The Urban Development Corporation (SAU) announced in February 2021 that it had decided to extend See U, the temporary occupation programme for Usquare.brussels, until March 2022. The SAU and the See U team then carried out an objective assessment of all projects. The aims were to reorganise the temporary activities on the site and give See U more of a focus on projects encouraging the involvement of local residents in the transition to the conversion of the former Fritz Toussaint barracks in Ixelles.
Gilles Delforge, the director of the SAU, explains: ‘In just a few months, this extension and reorientation have had a positive effect and attracted projects that have greatly increased See U’s impact on the surrounding area.’ Edouard Meier, the head of the Pali / D-Side Group / Troisième Pôle consortium appointed by the SAU to run See U, says: ‘We’ve got initiatives such as the Bike Hub, the “community fridge” Panier de Macha, the hairdresser Vilain and projects run directly by local people’.
Gilles Delforge emphasises: ‘Since its opening in April 2019, See U has been part of this approach of switching from regional influence to a local impact with a seasonal flavour. For example, during the first summer, the site hosted musical collectives from across the region for a number of large events that put Usquare.brussels on the map of key venues in the region; and subsequent summers have seen local projects and initiatives gain momentum, thanks in particular to the Meet U programme devised by the See U team. We’re all delighted by the success of See U, which has earned it a Visit Brussels Award. My warm congratulations to the team on its work. Now that building work is about to start, we’re gradually shifting the spotlight from See U, the temporary occupation initiated by the SAU, to Usquare.brussels, the conversion of the barracks, managed by the SAU.’
Edouard Meier notes: ‘The Meet U programme, which is supporting this transition, is based on two pillars: a neighbourhood collective led by See U and a See U programme aimed at the local public.’
- The objectives of the neighbourhood collective, which has premises on the site and is led by the See U team, are to provide a green setting for relaxation and socialising in a neighbourhood that lacks this amenity; to improve the quality of life of local residents and organisations by offering them a place to share knowledge and experiences, based around the collective’s common values; and to improve the quality of their social environment. The targeted groups are local residents, students at ULB and VUB and people from the surrounding area who wish to benefit from Meet U; this intergenerational approach reaches out to the young, the not so young, their children, members of the Meet U collective and anyone else interested in taking part on a more ad hoc basis. Its concrete achievements are a collective vegetable garden where residents can learn to grow their own fruit and vegetables and contribute to urban autonomy; a meeting space where people can come together and entertainment based on sociable, eco-friendly games can be provided; and various developments that will continue throughout 2022: the creation of a mobile shared kitchen, the creation of a covered outdoor space, and various training courses (zero waste, manufacturing eco-responsible household products) that will be offered by and for the inhabitants of the district who will be able to spread them more widely in turn.
- See U’s programming for the local public has assumed many forms over the year: a weekly organic market accompanied by the artists present on the site; fund-raising for and the hosting of the #feedTheCulture initiative; participatory radio; repair cafés; an exhibition by local artists entitled ‘On the street corner’; the distribution of gifts to neighbours; the organisation of a flea market for neighbours; the regular ‘Quartier en Feest’ gatherings; a Rollers Party; and others.
Initiatives in 2021 include: participatory workshops for the construction of street furniture; ‘knowledge sharing’ workshops for local people; the ‘Tous Fritz’ festival organised by and for the neighbourhood, including two days entirely dedicated to music and art; the creation of the collective vegetable garden; the one-day ‘Salukes Voisins’ festival, which aimed to raise awareness, inspire and inform groups of locals with a view to launching their own neighbourhood initiatives in a sociable, festive and ‘kids friendly’ atmosphere, with project stands and stands staffed by organisations offering support, experience-swapping tables and practical workshops and a sound walk in the Flagey district.