The Brussels Canal Zone is an area that has to cope with major social and economic challenges. Architecture Workroom Brussels supported the Brussels-Capital Region in developing the master plan for the Canal Zone: an overarching vision for the area.

Today, the Brussels-Capital Region faces a number of difficult social, ecological and economic challenges. The area is experiencing substantial population growth and around 70,000 new homes will have to be built over the next ten years. This is accompanied by high unemployment. During these turbulent times the Region is also trying to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by taking a green approach to mobility and urban development. These are precisely the challenges that come to the fore in the Canal Zone, because here the rate of youth unemployment is one of the highest in the whole of Europe; there is a large influx of newcomers and we see a lack of urban cohesion as a result of retreating industry.

Nevertheless, the Canal Zone also offers great potential. Despite high unemployment the Region is the fourth richest region in Europe in terms of gross domestic product. And now that the city centre is shifting further towards the Canal Zone, we are increasingly seeing initiatives emerge to develop parts of the area. However, as the territory of the Canal Zone falls under seven different municipalities, it is proving difficult to achieve an integral approach. Existing spatial planning resources appear to be unsuitable for operating on such a large scale. This creates the need for a new, overarching vision that can keep current developments on the right track.

The Region is tackling this challenge by compiling the Canal Plan, a coherent urban plan for the Canal Zone as a whole. The emphasis of the plan is not on defining a single desirable end design for the Canal Zone's future. Instead a process is being sought with new working methods, studies, and scenarios that will jointly result in a new strategy. The Brussels-Capital Region has invited three multidisciplinary teams to devise strategies for development options for the Canal Zone. Alexandre Chemetoff & Associés was selected to elaborate the plan.

Type: Public intervention

Year: 2011-2012

Commissioning party: Brussels-Capital Region

Competition teams: 
Groupement Alexandre Chemetoff & Associés 
Team consisting of: Alexandre Chemetoff & Associés (authorised party), Idea Consult and Ecorem.
Team consisting of: XDGA - Xaveer de Geyter Architecten (authorised party), Michel Desvignes Landschapsarchitecten, Tritel and Prof. Dr. Eric Corijn.
Kanaal Katalysator 
Team consisting of: De Zwarte Hond (authorised party), Studio UC, Lola, Movares, Michiel Dehaene and Sofie Vermeulen.