Civic engagement for the pedestrian area in central Brussels

Project p-lab uses Brussels’ central pedestrian area as an open-air laboratory where researchers can observe and foster various forms of civic engagement.

Engagement is often presented as a solution to the citizens’ distrust and indifference towards the political process. However, initiatives that promote engagement have been criticised for their inability to leave space for the opinions, initiatives, and interests of the citizens themselves.

Project p-lab attempts to broaden and develop the definition covered by the term ‘engagement’, while contributing to experiments on new forms of urban engagement. The project is carried out by pluridisciplinary association Espèces Urbaines, and uses the pedestrian area in central Brussels as its field of research and action. The association looks into a series of initiatives launched in and around the area, and examines the various ways in which citizens contribute to the city’s public life, often invisibly because they are tightly integrated into daily activities. It also analyses the response of public authorities and how they attempt to promote the citizens’ engagement with the city’s life, by including their initiatives into the flow of ordinary experiences.

Some of the resulting observations then feed into a prototyping process whereby forms of urban engagement are amplified, hacked, reworked, or disseminated. The goal is to experiment the potential of these forms of engagement in situations that are different from those that gave birth to them, including in other engagement initiatives.

End of the project : December 2019
(Call Anticipate-2017, 2-year extension possible)


ULB partners

LoUIsE, Faculty of Architecture (coordinator) - Rafaella Houlstan-Hasaerts & Giulietta Laki 
GRAP, Faculty of Philosophy and social Sciences

Other partners

Intermedia, Luca School of Arts

Created on March 26, 2019