), hoping to offer insights on the future of the sites studied.

3. Some concerns about urban democracy

The most overarching conclusions that can be drawn from the studies carried out on the four sites seem related to a general concern for issues of urban democracy. Can a public policy like the ERDF, which points to inclusion as a part of its strategy, contribute to reinforcing urban democracy? Or does it instead contribute to a general trend that is making public policy’ less and less about the public, and less and less about the political? These democratic concerns about the sites in question have resulted in three cross-cutting questions:

3.1. How to provide a framework for the social responsibility of subsidised private actors, for the design and implementation of their projects?

When studying the two private projects, namely Abattoir and Droh!me, the students noticed a number of conditions under which private players could take steps towards inclusion and social responsibility. With strong ties to the Heyvaert neighbourhood and the surrounding area, the private company that owns the Abattoir has become a historical player in the economic and social life of this area of Cureghem. In addition, having received ERDF funds for the previous programming period (2007-2013), the company was able to gradually become aware of the implications of receiving public policy funds: it developed a true social responsibility towards a challenged neighbourhood whose development is being polarised by the economics of the Abattoir site. The difficulties that the Droh!me project is currently experiencing reveal a very different situation: the private company has submitted a tender for a concession, but has no existing relationship with the area in which it will implement the project, and does not appear to have an experience of public projects. The MasterClass groups also noted a certain lack of tact and social awareness in the planned sports and leisure activities, which appear skewed towards a certain cultural and economic demographic (golf, ‘lazy Sundays’, etc.). The project also seems to suffer from a somewhat opaque public governance process, as Environment Brussels—a partner of one of the project's components (La Maison de la Forêt) and one of the authorities that delivered the related permits—has not been able to influence the site's management towards more openness and communication to broader groups than those targeted by the private company.

3.2. What processes of political inclusion should be implemented in public or private projects intended to promote social inclusion?

Each of the sites studied fall under the same paradox, albeit to various extents: while they all promote—whether symbolically or as one of their actual priorities—social inclusion (i.e. openness, accessibility, hospitality, diversity), none involves a model of governance that includes strong political inclusion. Yet it seems clear nowadays that inclusive urban spaces require that the design and implementation processes should also be inclusive and open to a diversity of participants and target groups. This is the issue with the Droh!me project, as the company defends its position as a private and fully independent actor. The public projects studied, on the other hand, have made progress in this area since the MasterClass, and it seems as though the work done by researchers and international students may have played some part in this. For instance, the cultural centre project in the Abbaye de Forest gradually made itself more open to a number of grassroots cultural actors such as the Maison des Jeunes de Forest (Forest youth club), whose contribution to the project was not part of the original plan. The project has also developed, based on suggestions by the researchers at Metrolab, in-depth collaborative cartography workshops, looking into the social and cultural practices of many residents of the neighbourhood and the municipality. In order to promote these initiatives in favour of including an increasing number of players in the project's governance—we can refer to this as ‘political inclusion’—, the work conducted by the groups in the MasterClass (especially on the Abbaye de Forest and Médecins du Monde projects) have resulted in suggestions that should at least be considered: the projects' target groups can be more involved in the process, by creating a ‘project community’ that can emerge through the development of relationships of mutual acknowledgement and trust, with informal meetings and festive events. In order to be successful, appropriate, and inclusive, a project must build on a ‘community’; not a community based on identity (ethnic, cultural, religious, etc.), but a pragmatic community based on joint actions.

3.3. How to prevent debates over large-scale projects from getting mired in strictly local considerations?

One piece of criticism that could be directed at the work produced during this MasterClass relates to the scale at which the groups considered the topic of inclusion: they made it a very local issue, involving stakeholders in the immediate surroundings, i.e. the neighbourhood community. However, this scope alone does not seem sufficient to fully grasp potential issues of inclusion with sites and projects whose ambitions go beyond the scale of a small neighbourhood and rather target the entire municipality, the entire city/Region, or even the entire metropolitan area. For these large scale projects, inclusion is a much more complex matter. It is true that the immediate social environment should be included, which is why a project like the Abattoir is building strong relationships with its neighbourhood and why the Abbaye de Forest project is setting up collaborative workshops involving local residents. For both projects, however, the relationship with immediate neighbours, the neighbourhood as a whole, and potential users of the site is a social component whose importance is relative, as care should be taken to also identify more remote target groups who might travel to visit and engage with the site. The questions of inclusion and hospitality should also be studied in relation to these non-local groups, and the social aspects of the project must be considered at various scales. This was a shortcoming of the Droh!me project during the last few months: it got stuck in narrow, hyper-local controversies, with conflicts between the private company in charge of the project and the residents, as well as certain municipal actors. The project could instead have benefited from a larger public debate, from the involvement of a more diverse set of target groups of users throughout Brussels, and from the rallying of a range of potential partners (associations concerned with leisure and sports, universities, etc.) identified on a larger scale. A broader approach of the various actors concerned by the project and a more open governance scheme seem appropriate in a project that intends to open a major, region-wide green area dedicated to leisure and sports.

4. An inclusion policy does not dismantle enclaves, it opens doors

The urban space is characterised by a certain topological structure that defines relationships —of inclusion and exclusion, openness and restriction, connection and disconnection, impenetrability or permeability, fluidity or coarseness, intersection, overlap or emptiness— between its constituent areas. Interventions on this urban topology to the benefit of excluded populations are often overly simple and mechanistic: working towards a democratic and inclusive city involves ‘disenclaving’ the urban territories. We disagree with this view and defend the idea that physical, functional, or symbolic enclosure of urban sites does not go against the principle of inclusion, and can even contribute to the requirements of inclusion. Inclusion refers to opening up the city to the disadvantaged, but opening what exactly? Places provided with interior qualities that can catalyse, receive, welcome, host and protect people, usages, and activities, and that can contain resources, values, and goods. We call them inclusive enclaves. Acknowledging the social potentialities of such places leads to change our conception of what an inclusive urban policy is supposed to be and supposed to do. An inclusive urban policy is not about dismantling enclaves, it is about creating gates. It is about making these interiors accessible, hospitable and safe. The image of a gate, with its opening and closing motions, encourages us to perceive inclusion as a process of regulation that involves multiple operations, guided by principles based on judgements and decisions. These decisions necessarily have a political dimension. Because of its crucial importance for social justice in contemporary cities, this regulating and monitoring work cannot be left to a single entity or operator. Gatekeeping represents a collective responsibility and requires public debate.

5. Epilogue: Abattoir and Abbaye projects as inclusive enclaves

The summary text presents a number of theoretical concepts related to the four sites and projects that were studied as a part of the MasterClass. In their proposals, students refer to the concepts of enclave, gateway and threshold, but these concepts are also used in the actual projects being developed on each site. In order to illustrate this, we have decided to look at two of the projects through the lens of these concepts: the Master plan developed by the Organization for Permanent Modernity for the Abattoirs site, and the project developed by architects A-PRACTICE sprl + :mlzd GmbH for the Abbey of Forest.

Abattoir file Brussels Meat Market Master Plan Client : Abattoir SA Architect / Urban Planner: ORG – Organization for Permanent Modernity 2008-2018

The Master plan developed by ORG includes a significant transformation of the Abattoir site, while also keeping one of the venue's current features, namely its specific interiority. This interiority is characterised by the development of singular architectural typologies (urban warehouses), centred on a large public space in the centre, which can host socio-cultural events alongside market activities. Interiority is also highlighted by the fact that the open space is pedestrian only. As for thresholds, the site is designed as a bridge between the city’s utilitarian functions (in the foreground) and the urban fabric (in the background). Its purpose is to enable the co-presence of both of these urban qualities on the same site. Thresholds are achieved through open spaces: a large plaza in front of the market, and narrower areas between it and the Canal. The illustration also shows a desire to create a link between compact urban forms and the utilitarian areas of the Canal's left bank through spatial continuities. The Master plan involves keeping the food market activities and developing the Abattoir site as a gateway, taking into account the need for people to have access to healthy and affordable food.

Abbaye de Forest file ABY: a new cultural centre for Forest Client : Municipality of Forest Architects: A-PRACTICE sprl + :mlzd GmbH 2017

The architectural project aims to build a connection between this exceptional—but historically closed off—site and its urban environment. The intervention focuses on places around the site that are considered to be thresholds, with three locations around the Abbey chosen as points of contact with the surrounding urban space: two new buildings in front of the Saint-Denis square, a new facade along Chaussée de Bruxelles, and a large area that opens up to the park, where the cultural centre's performance hall, foyer, and restaurant will be located. The central U-shaped courtyard remains intact, in an alignment with the Saint-Denis square and the park.

As for the components that define the Abbey as an enclosed area, they are preserved. The illustration shows the continuity of the green space, emphasising the existing park's role as a haven of greenery in a highly urbanised area: this ensures that the Abbey is somewhat ’removed’ from the bustle of the city. The events planned as a part of the ERDF programme are in line with the contemplative and spiritual dimension of this site dedicated to culture and arts.

The ABY project is an additional infrastructure that makes Forest an attractive residential municipality with strong cultural infrastructures (Wiels, Brass). As such, this project enhances the Abbey's status as a gateway towards cultural and artistic practices.

6. References

  • Albert, M. (2017). Practical Utopias. Strategies for a Desirable Society. Oakland, PM Press.

  • Brunetta, V. (1998).Forteresses et paraboles, in Studio Open Stad Een stad in beweging - Une ville en mouvement - A moving city. Bruxelles, Beursschouwburg / cAD centrum voor Architectuur en Design.

  • Ungers, O.M., Koolhaas, R. (1977). The City in The City — Berlin : A Green Archipelago. Zürich, Lars Müller Publishers.

  • Van Gameren, D., Van den Heuvel, D., Kraaij, A. (2011). The Urban Enclave, Delft, Delft Architecural Studies on Housing.

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