Each year, the Brussels Centre for Urban Studies funds several projects led by VUB research groups and researchers. Each of the awarded projects engage with the broad field of urban studies and with concepts linked to (i) inter- and transdisciplinary perspectives on cities and ‘the urban’, (ii) comparative urbanism and (iii) engaged research connecting academia with other actors and networks, such as NGOs, civil society, government administrations and businesses. This edition's winners are:
1 Winter School: CoCreating knowledge for the society of tomorrow
The Region of Brussels is confronted with a lot of complex crises (health, environmental, social, housing, transportation, availability of natural resources…). Tackling these issues requires innovative ways of thinking about our city to develop creative solutions with all actors involved: public institutions, non-profit, researchers, citizens, students, social workers, research funders… Unfortunately, that does not happen enough today, because of explicit and implicit socio-technical barriers between citizens, researchers and policymakers. The Winter School “Cocreating knowledge for the society of tomorrow” held in Brussels from January 3rd to January 8th 2021, will tackle these issues. For a week, we will gather 60 Belgian and international participants already involved in transdisciplinary research who come from diverse backgrounds. Together they will explore the possibilities and the challenges of cooperation in a research context and learn to work together toward a shared narrative of the city. Over the course of the week, the participants will take part in various workshops, training sessions, fields trips and conferences. The participants will be invited to conduct some workshops to share their practices with other stakeholders.
This Winter School will contribute to a greater understanding of the practices developed in Brussels, in Belgium and Internationally in terms of citizen sciences, participatory action research and transdisciplinarity. Its main goal is to train, accompany and encourage the reflexivity of urban actors who really want to engage science in society. The ultimate beneficiaries of the summer school will be Brussels citizens who may engage more in citizen science and benefit from the output of more applied and relevant research projects developed in the frame of the summer school. To apply for the Winter School or ask for more information, please contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org or check the website www.confluences.eu.
Nicola da Schio, Cosmopolis Centre for Urban Research (VUB) [Nicola.Da.Schio@vub.be] • Laure Malchair, Confluences ASBL [email@example.com] • Maëlle Van der Linden, Confluences ASBL [firstname.lastname@example.org]
2 Permanent Brussels: calling on the arts to build common infrastructures
Permanent is a coalition of 150 artists and artworkers currently based in the former Actiris building close to Bourse, VUB/weKONEKT.brussels and Community Land Trust Brussels (CLTB). Together, they aim to develop a mixed-use building in Brussels that combines permanently affordable studios and workspaces for artists and artworkers with permanently affordable and transit housing for people with limited means and/or in precarity, as well as public infrastructure tailored to the needs of the users and initiators of the building and the neighbourhood.
In order to realize this, this project looks into anti-speculative development models from the commons- and cooperative economy that propose alternative, collective forms of ownership. The starting point is to keep the land collectively owned, as proposed by the Community Land Trust model. Through the development of this building the aim is not only to meet the need of artists for affordable workspaces but also to push for more inclusive urban development strategies in Brussels, by developing a tangible mixed-use development model based on collective ownership.
The project will consist of a large campaign in order to build public and political awareness on this topic, a participatory research trajectory bringing together key actors from Brussels and elsewhere, dedicated legal advice on new ownership models, and a series of short public reports synthesizing the key points emerging from the project. More information can be found on www.permanentbrussels.org.
Bas van Heur, Cosmopolis Centre for Urban Research (VUB) [email@example.com] • Lynn Tytgat, weKONEKT.brussels (VUB) and Permanent Brussels [firstname.lastname@example.org] • Rob Ritzen, Level Five – Artistic Ecology and Permanent Brussels [email@example.com] • Els Silvrants-Barclay, Permanent Brussels [firstname.lastname@example.org]
3 Urban Farming: how to irrigate?
On the one hand, the demand for urban agriculture is rising in Brussels Capital Region (BCR). On the other, water resources are getting scarcer and a combination of climate change impacts and socio-demographic factors will expose the water resources of the BCR to even more acute pressure. A rise in the price of tap water - often used for irrigation - is also pending. In this context, although urban agriculture increases water demand, little is done to properly articulate sustainable urban agriculture and integrated water management. Therefore putting at risk the many social and ecological worlds of the BCR depending on well-balanced water bodies and fluxes; e.g. the transition towards more sustainable, short food circuits; the economy of low-income households relying on urban gardening for food supply, etc. In fact, the reality of irrigation itself is still to explore (Sources? Volumes? Storage? Uses?).
To tackle this, our project targets the co-creation of alternative irrigation solutions in an urban living lab context with local actors. Focusing on two urban gardening sites from the Jette district, we will investigate irrigation habits, needs and beliefs of citizen-gardeners together with their knowledge of local water flows. This hydro-social/cultural data will also support the hydrological quantification of the potential of rainwater harvesting and grey water re-use for urban irrigation. At the end a comparative study of social acceptance levels, costs, and logistics for the existing and potential water sources (tap, rain, and grey water) will propose answers to the main question addressed by this study. More information can be found on the project website.
Margaret Chen, Boud Verbeiren, Charlotte Wirion and Kim Tondeur, HYDR Department (VUB) [email@example.com; +32476641670] • Œuvre Royale du Coin de Terre de Jette, Etats Généraux de l’Eau à Bruxelles, Commune de Jette, Bruxelles Environnement
4 Repair Café for Digital Rights
Repair Cafés for Digital Rights will pop up in Brussels to help individuals who experience difficulties in exercising their digital rights, and connect them with volunteers with relevant legal and technical expertise. Did you try to access your personal data and never received a reply, or perhaps just a strange answer? Do you actually wonder what to expect from the exercise of your digital rights? Are you puzzled by some data you managed to receive? The Repair Cafés empower citizens by bringing them together, and their exchanges will contribute to shed new light on data practices in the city, as well as the challenges faced by citizens and urban actors when using their rights.
With four evening events open to the general public, Repair Café for Digital Rights - BXL brings international experts and activists from other locations to Brussels. We will zoom in on pressing issues – such as Wi-Fi surveillance, the impact of ‘digital platforms’ such as Uber on city life, and facial recognition – and develop best practices so Repair Cafés for Digital Rights can take place in other cities in the future.
The project is coordinated by Gloria González Fuster [firstname.lastname@example.org], René Mahieu, [email@example.com] and Joris Van Hoboken [firstname.lastname@example.org] from the Law, Science, Technology & Society (LSTS) Research Group (VUB) in collaboration with Ruben De Smet [email@example.com] from the Department of Electronics & Informatics (ETRO) (VUB). Interested in participating? Tips to share? Please contact us now.
5 Borderland Brussels
The project revolves around the hypothesis that forced migrants who arrived in the EU in the last decade and applied for asylum, encounter multiple administrative, legal, spatial, bureaucratic, economic borders and that such multiplication of borders contributes to the opacity that they hold in the public sphere and social imagery in Europe. We connect such opacity and the precariousness of migrants’ lives to the perceptive sphere of (in)security and fear and the rise of anti-migrant attitudes in European cities. The urban realm is probably the tensest context where the spatial claim can lead to complex negotiations and social frictions. The project addresses ‘urban borderlands’ as an analytical key concept for collaborative research practices at the crossroad of urbanism, anthropology, and criminology. Focussing on their complex socio-spatial configurations, investigating the physical, social, and symbolic aspects they entail, the project aims at investigating one Brussels’ urban borderland through the lenses of the European debate. Scholars and local stakeholders from Italy, Greece, UK, and Belgium will participate in a seminar to set the methodological framework to better grasp the features and dynamics that structure borderlands. A Brussels' borderland will then be selected in collaboration with local partners to co-design a temporary intervention that aims at revealing and unveil migrants' conditions and their spaces, stimulating the public debate.
Fabio Vanin, Cosmopolis Centre for Urban Research (VUB) [firstname.lastname@example.org] • Lucas Melgaço, Crime & Society (VUB) [Lucas.Melgaco@vub.be]• Olivia Casagrande, Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology [email@example.com] • Viola Castellano, Mobility, Diversity and Social Inclusion (University of Bologna), Brazilian Center for Analysis and Planning) [firstname.lastname@example.org] • Simon Lemutricy, Collectif Dallas [email@example.com]