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Pondering on Islands of Brussels on a Brussels Island sounds like an exotic adventure, and it actually is. From 19 till 22 March there are loads of activities planned on urban planning in the former riding-school of the Federal Police. Organisers bru:tecture, the student organisation of our architecture engineers, kind of take the scoop of the first VUB activity in Usquare, the ‘barracks’ where one day will be a university neighbourhood of VUB / ULB. This sounds like an exclusive opportunity, a kind of avant-première. Just make sure to ensure to register in time.



It will be the very first time for the barracks to open its doors to the public, which is a great accomplishment for a students’ union that has just been acknowledged. On the other hand, bru:tecture has existed for quite a while now, but was operating as Pantheon until 2012. bru:tecture’s aim is to go beyond what happens inside the classroom. To experience architecture is pivotal, in Brussels to start with. They go about this primarily by means of smaller one-day excursions, design contests and on-site lectures.


Every year they organise two extensive activities: an architectural trip during the spring holiday, this year to Milan, and a whole week devoted to architecture. They do this in close collaboration with the Department of Architectural Engineering. During this week countless activities take place, organised by the researchers and students together.


This year the overarching theme is ‘Islands of Brussels’. Students will investigate islands in the city during workshops and in addition, interesting public activities will be organised.


What kind of islands can BE found in Brussels?

Islands are not to be interpreted in a literal sense here; the Zenne and other moats have been hiding underground since the 19th century. However, there are many examples to be found of bigger blocks of houses and complexes, some of them walled up. Our own campuses to begin with, in addition to the former barracks of the gendarmerie opposite Etterbeek station, Tour & Taxis, the Brussels Park …


From the point of view of urban development, and in an architectural sense, the integration of such an island within its surroundings is very challenging. This is not only the case for architects; local inhabitants need to be involved in this process as well. For the VUB and ULB, collaborating on the USquare project, i.e. the development of this barracks site into an international university neighbourhood, this research project is indeed an excellent asset. You can read some more background information on this project on VUB-Today.


About the programme

Besides the workshops for students, a lot of activities are accessible for a broader audience:

  • Monday 19 March, 6.45 pm, lecture by the Flemish master builder Leo Van Broeck
  • Monday 19 March, 8 pm, Kick-off dinner, prepared by Pop-Pot Chantier
  • Tuesday 20 March, 7 pm, film: Playtime by Jacques Tati, a must-see hilarious classic
  • Wednesday 21 March, 8 pm, live music
  • Thursday 22 March, 6.45 pm: panel debate with Kristiaan Borret, the Brussels master builder, Eric Corijn, Emeritus Professor of Social and Cultural Geography and Caroline Pauwels, VUB rector, followed by a reception


No previous knowledge of architecture is required to attend either the lecture by Flemish master builder Leo Van Broeck or the panel debate. After all, the involvement of local inhabitants, including students, takes priority. In short, this is the perfect opportunity for taking in the atmosphere of the site for the first time, to discover the possibilities of this hidden architectural gem, simply experience a phenomenal place, and become engaged in the public debate on this topic.


However, since the Federal Police still uses certain parts of the complex and for your safety, advance registration is compulsory:  http://brutecture.be/islands-of-brussels/