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HEYSEL BRINGING A NEIGHBORHOOD INTO FOCUS

B atti s te l l a

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Grigsby

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Hammash

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Hofmann

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Keblowski

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Marskamp


HEYSEL

BRUSSELS


We are five students enrolled in the 4Cities Urban Studies Euromaster program. Our names are Josh Grigsby, Marko Marskamp, Mohammed Hammash, Charlotte Hofmann, Marta Battistella, and Wojtek Keblowski. During our first semester, split between Vrije Universiteit Brussel and UniversitĂŠ Libre Bruxelles, we analyzed the Heysel neighborhood of Brussels. Our analysis was followed by proposals, both of which we presented to KCAP at their Rotterdam office on 25 January, 2011. This paper expands on that presentation, and has been prepared especially for KCAP.


WELCOME TO HEYSEL

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ANALYSIS

16

STATISTICAL ANALYSIS

17

SPATIAL ANALYSIS

28

VOICES FROM THE STREET

43

SWOT ANALYSIS

56

THE NEO PROJECT

62

PROPOSALS

67

TOWARD AN IDENTITY

68

ACTIVATE

85

INTEGRATE

90

CIRCULATE

100

FINAL THOUGHTS

111

CONTENTS


“...spreads out before you the Heysel plateau, the royal estates and, in the distance, the whole city.”

WELC OME TO H EYSEL


AREA OF STUDY


Heysel. Site of the World Expositions of 1935 and 1958. The most visited neighborhood in Brussels outside the historic center.

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The Brussels Expo

The Atomium


CitÊ Modèle Residential Area King Baudouin Stadium Sports Fields Oceade Sports Fields

Bruparck Mini Europe


But what is Heysel beyond its icons?

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WELCOME TO HEYSEL > Context Extending north from Avenue Ernest Masoin and the Houba-Brugmann metro station to Chausée Romaine, and east from Avenue du Heymbosch to Avenue Madrid, Heysel marks the NNW boundary of the Ville de Bruxelles, 1000, as well as that of the Brussels political region. It is the former home of the World Expositions of 1935 and 1958, and the current home of the Brussels Expo, the Atomium, Bruparck amusement complex, King Baudouin Stadium, Cité Modèle, Brugmann Hospital, Osseghem Parc, and approximately 13,000 residents. Heysel is a sprawling, complex neighborhood, rife with official and perceived delimitations. It is girded in the north by the RO ring road and the linguistic and political border of Flanders, and in the east by the A12 motorway. Two large contiguous forest parks, the Bois de Dieleghem and the King Baudouin Park, separate Heysel

from the commune of Jette to the west and southwest, though Jette’s legal reach overlaps a morphological boundary. A perceived southern border at the Houba-Brugmann metro station suggests a change in the level of cultural integration as successive generations of immigrant populations move north from the city center; this perceived border is strengthened by the disappearance of the street wall along the east side of the Houba de Strooperlaan where typical rowhouse blocks give way to parkland and King Baudouin Stadium. Internally, as well, Heysel is a fractured neighborhood, a patchwork of pieces culled from different puzzles. The Modernist towers of Cité Modèle rise like sentinels above low-slung rowhouses and suburban Cité Jardin cottages. The Brugmann medical complex, which includes a large

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hospital, medical offices, and a nursing school, segregates residential zones to its north and south. The vast tourist playgrounds and bucolic parks that occupy the former exposition grounds cut off residents of Heysel from the Mutsaard neighborhood to the east. Given its size and complexity, it would be easy to consider Heysel on its own, as an outlying island in an urban sea. And, indeed, it is a distinct neighborhood that must be considered as such. However, Heysel is also a critical economic engine for Brussels 1000. It is an important node for the larger city of Brussels and a host of significant regional events. The Houba de Strooperlaan is an important regional connector and a gateway to Flanders. The Atomium is a national landmark with international renown. Heysel is at once an island unto itself and inseparable from larger scales of operation.


MULTI HEYSEL IS...

regional

local municipal city

national

SCALAR international


WELCOME TO HEYSEL > In Brief The modern history of Heysel begins with King Leopold II’s purchase of 200 hectares of land to facilitate a northward expansion of urbanization. When Brussels decided to commemorate the centenary of Belgian independence—and the country’s post WWI prosperity—with the Brussels International Exhibition of 1935, the still-undeveloped Heysel plains proved to be the perfect site.

The current Brussels Expo comprises five buildings from the 1935 exhibition and seven additional halls constructed between 1958 and 1998. Each year it hosts 60 exhibitions and 90 events. Randstad, Apple, Acerta, and numerous other corporations rent office space in the business park adjacent to the Expo, and Trade Mart Brussels has established a permanent home for the local fashion industry.

The World Exhibition of 1958 saw the addition of the Atomium, initially designed to be as temporary as the rest of the exhibition but now considered, after an extensive renovation and with only a hint of Belgium’s trademark self-deprecation, to be the Eiffel Tower of Brussels. The area has become a major tourist attraction, and now includes a host of tourist destinations such as Mini-Europe, a planetarium, a water park, a multiplex cinema, and a Disney-style recreation of a traditional Belgian village.

King Baudouin Stadium—first called Jubilee Stadium, later Heysel Stadium, and finally given its current moniker in 1995, a decade after a masonry wall failed during the European Cup final, killing 39 people and injuring more than 600—seats in excess of 50,000 and welcomes football and other sporting events as well as major music and entertainment acts throughout the year. The neighborhood is now home to the Union Royale Belge des Sociétiés de

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Football-Association, the Fédération Belge de Rugby, and the Belgisch Olympisch en Interfederal Comite, among others, with facilities for dressage, track & field, archery, tennis, football, and more. Southwest of the athletic fields is the 854 bed Brugmann Hospital, designed by famed architect Victor Horta and the anchor institution of a growing medical complex. “It is also a teaching hospital for medical students, for postgraduates training in most medical specialties, for nurses (with a nursing school), psychologists and many other paramedical specialties.” North of the medical complex lie several distinct residential areas. A small Cité Jardin development with English cottages; post WWII rowhouse blocks; a smattering of large, detached single-family houses; and finally Cité Modèle, which provides social housing for 3000 people in its 18 story towers.


WELCOME TO HEYSEL > Regional Development Plan Brussels’ planning system consists of many scales and disciplines. The Regional Development Plan and the Regional Land Use Plan are dedicated to the total area of the Brussels region. The Municipal Development Plans and the Special Land Use Plan find their tasks within the delimitation of the 19 municipalities of the Brussels region.

are of regional significance. The Regional Development also proposes a new city gate at the north of Heysel. In addition, it regards the main street Houba de Strooperlaan as structuring area for reinforced integration. This can be seen in the City Projects map. Furthermore, the Regional Development Plan proposes the improvement of the green spaces on the plateau. Pedestrian and cycling connections and the intermodal nodes for weak road users are also to be improved. Thirdly, the plan is to link the green spaces through green belts and green walks in the area. This can be seen in the ‘Improving Quality of Life’ map.

The Heysel neighborhood is included in Brussels’ Regional Development Plan as a target area. The residential area, however, has not been defined as a zone for increased development of housing and urban renewal. Both the Heysel plateau and Parking C are classified as leverage zones that

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In the Heysel neighborhood the Brussels Regional Land Use Plan classifies three main uses.

1. Zones of collective space

WELCOME TO HEYSEL > Regional Land Use Plan

The zones of collective space and public services are mainly represented by the medical complex the Brugmann Hospital and the Heysel plateau. On the plateau, the areas of the Brussels Expo, the Roi Beaudoin stadium, BruParck, Mini Europe, and the Brussels International Trade Mart are within this category. Certain zones of collective are considered to be of cultural, historical or esthetic importance.

2. Green Zones According to the Regional Land Use Plan, a large proportion of green spaces is present on the plateau. Among these green spaces are the park zones which includes the large Ossegem park. Furthermore, the plateau offers zones for sports and leisure outdoors.

3. Residential areas The other side of the Houba de Strooperlaan consists mainly of areas defined as residential zones. The typology of these residential zones is for the majority housing. A small area is classified as mixed zone.

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WELCOME TO HEYSEL > International Development Plan The Brussels International Development Plan (IDP) aspires to improve the international role of Brussels. This is to be done through the development of activities and structures that serve the international level. The visibility of Brussels on the international scene has been prioritized by Brussels in 10 zones in the Brussels capital region. The IDP sets out some general guidelines that are to be followed in the phase of creating a master plan. For the Heysel these guidelines include a shopping center (60.000 m2), a conference centre (50.000 m2), a concert hall (15.000 seats) and a football stadium meeting FIFA standards.

Typology of Relevant Projects Though the Heysel neighborhood has seen its share of projects throughout the years—from the exposition grounds on the plateau to the modernist Cite Modele social housing towers, the Cite Jardin residential developments, and the King Baudouin Stadium—few plans currently on the boards anticipate impacting the area. Cite Modele is expanding modestly, while transportation visions involving STIB and the RER remain at the conceptual stage. Perhaps the reason so few relevant projects exist is that a single large project, NEO, is now underway.

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ANALYSIS

STATISTICAL ANALYSIS

SPATIAL ANALYSIS

VOICES FROM THE STREET

SWOT ANALYSIS


STATISTICAL ANALYSIS


SWOT ANALYSIS VOICES FROM THE STREET SPATIAL ANALYSIS STATISTICAL ANALYSIS

The data has been distributed by the research group Cosmopolis of the Free University of Brussels. All data is from the year 2006, the most recent census. For comparisons the data from Heysel district is compared to the that of the Brussels capital region (BCR). The seven statistical sectors Goddelijke Jezus (E800), Schijfstraat (E81), Modelwijk (E82), Stienolaan (E83), Heizel (E8MJ), Brugmanhospitaal (E8NJ), and Tuinwijk (A13) form the Heysel district.

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us

jez e k lij

00 e E8 odd G

E8MJ Heysel

E82 Modelwijk E81 Schufstraat

A13 Tuinwijk

E83 Stienonlaan

E8NJ Brugmannhospitaal


SWOT ANALYSIS VOICES FROM THE STREET SPATIAL ANALYSIS STATISTICAL ANALYSIS

Neighborhood of Contradictions In absence of a master plan and with an abundance of space, the Heysel district of today reveals itself as the historical urban laboratory of Brussels. The resulting landscape is the blend of a garden city and a model city, of architectural monuments and theoretically oppositional building styles and forms. Heysel knows little coherence and many paradoxes, as will be further explored in the statistics. Heysel is paradoxically old and young, urban and suburban, Belgian and international all at the same time. The task that is taken up next is to evaluate how the contradictions are manifested, how they can coexist and, more importantly, how they can guide future development.

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SWOT ANALYSIS VOICES FROM THE STREET SPATIAL ANALYSIS STATISTICAL ANALYSIS

Heysel is old, Heysel is young The demographics represent a large proportion of elderly people in the Heysel district. The age categories of over 60 and over 80 are overrepresented relative to the Brussels capital region (29.2% and 9,1% respectively for Heysel compared to 19.3% and 4.7% in the BCR). The foreign population of Heysel has a strong representation in the category of young inhabitants. There is a strong representation in the age categories of 20 to 24 years and 25 to 35 years (25.2% and 23.4%) within the foreign population. The ages are unevenly distributed over the neighborhoods as is illustrated by the sector statistics. The Schijfstraat has a significant concentration of people in the age category of 60 plus and 80 plus (38.2% and 17.0%). Goddelijke Jezus and Modelwijk have a large proportion of people in the the age category of 0 to 19 year (29.3% and 28.8%).

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Age Structure 0 to 19 0 to 4 5 to 19

Brussels Capital Region

20 to 24

Heysel

25 to 34 35 to 59 60 up 80 up 0

10

20

30

40

Age Structure by Statistical Sector 40.0%

Goddelijke Jezus Modelwijk Tuinwijk

30.0%

20.0%

10.0%

0%

0 to 19

0 to 4

5 to 19 20 to 24 25 to 34 35 to 59

60 up

80 up

Schijfstraat Stienolaan


SWOT ANALYSIS VOICES FROM THE STREET SPATIAL ANALYSIS STATISTICAL ANALYSIS

Year of Construction 40.0% 30.0% 20.0% 10.0% 0%

1919-1945 1946-1960 1961-1970 1971-1980 1981-1990 1991-1995 1996-2001

Brussels Capital Region

Heysel

Heysel has known a considerable building development in the period from 1946 to 1960 (33.6%) and in the consequent period from 1961 to 1970 (28.4%). This increase in the built environment is significantly higher than in the Brussels capital region for the same periods (20.8% and 16.9% respectively).

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Heysel is urban, Heysel is suburban At 4740 inh./km2, the population density of Heysel is approximately half the 9158 inh./km2 density of the BCR (counting statistical sectors of more than 200 inhabitants). The total population of Heysel is 13.023 (1,28% of total Brussels capital region) and it has a total area of 275 hectares (1.70% of total Brussels capital region). While Heysel as a whole is only sparsely settled, four of its sectors have a higher density than the BCR. Among the most sparsely inhabited sectors are Heizel and the Brugman Hospitaal. The more densely populated sectors are Schijfstraat, Modelwijk, Stienolaan, and Tuinwijk. Three groups of sectors can be differentiated on the basis of their population size, a first group of around 100 inhabitants (Heizel and Brugmanhospitaal), a second of around 1000 (Goddelijke Jezus and Schijfstraat) and a third of 3000 or more (Modelwijk, Stienolaan and Tuinwijk).

Density in Inh./km2 Surface in km2

Goddelijke Schijfstraat Modelwijk Stienolaan Jezus 7.808 10.425 11.983 16.329 0.14

0.11

0.25

0.23

Heizel

Brugman hospitaal 89 577

1.55

0.2

Tuinwijk 14.487 0.26


SWOT ANALYSIS VOICES FROM THE STREET SPATIAL ANALYSIS STATISTICAL ANALYSIS

Heysel is Traditionally Belgian

Heysel is Progressively Foreign

The proportion of people with a Belgian nationality is significantly higher than in the Brussels capital region (87.7% versus 73.1%). In numbers, only 1.587 of the inhabitants of Heysel do not have Belgian nationality. The statistical sectors with a relatively high share of the non-Belgian population in their total population are Schijfstraat, Modelwijk and Stienolaan (12.7%, 11.4% and 14.6% respectively).

In the last two decades, the growth in the foreign population in Heysel has been substantially larger than in the Brussels capital region (2.5% versus -1.7% in the period from 1991 to 2001 and 1.2% versus 0.1% in the period from 2001 to 2006). As mentioned earlier, the foreign population has a strong position within the younger segments of the population.

Share in Age Group 40.0% 30.0% 20.0% 10.0% 0%

0 to 19

0 to 4

5 to 19 20 to 24 25 to 34 35 to 59 60 up

Total Heyzel

Foreign Heyzel

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80 up


Discussion become green spaces as well as parking lots. Potential lies in reintegrating the fragments that have once been part of a larger whole. By improving the linkage between remnant and wasteland or built environment and open space Heysel can be in harmony again for the first time since 1958.

The old and young population concentrated in sectors is the result of the built environment and the facilities present. The Schijfstraat is a cluster of facilities for the elderly, while Goddelijke Jezus and Cité Modèle are clusters of large buildings with dwellings intended for families. The potential lies in bringing different age categories to areas that are not ‘built’ for them.

Extrapolating from the Belgian and international situation, it is anticipated that Heysel will become increasingly populated by foreigners and later generation immigrants. New developments could entice members of the “back to the city” movement.

The dual character of suburban and urban can be explained by the year of construction and the building style. While other suburban areas would be featuring buildings with less than ten dwellings, Heysel has 21% of its buildings consisting of more than 50 dwellings (7.7% in the BCR). The origins of this characteristic are to be found in the major developments of Heysel in the years before the World Expo of 1958.

Extrapolations • Demographics skew young + old • Heysel combines urban + suburban densities

Remnants and wastelands from the the urban experiments of 1958 demonstrate the fractured quality of contemporary Heysel. The remnants are found in the form of large structures dispersed throughout Heysel, while the wastelands have

• Mostly post-war built environment with few additions in past 30 years

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SPATIAL ANALYSIS


Heysel in Pieces The built environment guides us. It tells us how to move, where to meet, where not to linger. It has numerous personalities, and where those personalities are most distinct so, too, is their physical delimitation. Kevin Lynch identified five elements of the built environment that interact in complex ways to imprint in our mind an image of a place. These are paths, edges, districts, nodes, and landmarks. Another of Lynch’s terms—imageability— refers directly to our visual interpretations of a place, but it also implies the subjective “rules of use” that accompany these interpretations. Our spatial analysis begins with a mental map: a rendering, from the collective memory of our group, of Heysel’s defining elements. We continue by extracting each of the five Lynchian elements from Heysel’s built environment and considering them independently.

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SWOT ANALYSIS VOICES FROM THE STREET SPATIAL ANALYSIS STATISTICAL ANALYSIS

“There seems to be a public image of any given city which is the overlap of many individual images. Or perhaps there is a series of public images, each held by some significant number of citizens. Such group images are necessary if an individual is to operate successfully within his environment and to cooperate with his fellows.” —Kevin Lynch

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Our Mental Map of H eysel


STATISTICAL ANALYSIS

SPATIAL ANALYSIS

VOICES FROM THE STREET

SWOT ANALYSIS

Paths In Heysel there are three main north-south paths, the first being Houba de Strooperlaan. During peak hours this street is well used by commuters from Flanders. Much of Heysel’s retail is located here, and it can be seen as the main street in the neighborhood. Boulevard du Centenaire is a broad boulevard leading to the Atomium. Heavily used by tourists, the road also offers access to parks in the east of the neighborhood. The Heymboschlaan is counted here as the third significant northsouth path through Heysel. Like Houba de Strooperlaan, this street is used as a connector with heavy auto traffic during the peak hours. Its adjacent land use is primarily residential, however. The lack of notable east-west paths tells us much about Heysel. Stienonlaan is a minor exception, as it accommodates tram lines with a central median and supports some small-scale retail and services. Predominant movement is between Flanders and Brussels’ central city. Relatively little movement is encouraged between the residential west side of the neighborhood and the vast public areas to the east.

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“Paths are the channels along which the observer customarily, occasionally, or potentially moves. They may be streets, walkways, transit lines, canals, railroads. “People observe the city while moving through it, and along these paths the other environmental elements are arranged and related.”


SWOT ANALYSIS VOICES FROM THE STREET SPATIAL ANALYSIS STATISTICAL ANALYSIS

Edges Heysel is bisected by several hard edges. None are entirely impermeable, but by discouraging crossing they impair connectivity and continuity within the neighborhood. The Ring Road surrounding Heysel, as well as the surface “ring roads” of Avenue Madrid and Chausée Romaine, define visible edges that disconnect Heysel from Flanders to the north and the Mutsaard neighborhood to the east. Another main edge is Houba de Strooperlaan. Though a path between areas to the north and south, the road separates the residential area from the public area. The Brugmann Hospital medical area is partially surrounded by both a wall and the difficult-to-cross tram tracks of Rommelaerelaan. Joseph de Heynlaan and Citroenboomendoorgang isolate Cité Modèle, as does hilly topography and long staircases. In the west, thick green spaces separate Heysel from Jette.

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“Edges are the linear elements not used or considered as paths by the observer... “...Such edges may be barriers, more or less penetrable, which close one region off from another; or they may be seams, lines along which two regions are related and joined together.”


STATISTICAL ANALYSIS

SPATIAL ANALYSIS

VOICES FROM THE STREET

SWOT ANALYSIS

Districts We have identified five districts within Heysel. The Heysel plateau in the east consists of the Atomium and the Expo area, the Roi Baudouin Stadium, Osseghem Park, and other public areas and buildings. It is a public area, an event area. Adjacent to the Heysel plateau is a Cité Jardin residential development. Its single-family houses with backyards and its small cobblestone streets sharply contrast the outsized scale of the plateau. West of Cité Jardin is a social housing complex called Cité Modèle. Developed in 1958 as part of the World Exposition, the district features characteristic modernist highrise buildings and ample green space. We group together several contiguous residential areas under the heading “grid neighborhood.” Though they vary from single-story cottages to six-story rowhouse blocks, they flow into other relatively smoothly; on the ground, edges are more prevalent around them than between them. The last district, in the southwest of Heysel, is dominated by a medical center and a nursing school.

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“Districts are the mediumto-large sections of the city, conceived of as having two-dimensional extent, which the observer mentally enters "inside of," and which are recognizable as having some common, identifying character.”


SWOT ANALYSIS

The main entrance points from Flanders to the City of Brussels are on the border of Heysel. Traffic from Houba de Strooperlaan, from the Ring Road, and from Chausee Romaine converge in the north. A five-way intersection at the Houba Brugmann Metro station is a major node in the south. In the northeast, off Avenue Madrid, Line 3 of the Metro begins at Esplanade.

STATISTICAL ANALYSIS

SPATIAL ANALYSIS

Heysel contains several strategic nodes at its borders, owing to its role as a commuter hub, as well as two key internal nodes that relate more to local intersections.

VOICES FROM THE STREET

Nodes

Near the Roi Baudouin Metro station, Avenue Imperatrice Charlotte, Avenue des Magnolias, and Amandelbomenlaan intersect Houba de Strooperlaan. From this node one can access numerous residential neighborhoods and event facilities, as well as proceed north or south to Flanders or Brussels’ city center, respectively. A lesser node, though still worth mentioning, is the roundabout at the northwest corner of the Brugmann Hospital complex, where five roads converge.

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“Nodes are points, the strategic spots in a city into which an observer can enter, and which are the intensive foci to and from which he is traveling... “...The concept of node is related to the concept of path, since junctions are typically the convergence of paths, events on the journey.”


SWOT ANALYSIS VOICES FROM THE STREET SPATIAL ANALYSIS STATISTICAL ANALYSIS

Landmarks There are two churches in Heysel, which are considered landmarks due to their cultural importance to residents. More visible are the Roi Baudouin Stadium and the Atomium. The former hosts football matches and concerts; the latter receives more than a million tourists annually. The nearby Expo hosts frequent events and draws large crowds from Belgium and beyond. The headquarters of the Royal Belgian Football Association, one of the biggest sport clubs in Belgium, is another landmark. Next door, the police station can also be described as a landmark. Both buildings provide important services and are sought out primarily by locals. The Fountain de Neptune in Palfijn Square, a replica of the original in Bologna, roughly marks the center of Heysel. Sited at the head of a park, it is highly visible from Houba de Strooperlaan. The last landmark in Heysel is the filling station at the corner of Houba de Strooperlaan and Avenue des Magnolias. It’s function and location make it a mini-transportation hub and meeting point.

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“Landmarks are another type of point-reference, but in this case the observer does not enter within them, they are external. They are usually a rather simply defined physical object: building, sign, store, or mountain. Their use involves the singling out of one element from a host of possibilities.”


paths

STATISTICAL ANALYSIS

SPATIAL ANALYSIS

VOICES FROM THE STREET

SWOT ANALYSIS

Key Take Away The predominant movement is between Flanders and Brussels’ central city by commuters rather than local residents. Key Challenge To encourage the east to west movement for residents on a neighborhood scale

edges Key Take Away Hard edges impair the connectivity and continuity within the neighborhood. Key Challenge To soften the edges and encourage their crossing.

districts

Observations

fragmentation due to many edges + distinct districts

nodes + landmarks clustered along Strooperlaan + Heysel Plateau

Strooperlaan and Atomium boulevard form important axes

Key Take Away Districts have strong characteristics in the built environment and function. Key Challenge To harmonize the contrasting environments and balance functions.

nodes Key Take Away Heysel contains several strategic nodes at its borders, owing to its role as a commuter hub. Key Challenge To improve connectivity on a local scale by expanding the current concentrations of nodes on along the Houba de Strooperlaan and on the plateau.

landmarks Key Take Away Significant landmarks are located on the plateau and along the Houba de Strooperlaan. Key Challenge To emphasize and develop the significance of structures on the west of the Houba de Strooperlaan.

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VOICES FROM THE STREET


STATISTICAL ANALYSIS

SPATIAL ANALYSIS

VOICES FROM THE STREET

SWOT ANALYSIS

Overview A full understanding of the issues at play in Heysel would be impossible without speaking to the largest expert panel available—those who actually live there, and thus are confronted with the neighborhood’s strengths and weaknesses daily. We spoke at length with several prominent local voices, including Andre Verloes (the chair of the neighborhood committee ‘t Verregat) and the animator at the maison du quartier. Most of our interviews, however, were impromptu conversations. We stopped in at restaurants and shops and sought the opinions of those working inside. We spoke with park strollers and kids at play, with single mothers and retirees, with residents of Cite Modele and residents of Cite Jardin. Our goal was to understand Heysel a bit better by seeing it through the eyes of daily users, many of whom have lived in Heysel long enough to observe changes in demographics and use. As they are the people who will be most affected by any development on the plateau or in the neighborhood, we believe their input is of great value.

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General Reactions The responses we received from the residents were strikingly uniform, regardless of in which statistical they resided. Heysel is generally praised for being a peaceful neighborhood, a spacious and green neighborhood. The residents seem to have a very strong relationship with Heysel, despite differences in perceived neighborhood delimitation; many of them have lived in Heysel for more than 20 years. Several existing problems were pointed out. Many people told us about the decline of the neighborhood over past few decades. We often heard about insufficient local services, in particular grocery stores and restaurants. The residents repeatedly mentioned parking as a major issue. This seems to result from the large daily influx of commuters from outside of Brussels. Many choose to park in the Cite Modele area, reducing the number of spaces available to locals, and continue their journeys to the center by metro. The problem recurs and intensifies whenever a major event is held on the Heysel Plateau.

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We asked the following questions: How do you define your neighborhood? What do you like about your neighborhood? What do you dislike about your neighborhood? What changes would you like to see in the neighborhood? What is your relationship with the surrounding neighborhoods/areas?


SWOT ANALYSIS VOICES FROM THE STREET SPATIAL ANALYSIS STATISTICAL ANALYSIS

Several people complained about the noise coming from the stadium area. Others, however, considered the proximity of this large sports/ concert arena to be a great advantage. Our interviews made it clear that there is no coherent Heysel identity amongst residents. When asked about the boundaries of the neighborhoods, the residents would either refer to their immediate residential zones—such as Cite Modele and Cite Jardin—or to larger, nebulous areas—Jette, Laeken—the limits of which they found rather difficult to define. Most importantly, the name Heysel was never used to denote the residential neighborhood, but rather the Expo, the Stadium, the Atomium, and the other attractions on the plateau itself. When asked what their relationship was with the surrounding areas within the Heysel study area, the residents simply did not undestand our point. The mental isolation of particular residential zones is clearly visible. Interestingly, despite poor circulation systems between the residential and public area, some residents occasionally use the facilities on the Heysel Plateau, in particular the cinema and the park.

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“It‘s like a small village. We know each other.” “This area used to be a great one...it has changed.” “There is not much to do here. Whenever you want to buy or do something special, you have to take the metro.” “Last week I could listen to U2 right on the balcony of my apartment!” “We feel at home here.”


Animator, Maison du Quartier The Maison du Quartier is centrally located in Cité Modèle and is accommodated on three floors each having their own audience. The ground floor is a cultural centre aimed at a broad audience that extends beyond the Heysel district. The first floor houses a neighborhood center and here language, dance and computer classes are being taught. The participants of these courses are from Cité Modèle and the surrounding neighborhoods. On the third floor is the youth center that organizes tutoring sessions for children mainly living in Cité Modèle. Although Cité Modèle offers one thousand dwellings that house a total of four thousand people, MR Smedt states that the complex radiates the feeling of a small village. He thinks this might be thanks to the green and quiet surroundings. It has the advantages of a small village but also its disadvantages, rumors are spreading fast and arguments escalate quickly. However, the mentality has changed. It used to be a place where neighbors communicate and interact but the progressively international and multicultural character of the complex poses challenges. In recent years, the issues of security, aggression and vandalism are more frequent and living together seems to be more difficult.

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SWOT ANALYSIS VOICES FROM THE STREET SPATIAL ANALYSIS STATISTICAL ANALYSIS

Teenage Boy A Belgian teenager we interviewed in the park at Citè Modele agreed to draw a mental map. While doing so, he told us that he considered the green area at Citè Modele not as part of the social housing complex but as a public park for the whole neighborhood. He said he lives just out of the social housing area (in yellow) because he's Belgian and Citè Modele is for foreigners, mostly Arabic speaking. Belgian people do not live in it, he claimed, they live around it. He views the red area as inhabited by elderly people, and the blue area lived in by middle age people (around 40 years old) and families, because of the bigger size of the flats. He lives in the blue area with his parents, above a pharmacy. He told us that his father grew up there and was witness to the long building of Citè Modele. The boy claimed there are many conflicts and tensions between Belgians and foreigners (i.e. burning cars) and he compared it to the situation in a neighborhood of Paris. Despite these troubles, he told us he enjoys living in Heysel. It is his home.

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Why I like living in Heysel: I have a lot of friends living in the neighborhood. It is good for people who own cars. There are many parking spots. Public transport is efficient. I go from my house to everywhere else. Buses and subway go to the city center and the tram goes to my judo dojo. The neighborhood is close to many sport facilities.


A L o c a l Te e n a ger’s Mental Map of H eysel


The development of Heysel is not about bringing the neighborhood together, its scale is far too large, it is all about tourism, commerce and internationality; our task is then to persuade the actors to arrange some small things that could make life in the neighborhood somewhat easier. AndrĂŠ Verloes, ‘t Verregat Neighborhood


We need a clear landmark – except for the Atomium, which merely constitutes a part of historical heritage, there is nothing that could be understood as an obvious tourist attraction – do not destroy it then, but create something around it, so that people will have a reason to stay here longer. André Verloes


The shopping centre is what we are afraid of the most – it will not be for the locals, there will be the same brands as everywhere else and it will attract even more cars and trucks. AndrÊ Verloes


We suffer from lack of sufficient parking facilities, poor signage on the Ring and poor traffic organisation at avenue Houba de Strooper. AndrĂŠ Verloes


STATISTICAL ANALYSIS

SPATIAL ANALYSIS

VOICES FROM THE STREET

SWOT ANALYSIS

Retired Gentleman We spoke at length with a retired gentleman who had lived in Heysel for more than twenty years. Like most local residents of his age he was Belgian, both in nationality and heritage. He explained to us that the Belgian Dream, first cousin to the American Dream, had taken root in the 1960s and that by the late ‘80s the core demographic in Heysel— married couples with young children—had left for the suburbs. Second and third generation immigrants began to fill the void, but a divide appeared between the older, traditionally Belgian residents and their younger foreign or newly Belgian neighbors. Cultural differences prevented social mixing, and lines of exclusion sharpened. He said that intra-city migration is moving outward from the city center; it has reached Bockstael in full, Stuyvenburgh in part, and is only beginning to assert itself in Heysel. Interestingly, the man blames neither side. He said he understands the difficulty of bridging cultural gaps. He also said he thinks that Muslim women—a growing demographic in Heysel—are key if neighborhly integration is to be achieved. His contention was that transnational marriages and offspring overcome such boundaries in cities, but that Muslim women virtually never marry outside their race/religion. They do not establish individual identities nor mix with heterogenous communities, he said.

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Consensus

More activation is desirable; not enough local shopping + services

Current infrastructure needs improvement, particularly regarding demands of events on plateau

Green spaces are prized

Fear exists that NEO will ignore local needs and concerns

Parking + circulation need improvement; connection to city center is slow and/or indirect

Changing demographics demand attention in order to avoid escalating tension

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SWOT ANALYSIS


Overview Rethinking and restructuring the composition of Heysel’s present values and qualities is key to a coherent expression of the district. The aim is to clear up the paradoxes and contradictions and to allow for coherence that promotes internal identification and external recognition. The Brussels capital region is to benefit from this development with Heysel becoming a more livable and economically sustainable district. Heysel as an important gateway from the northern Flanders region into Brussels. While the Heysel area offers multiple possibilities for the use of public transport and an amplitude of parking opportunity, its main feature is the dividing entrance road to the city with heavy traffic during rush hours. This road divides the private residential area from the public event area and its parks. A broader SWOT analysis is tabled first, and then four themes are singled out as being essential to the planning in Heysel and will be considered in more detail. The themes of commuting, mobility, green belt and identity are to be concentrated on in the light of the location of Heysel, its facilities and the existing issues.

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SWOT ANALYSIS VOICES FROM THE STREET SPATIAL ANALYSIS STATISTICAL ANALYSIS

Strengths mobility

Opportunities

Weaknesses disconnection between functions

Threats

transit hub

separation spaces

8 to 80 infrastructure

aging population

gateway to city

variation in built environment

gentrification

public/private tension

green space

absence of clear identity

potential of parking space

suburbanization

diversity in environment

open parking space

international brand

conflict of identities

international character

lack of retail

social integration

social segregation

architectural experimentation

deficit of local cultural activities

economic center

turning a ghost city

visitors and clients

skewed demographics

connectivity green spaces

commuting strip

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Commuting Heysel is an important gateway to the city for commuters from the northern Flanders region. Traffic during rush hours causes nuisance and separates the private from the public space. Yet other commuters use Heysel as a transit hub by parking in the district and commuting to the center by public transport. In spite of an amplitude of parking, most of the commuters park in the residential area. As a result shortage of parking becomes an issue in the residential areas at the expense of the residents. Althoug parking is in abundance in the public area it is little and irregularly used. Mobility Heysel has an extensive network of public transport whose use could be intensified by making it more attractive. This is not only to be done by making it easier for

commuters to get access to public transport but equally so for residents. The residents of Heysel are diverse in age, easy and safe circulation for all ages should be a priority in the future development of Heysel. Green Belt Heysel is valued for its green spaces in the form of major parks, residential parks and green strips. To utilize this quality to an even greater extent, the up to now relatively isolated green spaces should be connected by a network of paths for pedestrians and cyclists. The linking of green spaces allows for the integration of and connection between different areas with different functions. This integrated expression of the quality of green space could stimulate the construction of the identity of Heysel.

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Identity Diverse demographics, differences in the built environment and functions of spaces are not structured or managed for a coherent expression. Historically, the district has a strong international image through the World Expos of 1935 and 1958. Strategically developing this international character can be of great importance to the economic position of Heysel within Brussels, Belgium and Europe as a larger whole. The challenge is to build the identity in such a manner that it appeals to both the visitors as well as the residents of the Heysel district. In this way, economic development and social integration will be supported by the identity.


SWOT ANALYSIS VOICES FROM THE STREET

Strength

Weakness

Opportunity

Threat

Commuting

gateway to city

open parking spaces

transit hub

commuting strip

Mobility

public transport

commuter strip

8 to 80 infrastructure

ghost city

green space

separation spaces

gentrification, connectivity

suburbanization

international character

absence of clear expression of identity

international brand, social integration

conflict of identities, social segregation

Green Belt Identity

STATISTICAL ANALYSIS

SPATIAL ANALYSIS

Theme

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Opportunity

10

Commuting Mobility Green Belt Identity

9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0 10

9

Strength

8

7

6

5

4

3

2

1

1 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Threat

8 9 10

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

Weakness


“Dès son origine, l’idée d’ériger un plateau au Nord de Bruxelles est basée sur l’ambition de développer l’image internationale de Bruxelles.”

N EO H EYSEL


THE NEO PROJECT > Overview the city of Brussels. By hosting international business congresses and entertainment events, and offering facilities for shopping, culture, leisure and recreation, NEO aims to develop the international potential of the plateau. In turn, the plateau is said to support and enlarge Brussels’ international profile and image.

The project that directly affects the presented planning proposals is NEO. The NEO project is concerned with 67 hectares on the Heysel plateau and sets itself three goals. First, the project aims at redeveloping and regenerating the plateau. With NEO, the city of Brussels wants to take advantage of the Heysel as a strategic zone. The image of an economically dynamic and internationally oriented area is the city’s vision for the plateau.

Guidelines for the regeneration of the plateau have been written down in the NEO Charter by the city of Brussels. The mandates are centered around the themes of ethics and transparency, economic model, sustainable development and efficiency. Regarding the first, NEO wants to do away with the bad reputation of Belgium when large scale urban projects are concerned.

Secondly, the project aspires to be an example of good goverance and sustainable development. Through the emphasis on these concepts, the city highlights integrity, economic discipline, aesthetic and excellence. Third, the city requires from NEO to be, upon completion, a European example of urban policy.

As for the economic model, NEO wants to minimize public funding while maximizing the public benefit. The plateau as public area is to create value both for the community and businesses. Sustainable development is addressed by new technologies, green spaces and mobility.

With NEO, the Heysel plateau is to be reconverted into a multifunctional urban node. The Heysel plateau is to function as an important centrality in

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On a national level, coordination is difficult since competition is the existing paradigm in Belgian planning. The shopping facilities that are programmed for the Heysel plateau are in competition with those planned in Mechelen.

Finally, the Charter states the importance of the planning of the project and the inclusion of all stakeholders. Public and private actors both consider Heysel to be a strategic district in Brussels that can be exploited for economic development and international recognition. The plateau and the Houba de Strooperlaan are seen as important nodes in a regional, national and international network. In short, Heysel is seen as a multiscale centrality with economic potential that should be exploited.

NEO prioritizes private investment over public but emphasizes social well-being along with economic well-being. Various actors have differing agendas: for example, the Brussels Expo and the Trade Mart are interested in the development of the international business climate, while Bruparck and Mini Europe seek to enhance tourism.

Public actors are interested in developing their region. However, coordination is difficult because of the different institutional levels involved and their various perspectives and regulations. Parking C, for example, is property of the city of Brussels but under the jurisdiction of the Flanders region. For the city of Brussels to alter the use of this area, it is required to obtain the permission of the Flanders region.

Residents are concerned with needs on a local scale and the potential impact of development that caters primarily to the higher scales. More retail and services are needed, as is improved local connectivity. Mostly, the residents would like to be able to fulfill daily needs without leaving the neighborhood.

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THE NEO PROJECT > Mandates

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THE NEO PROJECT > Methods • Convention center: 5.000 seats in the main hall, alongside smaller rooms annexed to it

• Sports infrastructure for all with a variant including a 60.000 seat multi-function stadium

• Shopping center: up to 100.000 m2, national-scale shopping facilities, encouraging business tourism

• Concert hall: 15.000 plaatsen (indoor) • Accommodation complex

• Recreational and leisure area: hotel complex and the Atomium, which is the top tourist attraction in Brussels (1 million visitors)

• Administrative areas in harmony with the site.

But Do NEO’s Methods Serve its Mandates? multiple scales, from local to international, and different timelines. Prioritization will be necessary, but which scales will be prioritized? By whom? Will short term economic concerns overrule long term social and ecological ones?

We applaud the mandates set forth by the NEO project, but we question whether the proposed methods will effectively serve them. Can a shopping center and leisure complex exemplify sustainable development? Wi l l i t p o s i t i v e l y i m p a c t t h e s u r r o u n d i n g neighborhoods? If not, how could it be considered a model of urban policy? Heysel is a delicate site on which to work because any development will impact

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PROPOSALS

TOWARD AN IDENTITY

ACTIVATE

INTEGRATE

CIRCULATE


TOWARD AN IDENTITY


TOWARD AN IDENTITY Heysel is a neighborhood in search of an identity. Is it a place to live, a place to visit, or merely a place to drive through? Is Heysel the Atomium? The Expo? The stadium? The residents? Is it urban? Suburban? Traditional? Modern? The answer, of course, is yes. But a list of features and characteristics does not an identity make. We believe that an area with so many notable divisions, so many hard edges, so many disparate pieces, should adopt INCLUSIVENESS as a primary value. Prioritizing inclusiveness, Heysel can: • • • • •

Formalize its identity as an 8-80 neighborhood Strengthen its function as a gateway to Brussels Complement shallow tourism with deep tourism Give social form to Brussels’ position as a European capital Embrace the area’s historic role as an urban laboratory

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TOWARD AN IDENTITY

ACTIVATE

INTEGRATE

CIRCULATE

TOWARD AN IDENTITY > 8-80 City 8 - 80 Cities is a non-profit organization whose goal is to “contribute to the creation of vibrant cities and healthy communities, where residents live happier and enjoy great public places. We promote walking and bicycling as activities, and urban parks, trails, and other public spaces as great places for ALL.

In Heysel, where the young and elderly populations are overrepresented, becoming an 8-80 neighborhood has special significance. At a practical level, it entails improving cycle paths where they do exist and installing them where they don’t to provide a continuous network. Pedestrian paths should be cleared of impediments and maintained to accommodate wheelchairs and those who require canes or other support. Street crossings should be highly visible, free of obstacles, of minimal width, and accompanied by a signal where necessary.

From their website: “These activities and public spaces improve our environment, advance economic development, boost and complement our transportation systems, make better recreation for all, and enhance our personal and public health.”

The psychological effect of these and other measures should be to reposition the most vulnerable as the most prioritized. Drivers and high-speed cyclists should instinctively adjust to the rhythms of pedestrians and low-speed cyclists instead of resenting their presence.

The organization took its name from their “signature line urging leaders to make decisions about our built environment based on what would be good for an 8 year old and an 80 year old which would result in great cities for all.” 8-80 Cities recommends asking the following when assessing mobility throughout a built environment: is it safe enough for an 8 year old? for an 80 year old? This Rule may seem simple but it holds many implications. Interestingly, when you are forced to think of the ability of most cycling and pedestrian infrastructure to safely serve all citizens, they often fail.”

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TOWARD AN IDENTITY > Gateway to Brussels Heysel is an important gateway to Brussels in several respects. Its location in the NNW of Brussels make it a natural point of entry from Flanders. Houba de Strooperlaan provides an auto connection between the ring road and the central city, and no fewer than 15 transit lines of various modalities—metro, tram, bus, train—pass through Heysel. Heysel is also a perceived gateway to Brussels as home to the city’s most visited attraction, the Atomium, and the site of two major international exhibitions. King Baudouin Stadium and the adjacent athletic facilities host events that draw visitors from outside Brussels and even outside Belgium. The Expo and Trade Mart are also significant gateway locations for corporations and industries based outside of Brussels. Oddly, there is no infrastructure (and scarcely any signage) that announces entrances or exits. No structural gateway welcomes people to the city or bids them farewell. The right-of-way network is not intuitive, does not favor key attractions. Entering the Expo or visiting the Atomium or other local destinations —or, for that matter, the central city—is either confusing or unappealing, or both. Also odd, there is no park and ride transit hub to discourage automobile traffic and unite the numerous available transit options.

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TOWARD AN IDENTITY

ACTIVATE

INTEGRATE

CIRCULATE

TOWARD AN IDENTITY > Deep Tourism Norwegian philospher Arne NÌss coined the term Deep Ecology in 1973 to promote a deeper consideration of contemporary ecology, what he considered to be a science without wisdom, and in so doing kicked off a nomenclatural trend. Tourism has increasingly been discussed in similar terms, acknowledging the difference between shallow tourism, which serves short term visitors and does little for residents, and deep tourism, which seeks to create areas of such interest and vibrancy for residents and workers that tourists become an ancillary benefit. Unlike shallow tourism, which tends to lead to Disney-fication and low-wage service economies, deep tourism builds on the qualities inherent in a place. A service economy is joined by other sectors, such as creative, technology, or even manufacturing, and livability is prized. Visitors might still come to see a particular attraction, but they increasingly come to experience the place itself. The divide in Heysel between the primarily residential area west of the Houba de Strooperlaan and the public/event/entertainment area to the east is made more rigid by the latter’s programmatic focus on shallow tourism. The Atomium, the Expo, and the attractions collected in Bruparck tailor their offerings to dayvisitors, with minimal inclusion of or outreach to residents. It is our opinion that whatever development occurs on the Heysel plateau should have a positive impact on the daily lives of the people who live at its doorstep.

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TOWARD AN IDENTITY > A Place of Europeanness Despite the European Union’s decision not to appoint a capital city, Brussels is commonly seen as occupying the post, due mostly to the presence of the official seats of the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, and the European Council, and a second seat of the European Parliament. These institutions comprise the European Quarter of Brussels, but who Europe is, what Europe does, how Europe thinks—these vital explorations have no architectural expression, no physical home. Coincidentally, a historical precedent for such an expression can be found in Heysel. The 1935 and 1958 exhibitions, like all world’s fairs of a bygone era, created a temporary city: a bustling, walkable city in which the culture and achievements of participating nations were on display. The ephemeral urban fabric once erected on the Heysel plateau is gone now. Bruparck’s Mini-Europe, a shallow touristic assortment of European monuments in miniature, is a poor substitute. Development in Heysel should lead to more than another shopping center; it should be a place of Europeanness, however the term is interpreted. It could include services that support a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-generational population. It could become a living laboratory for the future challenges of an increasingly united Europe.

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CIRCULATE INTEGRATE ACTIVATE TOWARD AN IDENTITY

“In the perspective of a multi-lingual, multi-religious, multiethnic Europe, Brussels should become the centre where diversities are not eliminated, but rather exalted and harmonised. “...Brussels should become a centre where all the most important issues about the acceptance of diversity are discussed. Themes like tolerance, fundamentalism, integration, globalisation could become themes for Brussels’ forums. “...the capital of the European Union should become a ‘foyer culturel,’ a centre for the confrontation of diversities. Brussels has a moral and cultural authority for issues that concern every European country.” —Umberto Eco 74


TOWARD AN IDENTITY > An Urban Laboratory An initial site visit to quiet, clean, sleepy Heysel does not present the area as a node of urban innovation. Ironically, the jumble of architectural forms and philosophies, and even the touristic plateau east of Houba de Strooperlaan, are remnants of a local history of experimentation. What else could Cité Modèle and Cité Jardin be called if not experiments? What are world exhibitions if not the physical expression of innovation and experimentation? Expo centers exist so that innovators might convene to share their work. The Atomium, though perhaps lacking the Eiffel Tower’s aesthetic haute couture appeal, is at least equal to its Parisian cousin as a monument to inquiry and ingenuity. Experimentation can be thought of as radical, but it needn’t be. It can also be understood as the predecessor of change. It is dipping one’s toes at the edge of the ocean while contemplating the leap and its consequent change of state from dryness to wetness. We experiment at a micro scale before committing to a course of action with ramifications measured on a macro scale. When viewed in this light, experimentation takes on almost conservative connotations. We make this point to reassure residents that local experimentation need not be drastic. It need not create a state of upheaval. It can be as simple as painting a temporary bike path or hosting public art. Experimentation is essential to the health of cities because change is essential to the health of cities. As the work of the economist Schumpeter, and later the ecologist Holling, elucidates, that which does not change dies.

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So, what does Heysel need?

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ACTIVATION

URBANIZE THE PLATEAU

INTEGRATION

BUILD-OUT THE STROOPERLAAN

CIRCULATION

CREATE MULTI-MODAL 8-80 NETWORK


AC TI VAT I O N

C U RREN T

78


AC T I VATI ON

FUTU R E

79


I N T E G R AT I O N

C U RREN T

80


I N T E G R AT I O N

FUTU R E

81


C I RC U LAT I O N

C U RREN T

82


CIRCULATION

FUTU R E

83


PROPOSALS > Overview In the previous section we stated that Heysel does not have an identity, at least not one that shapes perception and guides development. We recommended that the neighborhood begin from a standpoint of inclusiveness, and we offered five identity objectives that Heysel should seek to realize. But how can such goals be achieved? By what process, what interventions, might Heysel reshape itself without losing its current form? Referring back to our SWOT analysis, and including the identity objectives discussed in the previous section, several possibilities begin to emerge within three action categories: ACTIVATE, INTEGRATE, CIRCULATE. In short, Heysel should develop its strengths in order to eliminate threats while taking advantage of the opportunities lying dormant in its weaknesses. We propose three core interventions: urbanization of the plateau, boulevard build-out of Houba de Strooperlaan, and a comprehensive multi-modal circulation plan to link the residential West, the Plateau, neighboring communes, Flanders, and the city center of Brussels.

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ACTIVATE Eliminate “dead zones� such as surface parking lots. Diversify programming on the Plateau. Provide additional destinations for residents and deep tourists. INTEGRATE Soften edges, particularly between the residential West and the Plateau. Facilitate multi-modal t ra n s p o r t . B r i d ge p e r c e i ve d geographic, cultural, and architectural divides. CIRCULATE Encourage movement throughout Heysel. Improve bicycle and pedestrian routes and crosswalks. Connect green spaces. Enhance mobility from 8-80.


URBANIZE THE PLATEAU AC T I VAT E

MIXED-USE SHOPPING CENTER

UNDERGROUND METRO

HOTEL

CONGRESS CENTER


TOWARD AN IDENTITY

ACTIVATE

INTEGRATE

CIRCULATE

Urbanization of the Heysel Plateau the area for, potentially, hundreds of years. Instead of solely a collection of outlying monuments, the plateau becomes an inhabited space, inviting users to linger.

We began by considering the objectives of NEO and attempting to mitigate their impact on local residents. A large shopping mall, for example, would likely further separate the plateau from its surroundings. However, strategic urbanization of the plateau could accommodate many of NEO’s aims, such as extensive retail, a hotel, and a congress center, while strengthening ties to the adjacent residential area through the similarity of its built environment. Urbanization could frame the green space of the Atomium boulevard, creating an inviting central park, while emphasizing the Atomium and the Expo as defining landmarks.

It should be noted that we are not recommending any particular architectural style. On the contrary, we think an eclectic mix of styles would be entirely appropriate. It is urban form we are recommending, as a counterbalance to the monumental form already in place. By our calculations, piecemeal, walkable urbanization on the plateau could support approximately:

• • • • •

Another key feature of urbanizing the plateau is the increased likelihood of sustainability. While a shopping mall can become obsolete rather quickly, rowhouse blocks, for example, can be repurposed depending on the needs of

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60K m2 retail 60K m2 commercial/services 2000-3000 residents 32,5K m2 congress centre 300+ room hotel


Urbanization of the Heysel Plateau

M

1) Full-Scale Mixed-Use Urbanization

3) Hotel

2) Underground Metro + Tram

4) Congress Center


A New Urban District


A Central Park on the Heysel Plateau


BUILD OUT THE STROOPERLAAN I N T E G R AT E

COMPLETE EASTERN STREET WALL

EXTEND/DEVELOP GREEN MEDIAN

REALIGN TRAM 51


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1

On the east side of Houba de Strooperlaan we propose developing three to five stories of retail and office space. By closing the existing gap in the street wall, this urban infill project can give structure to the proposed boulevard build-out, activate the east side of the Strooperlaan, provide a hub for the neighborhood’s many sporting/ fitness organizations, and serve as a line of transition between residential and attraction areas.

2

A green median on the Houba de Strooperlaan begins at Gallischeoprit near ChausĂŠe Romaine and continues for 300 meters before abruptly stopping. We propose adding a paved bicycle/ pedestrian path and extending the median an additional 900 meters to the intersection at the Houba-Brugmann Metro station.

3

To complete the street, we recommend realigning tram 51. Currently, it emerges from beneath the plateau and terminates at the Heysel metro station. We propose shifting the route to Houba de Strooperlaan to increase the mobility of local residents and support the perception of the boulevard as both a transit axis and place unto itself.

TOWARD AN IDENTITY

ACTIVATE

INTEGRATE

CIRCULATE

Overview

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1 Complete the Eastern Street Wall CURRENT •

East Street Wall Doesn’t Exist

Lack of Framing Makes Street an Edge, Not a Path

No Neighborhood-to-Plateau Transition

PROPOSED •

Frame Street, Allow it to be a Place

Encourage Crossing From Neighborhood to Plateau

Add retail/ offices/residential

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HOUBA DE STROOPERLAAN NORTHEAST STREET WALL

SOUTHEAST STREET WALL


2 Extend the Green Median edge of the street and extending the central median. Single-direction vehicular traffic on either side of the new median would consist of one parking lane, one automobile travel lane, and one shared tram/automobile lane.

The northern end of Houba de Strooperlaan features a 300 meter section of fine green, tree-lined median beginning at Gallischeoprit near Chausée Romaine. We propose adding a paved bicycle/pedestrian path and extending the median an additional 900 meters to the intersection at the Houba-Brugmann Metro station.

To allow reversals of direction, roundabouts are recommended where Houba de Strooperlaan intersects Avenue Impératrice Charlotte and again at the four-way intersection adjacent to the Houba-Brugmann Metro station. Pedestrian crossings would be more frequent. For a model of such development, Brussels needs look no further for precedent than its own intervention along Boulevard du Souverain near Boitsfort.

Though it is outside our area of study, it is worth mentioning that a further 600 meter extension to the Stuyvenbergh Metro station (for a total extension of 1500 meters) would link the Houba de Strooperlaan’s green median with that of Boulevard de Smet de Naeyer. As the street width along Houba de Strooperlaan has only a single change in width, reconfiguring the right-of-way is relatively simple. We propose removing the access lane that runs south along the western

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Remove access lane from southwest section...

...then extend median from north end of street...

...using existing path in Boitsfort as a model.

...through south end of street...


The goal is to make the Strooperlaan not an edge, but a hinge—a place—connecting Heysel’s east and west sides.


C U R R EN T

PROPOSED

5

5

TOWARD AN IDENTITY

ACTIVATE

INTEGRATE

CIRCULATE

3 Realign Tram 51

Reroute tram line 51 from underground and on the plateau...

...to ground level and on the Strooperlaan, better serving residents and enhancing both the real and perceived value of the street.

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Build-Out of Strooperlaan


MULTI-MODAL 8-80 NETWORK C I R C U L AT E

ORGANIZE FIELDS + PATHS

PLATEAU GATEWAYS

LA PETITE VERTE

8-80 COMPLIANCE

TRANSIT HUB


Overview

1

2

3

between existing micro-neighborhoods and insure that everyone living in Heysel has well-maintained green space and recreational opportunities within reach.

More than a dozen sports are currently practiced on the plateau, but the area is confusing and difficult to navigate. We propose creating a network of paths that can be accessed from the Strooperlaan, that connect the various sports facilities, and that lead to improved park paths to the east.

G i v e n H e y s e l ’s d e m o g r a p h i c o v e rrepresentation of old and young, it is an ideal location in which to establish 8-80 compliance. If a neighborhood can safely be traversed by its most vulnerable inhabitants, accessibility is improved for everyone.

Clearer and more inviting access to the plateau can be achieved through several gateway entrances, with at least one visible from every direction. Gateways increase permeability by guiding users and help visually and psychologically define the plateau as a place.

Currently, the 15+ lines of transit, 20+ stops and stations, and vast amounts of parking do little to help the neighborhood. Organizing these flows while allowing for the adaptability necessary for events on the plateau is key to improving circulation at local and regional scales. To this end, we propose a park n’ ride transit hub.

The Promenade Verte is a 60 km network of biking and walking trails circumscribing the city. We propose creating an approx. 5 km offshoot in Heysel. This Petite Verte route unites a local green belt that, if developed, would facilitate interaction

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4

5


TOWARD AN IDENTITY

ACTIVATE

INTEGRATE

CIRCULATE

orga ni ze/connect s por ts ar ea 1 Football. Tennis. Track + Field. Archery. Dressage. It’s all here, but most of it is difficult to locate, difficult to access, and completely disconnected from each other. We propose reorienting the layout of the sports facilities so that a single path with multiple offshoots provides access to all.

develop par k path networ k

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o r ga n i z e / c onnect sp or ts a rea 1 Additionally, we propose that the park paths to the east be improved. Better lighting, wayfinding, path surfaces, and street furniture improve the user experience. From west to east, we see the potential for an urban-to-rural green space transition. Urban parks west of the plateau give way to the green paths of the fitness area and finally the bucolic woods of Osseghem Park.

develop par k path networ k

103


plateau gateways

TOWARD AN IDENTITY

ACTIVATE

INTEGRATE

CIRCULATE

2

Gateways can take many forms and have varying levels of permanence and significance. The point is to reinforce the plateau as a destination while informally

designating certain paths for different users. For example, the arborway at left could be an appropriate model for a nonmotorized entrance to the sports

area and park paths, while a minimalist arch (top left) could signal a point of entry for cars.


GREEN

HEYSEL


TOWARD AN IDENTITY

ACTIVATE

INTEGRATE

CIRCULATE

3

La Petite Verte The Promenade Verte is a 60km network of biking and walking trails circumscribing the city—a sort of non-motorized complement to the ring road. Its path connects numerous parks and green areas and skirts the southern edge of the Heysel study area. We propose creating an approximately 5km offshoot in Heysel, beginning at King Baudouin Park in Jette, connecting the Bois de Dieleghem, Cité Modèle, the extended median on Houba de Strooperlaan, a proposed non-motorized Atomium access path (see Gateways above), and Osseghem Park, before finally rejoining the Promenade Verte at the edge of Parc de Laeken. This Petite Verte route unites a local green belt that, if developed, would facilitate interaction between existing micro-neighborhoods segregated by architectural style, ethnicity, or income. It would insure that everyone living in Heysel has well-maintained green space and recreational opportunities within reach. It would send a clear message to residents that, in the midst of extensive development of the Heysel plateau, they are not relegated to an afterthought. The route would, of course, welcome visitors, but it would be designed according to the needs of residents.

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P ro po s e d Petite Ver te Offshoot of E x i st i n g Promenade Ver te


TOWARD AN IDENTITY

ACTIVATE

INTEGRATE

CIRCULATE

4 Is it safe for an 8 year old to move through the neighborhood unassisted? For an 80 year old? By serving the most vulnerable inhabitants, quality of place can be enhanced for all users. 8-80 infrastructure + upkeep can include:

• Bulb-outs, Traffic Calming • Textured Paving at Crosswalks • Signalization • More Crossings at Tram Tracks • Sidewalks Repaired and Cleared of Obstacles • Street Furniture, Bike Racks

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8-80 compliance


5

Transit Hub By removing surface parking from the plateau we free space for urban development. The loss of parking is remedied (and improved) by adding underground parking beneath the Atomium boulevard as well as a full park n’ ride transit hub on parking lot C. The parking garage beneath the Atomium will serve visitors and employees, while the the transit hub serves commuters and event traffic. The transit hub also features an extension of Metro Line 6, which can offer shuttle service during plateau events, as well as additional underground parking. Several steps should be taken to encourage drivers to use the new transit hub. To facilitate park + ride, subway access from parking zones should be expedited and frequency of trains should be increased during rush hours. It should offer quick and intuitive passage across ChausÊe Romaine to the European Exhibition, via both motorized and non-motorized modalities. To this end, we propose: increasing the accessibility of the passarelle from Parking C through the Expo to the plateau; installing Villo stations at all four Heysel Metro stops; additional incentives, such as reduced-cost parking for transit pass holders and permit parking throughout Heysel’s residential areas, should also be considered.

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CIRCULATE

par k n’ ride transit hub

TOWARD AN IDENTITY

ACTIVATE

INTEGRATE

M

CUR R EN T PA R KI N G PARKING AFTER URBANIZATION

M

By removing surface parking from the plateau we free space for urban development. The loss of parking is remedied (and improved) by adding underground parking beneath the Atomium boulevard as well as a full park n’ ride transit hub on parking lot C. The parking garage beneath the Atomium will serve visitors and employees, while the the transit hub serves commuters and event traffic. The transit hub also features an extension of Metro Line 6, which can offer shuttle service during plateau events, as well as additional underground parking.

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FINAL THOUGHTS


FINAL THOUGHTS > Synthesis

ACTIVATION

needs of resid ents

INTEGRATION

CIRCULATION It has been our goal to reconcile the needs of residents with the aims of NEO. Above any specific proposals, we see a need for activation, integration, and circulation. These themes have guided the development of our proposals.

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aims of N EO


FINAL THOUGHTS > Looking Back, Looking Ahead It is amazing to think back to our initial site visit to Heysel in September. The neighborhood seemed incomprehensible. None of the parts fit, and as a group we wondered if a true neighborhood project was even possible. Our analysis brought the area into focus, and our first round of interviews helped us learn who the stakeholders were and, generally, what their goals and concerns were. Through successive rounds of analysis and interviews we now have a solid understanding of Heysel.

can enjoy a more complete neighborhood, the plateau can become a more interesting, dynamic place, and commuters and visitors alike can accomplish their tasks enjoyably and efficiently. Some components of our proposals, such as underground parking and the new park n’ ride transit hub, would be enormously expensive. But much of what is proposed would not be. We sought a compromise between top-down and bottom-up, and believe our proposals suit the needs of the area and the objectives of the various stakeholders.

It is a particularly challenging neighborhood because it operates on multiple scales, from local to city-wide to regional, national, and even international. All must be considered, though not all can be served equally. NEO seems focused on regional, national, and international scales, and the city stands to benefit through tax revenue, but what about local residents? Then again, Heysel is the site of the expo and the Atomium and Brussels’s largest stadium and cannot be considered a purely local neighborhood.

No intervention in Heysel, however, is going to be easy. Collaboration is required across so many levels and jurisdictions: Flanders and the Brussels region, Grimbergen and Brussels 1000, private and public actors, local residents and multi-national c o r p o r a t i o n s , t o n a m e a f e w. R e s p e c t f u l communication and sensitive design + programming will be essential. Phasing, as well, will require delicate planning.

Our proposals attempt to reconcile as many of these conflicts as possible. Through strategic activation, integration, and circulation, we believe that residents

But—what potential! We have enjoyed working on Heysel, and will follow the development of NEO.

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:)

THANK YOU

Profile for Josh Grigsby

Heysel: Bringing a Neighborhood Into Focus  

Urban Analysis paper on the Heysel neighborhood of Brussels, Belgium. Prepared for KCAP, the architecture and planning firm responsible for...

Heysel: Bringing a Neighborhood Into Focus  

Urban Analysis paper on the Heysel neighborhood of Brussels, Belgium. Prepared for KCAP, the architecture and planning firm responsible for...

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