At the three previous editions, Parckdesign mainly developed urban furniture in Brussels’ existing parks. This year, the initiative by nature conservation organisation Leefmilieu Brussel is reinvigorating industrial wastelands and abandoned spaces in the densely populated neighbourhoods of Kuregem and Molenbeek into poetic oases. Architecture Workroom Brussels, a think-and-do tank for innovative urban planning, is coordinating the project.
As well as developing a circuit for the public in the often overlooked canal zone, the people behind Parckdesign want to initiate a trend for sustainable projects in cooperation with local associations. That’s why the central information point is the Curo-Hall in Kuregem, where neighbourhood associations plan activities. The German architect Raumlabor transformed its empty courtyard into a meeting point with a pergola and a platform in the trees.
At the rear of the building, a group of artists, architects and a gardener created shared kitchen gardens to encourage meetings between residents. One of them, Raymonde Urso, is enthusiastic: “Here, I’ve finally found a place to plant my herbs and vegetables, as I don’t have a garden of my own. It’s also a nice place to get to know the other communities.”
A highlight is “Source de Friche”, where you reach a natural spring after a walk along a narrow gangway in a former industrial area. Architecture bureau Ooze and Slovenian artist Marjetica Potrč have turned the area into a swamp. Polluted by oil company Shell in the past, the water is now cleansed and filtered through a plant-driven system. But, however purified, it still does not comply with European drinking water regulations. In the words of the installation: The water is “of drinkable quality exclusively for non-humans”.
Don’t let the fence discourage you: Just find the place where the bars are replaced by elastic cords. These elastic boundaries of the project “Borderline” by artists Stéphanie Buttier and Sophie Larger act as entrance chambers, preparing people to pass from the streets to the secret gardens.
After the adventure in the swamp, take a rest on a bench in the “Open Empty Lot” designed by Spanish artist Lara Almarcegui. She hopes her initiative will open the deserted place to the public. Further on, landscape agencies Studio Basta and Wagon Landscaping have also created a cosy corner, but with an extraordinary view as a bonus. By climbing on tennis umpire chairs in this “Jardin de l’eSKYlier”, you can look above barbed wire to get a unique view of Brussels’ skyline.
At the Garden Bridges of the busy Delacroix staircases, German landscape architects of 100Landschaftsarchitektur invite people to stop in their tracks and discover the origin of the plants in our urban flowerbeds, such as the Indian Strawberry and the Gallant Soldier. An ideal picnic zone is set up in the Driehoeks Park by Cascoland, a network of international artists, architects and designers. Large carts with plants form “mobile gardens”, entrusted to the care of inhabitants and local associations.
A good way to discover the Parckdesign circuit is in the Trash Taxi. During the ride, Brussels residents explain their relationship with public space in filmed interviews. In return, you will be invited to collect waste in baskets on the roof of the car. The taxi starts a tour approximately every hour from 13.00 to 18.00 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday until 14 October. There are also occasional guided tours by bike, organised by Pro Velo, and walking tours by tourism organisation Voir et Dire.