Twenty years ago, Flanders developed the Stadsvernieuwing (‘Urban Renewal’) instrument to give Flemish cities a new lease of life. The urban development programme not only constructs the necessary physical urban infrastructure, but at the same time contributes to social developments that give the city back to the people. The exhibition Stadsvernieuwing is mensenwerk (‘Urban renewal is people's work’) looks back at twenty years of Stadsvernieuwing and the renaissance of the city that the instrument has brought about during that period. It also looks ahead to the next 20 years. Because the foundations of 20 years of Stadsvernieuwing, such as a 'place-based' approach and the call for innovative partnerships, are actually proving essential in light of the social urban transformation that is needed.

The Government of Flanders created the Stadsvernieuwing instrument in response to the urban exodus in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Through this programme, it invests in urban development projects that contribute to the economic, environmental and social added value of cities. The instrument provides an impetus for ambitious spatial projects, through grants and expert guidance. Each year, 35 cities can apply for support for concrete projects or concepts.

The 20th anniversary of Stadsvernieuwing was celebrated with an exhibition, which AWB set up in association with image creators, editors, and scenographers: we created the exhibition using photography by Bas Bogaerts, videography by Bertrand Lafontaine, graphic design by Sara Thewissen, editing by Joeri de Bruyn (Public Space) and scenography by Vormen.

A triptych, consisting of images and objects, zooms in on different perspectives of Stadsvernieuwing: from concrete places and projects to underlying systems and instruments for urban development.

1. Urban scenes
A series of photos by Bas Bogaerts translates intentions on paper regarding urban change into images of the actual living environment. The photos show how investments in the public domain result in vibrant city districts, which visitors help shape, such as green urban oases, local creative spaces and free zones for social organisations.

2. Transformation portraits
Six short films, produced in collaboration with Bertrand Lafontaine, show how urban renewal projects serve as the driving force of social transformation. Portraits of project leaders, political actors and local users provide a look behind the scenes in the transformation of urban places in Flanders.

3. Cornerstones
The cornerstones of Stadsvernieuwing are the instrument's ten fundamental principles. In the exhibition, these are illustrated by specific objects, maps, sketches and models. Stadsvernieuwing is mensenwerk thus reflects on twenty years' work on the cornerstones of the instrument, and demonstrates which of the instrument's fundamental principles are still relevant to future challenges.

The exhibition was first displayed at Lamot, Mechelen, on 28 April 2022, with a subsequent colloquium. The exhibition was created as a travelling atelier - with a specially designed work table at its centre - to provide a setting for debate and working sessions in several Flemish cities on the shared challenges cities have to deal with.

Type: Exhibition

Year: 2022-ongoing

Initiators: Agentschap Binnenlands Bestuur, Team Stedenbeleid

Partners: Joeri De Bruyn (Public Space), Sara Thewissen, Bertrand Lafontaine, Bas Bogaerts, Vormen

Exhibition dates:

28 April 2022, Lamot, Mechelen

30 January - 2 Februari 2023, Herman Teirlinck, Brussel

30 June - 11 July 2023, Kapel Onze-Lieve-Vrouwehospitaal, Oudenaarde

5 October - 19 October 2023, C-Mine, Genk

22 November - 20 December 2023, Oude Stadsbibliotheek, Gent