The Minister-President of the Brussels-Capital Region, Rudi Vervoort, today presented the first 41 temporary occupants of the site of the former Fritz Toussaint barracks in Ixelles, selected by the Urban Planning Corporation (SAU-MSI) as part of See U, the transitional phase of the Usquare.brussels project. (see list below).
They will join the Dutch-language Lutgardis primary school and the ULB-VUB FabLab, whose activities started at the beginning of the school/academic year.
Minister-President Rudi Vervoort commented: ‘Ultimately the site, which is currently enclosed by a perimeter wall, will be open on all four sides and comprehensively converted into public spaces, housing, local facilities, university activities, student accommodation and so on’ (for more information, go to www.usquare.brussels).
He also stressed that ‘The Region wanted to take advantage of the preparatory phase of this conversion, during which extensive work will not be taking place on the site, to run a transitional programme. The concept of the “third place” is a common feature of reflections on regional development these days. It refers to a space where equipment, skills or other assets are freely and voluntarily shared in a way that encourages experimentation and the development of social and sustainable innovation. Such spaces are successfully multiplying worldwide. This way of sharing tends to create a new narrative in an exciting and creative way.’
Triple harmony for seven themes
Rudi Vervoort believes that ‘The idea of this temporary occupation of the former Fritz Toussaint barracks is both to bring the Usquare.brussels site to life and to open it up. Having originally been designed as a space that was closed in on itself, it now needs to open up to the local area, but also to project an image throughout Brussels and indeed more widely, as the universities’ part of the site has international aspirations. To succeed, the project must offer a triple harmony: first, harmony with the surrounding area, as it meets local needs not currently being met (cultural activities, green space, a playground and so on); second, harmony with the universities, with an eye to synergies; and finally, harmony in time, because the transitional phase must reflect the long-term plans, so as to provide a locational identity that persists after the temporary occupation is over.’
The diversity of the projects selected by the SAU-MSI (list attached) meets these objectives, as evidenced by the seven themes chosen for the site: Sustainable, Family, Food, Gallery, Lab, Community, Playground. Divided between different buildings on the site, these themes will bring together various project promoters who will together build a collective project.
A very open selection procedure
To implement this transitional phase, a very open selection procedure was organised by the SAU-MSI, which has been tasked with the operational management of Usquare.brussels by the Region.
Gilles Delforge, the director of the SAU-MSI: ‘The SAU appointed by competitive tender a “dynamic manager”, the Creatis / D-Side Group / Troisième Pôle consortium, which is responsible for the coordination, management and revitalisation of the entire site during the transitional phase. It has already helped us with the selection of the temporary occupants, and will add to the current selection later on as required. The SAU-MSI also issued a call for expressions of interest (CEI) to identify temporary occupants for parts of the site: we received 71 applications, which were analysed by the Usquare.brussels steering committee. Taking into account the criteria of the CEI and the possibilities presented by the buildings in light of the applications, we selected 41 of these. There’s a superb range of sectors, sizes and approaches, which I welcome. And of course this process will continue to evolve.’
These 41 projects will gradually occupy the site in 2019 after the essential preliminary restoration work on the buildings begun by the SAU-MSI last September has been completed and the necessary authorisations obtained.
See U: the transitional occupation of Usquare.brussels
The dynamic manager selected by the SAU-MSI has mobilised a team, led by Jonathan Ectors, which brings together the expertise of three complementary organisations to address all aspects of its mission: Le Troisième Pôle has been supporting local authorities, operators and companies for more than 15 years now in rolling out cultural projects at the interface between general interest, development and creativity; Creatis brings to the consortium its links with the creative sector in Brussels; it currently works with more than 30 businesses operating in the independent cultural sector in the Brussels-Capital Region; D-Side Group is an event management company that will ensure that the project is run with the utmost professionalism.
The Creatis / D-Side Group / Troisième Pôle consortium has proposed the name ‘See U’ for the transitional occupation of Usquare.brussels.
‘This name,’ Gilles Delforge explains, ‘is an invitation to discoveries and encounters. This is what the projects that will bring the site to life will be all about, with the idea in mind of a social and sustainable future. With its capital U, the name also refers to the site’s eventual permanent occupation; See U is thus an invitation to discover and get to know the Usquare project. This concept is reflected in the logo, which represents the transition between See U and Usquare. The hatched part of the "U" symbolises the temporary occupation of the place, the creative and experimental side. The solid part stands for the final project and completion.’
Two universities and a primary school
Since the start of the academic year, the former Fritz Toussaint barracks has already partially emerged from its slumbers, thanks to two activities that relate to the ‘Family’ and ‘Lab’ themes of See U.
One building is temporarily housing the Dutch-language Lutgardis primary school, whose usual premises on Avenue de Béco in Ixelles are currently undergoing works.
And a few weeks ago, the universities moved into some of the premises of the part of Usquare.brussels that will be dedicated to innovation. Yvon Englert, rector of ULB: ‘Our buildings are being used for courses of VUB’s Faculty of Engineering, and the first two years of the bachelor programme at ULB’s School of Engineering and Faculty of Architecture. This temporary occupation will become permanent: ultimately, nearly 600 students will use the premises intermittently in order to work on the prototyping of their projects.’
Jan Danckaert, vice-rector of the VUB: ‘The prototyping work will take place in the ULB-VUB FabLab. This will be a space for creative cross-fertilisation between all kinds of players, since it will be open for use by the city and its inhabitants. It will encourage encounters and exchanges between a wide variety of audiences: students, teachers, researchers from different VUB’s and ULB’s faculties (engineering, architecture, law and science), but also any member of the public who wants to make or repair an object. This is why, from February onwards, the ULB Fablab will be open to the public one day a week.’
The 41 projects selected following the CEI organised by the SAU-MSI
Le début des Haricots & Co
A project in which four actors in urban and traditional agriculture (Le Début des Haricots, Les GASAP, Terre-en-view and Via Campesina) together set up in a shared space a cooperative and participative sales outlet for local organic farming products.
Sustainable urban beekeeping project which aims to meet the area’s honey requirements by setting up a dozen hives on the roofs of the site.
A hothouse of environmental activities which will enrich the site with positive initiatives for urban ecology in the broad sense, organising events and training to improve our living environment.
A participatory citizen research project for the collective design of a social innovation, the main objective of which is to develop a new method of organic matter management using fly larvae.
A project to develop a composting site to make use of the organic matter produced on the site and in the surrounding area; the intention is to become a demonstration site for composting, and a place for experimentation and training.
Un potager dans les casernes (A vegetable garden in the barracks) - Art Madillo asbl
A space for building awareness and creating links which offers activities focused on growing vegetables in a friendly group setting, and encounters to raise awareness of sustainable food and encourage vegetable-growing in the city.
A vertical urban farm dedicated to the production of micro-shoots. Its objective is to produce super foods for local consumption which are available all year round, with a minimal ecological footprint.
The Micro Mobility Center is the first European centre to provide the new micro mobility devices and related information, education and expertise.
Kot to Kot
Kot to Kot is a project focused on collecting objects, furniture and accessories for students and their lodgings. The goal is to set up a second-hand goods outlet.
This project consists of creating a satellite for the Ixelles Public Welfare Centre, which will process unsold food.
CDR Construction runs various activities. It installs passive modular buildings that can be dismantled and relocated and that were developed in innovative projects. It also has a project focusing on integration into society and the world of work. More specifically, CDR Construction organises information sessions on the construction trades and discovery activities for job-seekers and young people who may wish to work in the sector.
Goodmood is an agency of experts in marketing and organising artistic and cultural events. Its aim is to rediscover the soul of this place and express it through art by bringing out its history. It will do this by conserving and renovating the original decor and involving a number of well-known Belgian street artists.
Hors Catégorie is a Brussels non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting cycling in all its forms. It will be setting up three major projects: a place for socialising, a bike workshop and a space dedicated to events and training.
Les Masques Moches
A multidisciplinary artistic workshop set up by the Metteurs en Pièces collective for the production of masks from recycled waste. The aim is to raise participants’ awareness of recycling and lead them to reflect on how they are connected to those around them.
Café-Poussette is a space for parents and children to meet and relax. It is a versatile venue for conferences and workshops on subjects relating to babies and early childhood, birthday parties and play spaces.
An artistic educational project aimed at promoting and disseminating artistic and sporting expression by passing on skills in the field of urban arts, engaging in artwork and organising socio-cultural events and activities.
Musée du Capitalisme (Museum of Capitalism)
A public, bilingual exhibition which plans to tell visitors about different approaches to the capitalist system and recruit enthusiastic students to create new content for a future exhibition.
KultuurKaffee (Barak Lili M) offers long-term studio spaces (12 months) to promising young artists and a rehearsal room for musicians. There will also be a space for future-minded thinkers and doers with entrepreneurial ambitions.
Scénographie / Décors
An artistic workshop for stage sets and scenographic elements aiming to create material for use both in creative projects and on the site itself.
Cabinet de Transformation
Cabinet de Transformation is an artistic project based around second-hand clothing and dressing up. The idea is to rent out costumes for events and create a second-hand outlet that is open to the public, along with workshops on customising your own clothing.
The creation of a ‘Cinéma des Casernes’ to present various forms of content, cinematic (new discoveries, classics, unreleased, documentaries, genre films...) or otherwise (TV series, online videos...).
The Platform Theatre Europe project aims to provide a platform that is accessible to young Europeans in the theatre. The space will be used for programming, creative work and training.
This group brings together several organisations in the fields of culture and creativity (Wolke, Boîte à Clous), international exchanges and volunteering (International Volunteer Service, NVDA, Solidarités Jeunesses Vietnam, NANSEN) and the media (Ladiv Production, Radio Pulse Air). This socio-cultural collective aims to encourage links between the voluntary and artistic worlds and open up Usquare to the international scene.
Brasserie iLLegaaL is a voluntary organisation that finances cultural projects in Brussels using the profits from its beer sales.
Espírito Mundo is a cultural exchange project between Brazil and Europe. The aim is to encourage these exchanges through encounters between artists, creative residencies, exhibitions and events, artist workshops and the sharing of creative experiences.
The Flow is a co-learning space for students. Here, students will be able to consult online resources, find a peaceful spot to study, and share and collaborate in the same spirit as in a co-working space.
TAVU is a four-year-old visual communication agency and artists’ collective interested in local roots, the city’s image, artistic occupation of public spaces and collaborative work on a human scale in Brussels.
Home for Less
Home for Less designs modular and temporary housing units and the common spaces to go with them as housing solutions for marginalised people.
Co-Searching & Cocorico
Samen vers l’Emploi is an initiative that offers job-seekers collective workshops where they can regain motivation, discover their strengths and network with and learn from others in order to be more effective in their search for work.
Culture & Agriculture
Culture & Agriculture is a market project focused on organic and local products with a restaurant area, but also a space for exhibitions and a space for children.
Mamé Noka Coffee Roaster
A solidarity-centred espresso bar which imports Cameroonian coffee and stands up for values such as biodiversity and environmental protection, promoting local communities and fair remuneration for producers.
Brasserie des Casernes
The Brasserie des Casernes project plans to create a microbrewery on the site, along with a tasting area and guided tours to raise awareness of the trade and the product.
Rrubeli is a project that promotes the traditions of Georgian gastronomy. The aim is to create a space for holding creative, culinary and gastronomic workshops, inspired by Georgian flavours and recipes made with products produced on site.
ACT FOR TRANSITION
The project, run by the creators of La Guinguette du Parc de Forest, brings together different types of activities such as a restaurant/bar, a multi-purpose common area, a shared DIY workshop and a workshop for making sound equipment for cultural operators in Brussels.
The KomChéTaMère Collective intends to set up an apartment entirely furnished with furniture created with recycled materials. This showroom space will be open to visitors to eat, read a book or enjoy an exhibition.
OpenStructures is a design method that generates modular products, restores the accessibility and attractiveness of making and recycling, and gets users actively involved.
Matters is a consortium of contributors to social transformation through innovation, sustainability and the circular economy. Their ambition is to launch the first experimentation space for social entrepreneurship. All its contributors have activities that facilitate the emergence of innovations with a positive social, environmental and economic impact.
Workshops held in conjunction with the VUB Fablab for children between 8 and 16 years. The workshops are both for schools and for after school. There will also be a study place with guidance for those who need it during the examination period.
BeMaker is a mobile fablab which goes into schools to meet young people and tell them about and give them training in digital creation technologies.
OpenFab is an ecosystem of passionate makers and entrepreneurs who explore new ways of doing things (social, economic, behaviour design) using digital tools (laser cutters, 3D printers, etc.) in a production and exploration studio for its members, as well as organising workshops, residential courses and conferences.
ShopInGreen is a dynamic Belgian start-up that aims to stimulate the green economy by facilitating transactions made with eco-cheques. It is a well-known reference site for ecological and organic products and services in Belgium.