NextCity Seminar Canal Plan Brussels, January 2017

ISOCARP and jointly organised a two day seminar and city trip in the Canal Zone in Brussels, 19 & 20 January 2017.

A delegation of about 15 members of ISOCARP met in Brussels  for the Next City Seminar Brussels. This seminar was the first of a series of working visits in several cities (Seattle, Athens, Antwerp & Ghent) to reflect about the key challenges of urban development, to draw lessons from the observations and find out how to handle energy providing, housing and living conditions, socio-economic development and spatial organization. ISOCARP expresses its gratitude to the Brussels Planning Agency for its hospitality and professional preparation of this Next City Seminar.

The Brussels Planning Agency gained a boost within planners’ community when the Canal Plan Brussels acquired the ISOCARP Award for Excellence 2016. Nevertheless, the Canal Plan Brussels being more a method than a blueprint document, it remains a work in progress of which final objectives evolves within time. Starting from the presentation of the Brussels Canal Plan case and its embedding in an overall area (re)development, the participants reflected on the upcoming urban development and the professional changeover that this entails for the urban planners.

This informal two day event provided first hand information by the award winning Brussels planning officials.
In Durban, the Brussels Capital Region was acknowledged with the ISOCARP Award for Excellence for the planning and the transformation process of the Canal Zone: “The submission is an ambitious and innovative multi-disciplinary planning tool, developed to achieve the urban (re)development of the central districts while tackling the main socio-economic and environmental challenges,” the jury concluded.

The city trip led the participants on foot, by bike and public transport to the various parts and projects in the Brussels Canal Zone. For more information about the Canal Plan Brussels, please visit

The Brussels Planning Agency led the delegation of ISOCARP members through the area in a well prepared and exiting tour. We were set in the occasion to meet and discuss with many representatives of local and regional, governments, property developers and local entrepreneurs in the Municipalities of Molenbeek and Anderlecht. These meetings and discussions were organized on site. This enabled the delegation of ISOCARP to experience the size and scale of the many sub-projects of the Canal Zone, amongst which the redevelopment of the Bellevue Brewery into a hotel and training centre, the Citroen Garage that will be converted into a centre and museum of contemporary art, and the Abattoirs d’Anderlecht as the leading and diverse food market of the city.

Jaap Modder, one of the 15 delegates that explored the Canal Zone on bicycle, described the area as the ‘best kept secret’ of Brussels as it is both an attractive and vibrant part of the city and an excellent example of the transition of the way we plan, design and redevelop our cities. This transition follows the rapid and current changes in our society towards the circular and versatile ‘Next Economy’ and the emerging and smart ‘Next City’ that is livable, inclusive and cherishes bottom-up initiatives. In Brussels we discussed implications for urban planners? Is their role is changing from city planners to facilitators of processes of local developments?

In one of the many interesting exchanges that Brussels Planning Agency arranged in the Next City Seminar Brussels, Kristiaan Borret, the Chief Architect of the Brussels-Capital Region, summarized the strategy for the Brussels Canal Zone into three categories. Firstly, to define clear expectations and regulations for both the continuity of existing businesses and industries in the area, and for the development and attracting new functions and activities. Secondly, to initiate and stimulate multiple small and meaningful interventions. And thirdly to provide and create conditions for experiments and social innovations.

For more information about past and upcoming Next City Seminars, please contact Vice President UPATs Martin Dubbeling (


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