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Emblematic of post-war urban renewal failures, the North Quarter of Brussels bears the scars of 50 years of demolition, expulsion and speculative property development in service to small group of elite property owners. The spectacle of Expo 58’ ushered in a modernising project via ‘The Manhattan Plan’ (actually modelled on Houston, Texas) and in the decades following, thousands of households were cleared and over 55 hectares of vibrant neighbourhood reduced to rubble.
Architects produced the seductive images that captured imaginations and were implicit in selling an idea that would destroy the habitat of thousands for the profit of a small few. The failures of this grand plans are to date, visible for all to see; the office towers of the North Quarter lie empty, yet more are being built.
Working from within the temporarily occupied World Trade Centre, Manhappen Studio was formed as an academic design office engaging in alternative/complementary architectural practices. We tested and established strategies for collective urban intervention, with an aim to bridge the gap between those who hold the power to shape the city, and those who live in it. Through the acts of OBSERVING -- SHOWING -- ENACTING -- ENVISIONING, we sought to understand the North Quarter through its potentials rather than just its failures, and to imagine a different way forward.
article in A Plus Architecture in Belgium about the realities of the North Quarter