/Walk /Lecture /Talk: Brussels Oppositions

/Walk /Lecture /Talk #1 explored the spatial oppositions of two neighborhoods in Brussels that are situated next to each other: the European quarter and the Matonge. Two main causes of the visible spatial differences in these neighborhoods can be defined as the historical and political effects of migration and real estate development.

/Walk /Lecture /Talk #1 was a guest lecture for Master students Fine Arts at AKV | St.Joost as part of their residency at Wolken, Brussels, and organized by That Might Be Right In Theory But Does Not Work In Practice.

 

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/Walk /Lecture /Talk #1 will explore the spatial oppositions of two neighborhoods in Brussels that are situated next to each other: the European quarter and the Matonge. Two main causes of the visible spatial differences in these neighborhoods can be defined as the historical and political effects of migration and real estate development.

 

Date: 19 November 2013
Hour: 2 pm – 6 pm
Location: Roundabout near metro station Schuman, Brussels

/Walk /Lecture /Talk #1 proposes an alternative city tour, combining walking together with lectures, discussions and storytelling.

In the countries of the European Union the consensus is growing that borders must be opened to globalization and more specifically to movement of capital, information and services.1 However, when talking about immigrants and refugees, the national state reappears on the foreground, becoming a sovereign power again that maintains control over its own borders. Despite the precautions towards this ‘threat’, immigrants –often illegal– remain flocking to the so-called global cities.2 The globalization of the economy leads to a growing polarization in occupational and income structures and provides an increasing spatial segregation of immigrant communities within the cities.

Likewise, in medium-sized cities such as Brussels, migration is more and more visible in the urban environment. Migrants, especially from northern and central Africa, cluster together in particular neighborhoods. Unlike the Turkish and Moroccan migrants, who are largely segregated in the former industrial areas of the northern and western part of Brussels, a growing group Congolese settled from the 60s onwards, in the prosperous eastern part of the city, around the Porte de Namur.3 When the Congo became independent from Belgium in 1960, many Congolese realized that, in times of an uncertain future, their country was lacking its own elite class. The area around the Porte de Namur was therefore mainly inhabited by Congolese diplomats and students, people with a wealthier status. The district was soon renamed ‘Matonge’, referring to one of Kinshasa’s most famous entertainment districts, and developed into a place with typical African barbershops, call shops, cosmetics boutiques, shops with distinctive clothing and fabrics, grocery stores and restaurants with exotic African cuisine.

Adjacent to the Matonge is the Leopold district situated, a former aristocratic neighbourhood, constructed at the end of the 19th century. From the end of the 1950s, when the Treaty of Rome established the European Economic Community, this district slowly transformed into the headquarters of the European Union.4 The Berlaymont building, a bold modern architectural realisation for the European Commission, and the European Parliament are perhaps the most striking and well known offices of the European Union. Gradually, under the destructive urge of the real estate companies, the whole Leopold district changed into a formal environment dominated by office buildings –of which a large part is actually not in use– intended for the ever growing administrative lobby servises of the European Union. Today, the friction between the European Quarter and surrounding neighborhoods like the Matonge, increases. Real estate prises and rents are rising and structurally homes are being demolished within the framework of urban renewal projects. The European neighborhood can be seen as the visible idealization of open borders for the movement of capital, information and services in the city. It symbolizes the migration of wealthy citizens, commuters and officials and is diametrically opposed to the migration of refugees or disadvantaged people seeking a better life in Europe.

The central question that arises during /Walk /Lecture /Talk # 1 can be discribed as the extent to which migration is visible in the city (specifically Brussels) and its architecture. Can we discover in the city and its architecture some physical elements that articulate the increasing migration, the different forms it has and the way in which migrants move, maintain and express in their ‘new’ or ‘temporary’ environment?

1 Sassen, Saskia. Globalisering. Over mobiliteit van geld, mensen en informatie. Asterdam: Van Gennep, 1999
2 De Clercq, Dieter. ‘Everyday urban space in the Matonge’. In: OASE, nr. 54, 2001. pp. 75
3 De Clercq, Dieter. ‘Everyday urban space in the Matonge’. In: OASE, nr. 54, 2001. pp. 76
4 Moens, Stefan. Europawijk. <http://toktocknock.com/europawijk-quartier-europeen/>

 

Programm:

2 pm /Talk by Paoletta Holst
On the roundabout near metro station Schuman

Paoletta Holst is a Dutch artist/writer/researcher based in Brussels. She graduated in Fine Arts (BA) at the Academy AKV|st.Joost in Breda (The Netherlands), and Architectural History (BA) at the University of Amsterdam. Currently she studies Art Science (MA), major Architecture and City studies, at the University of Ghent (Belgium). Her research focuses on the city as appearance, with a strong emphasis on its architecture, history, development and every day working.

2:15 pm /Lecture by Haroon Saad
In front of the European Commission (Berlaymont Building)

Haroon Saad, born in Pakistan and raised in England, is the director of Qec-ERAN (Quartiers en crise – European Regeneration Area Network) in Brussels. This foundation supports programs that stimulate social renewal in European suburbs and regenerated areas. The Qec-ERAN undertakes research and evaluates the impact of existing and future regeneration programs. Previously, Saad was the head of social en economical renewal (SEV) in the Bijlmermeer in Amsterdam.

3 pm /Walk through the European quarter

4 pm /Talk by Grègoire de Perlinghi
At Gallery Lumières d’Afrique, Chaussée de Wavre 200

In 2006 Grègoire de Perlinghi established Gallery Lumières d’Afrique in the Matonge neighborhood, an area in Brussels which, since Belgiums colonial past, has a strong connection with sub Saharan Africa. De Perlinghi noticed that in this neighborhood, full of typical African barbershops, cosmetics boutiques, grocery stores and restaurants, an art space was missing. As a commercial gallery, Lumières d’Afrique promotes artistic exchange between Africa and Brussels and enables African artists to exhibit and sell their work in an international context.

5 pm /Walk through the Matonge neighborhood

5:30 pm /Talk by Jeroen Marckelbach
At Kuumba Kaffee, Rue de la Paix 35

Jeroen Marckelbach is founder and general coordinator of Kuumba Kaffee, a Flemish African cultural center in the Matonge neighborhood. After a journalistic and political career he decided to cycle from the Matonge neighborhood in Brussels to the Matonge area in Kinshasa. The encounters with Congolese people encouraged him to strengthen the cultural ties between Belgium and Congo.

 

/Walk /Lecture /Talk #1 was a guest lecture for Master students Fine Arts at AKV | St.Joost as part of their residency at Wolken, Brussels, and organized by That Might Be Right In Theory But Does Not Work In Practice.