Re-building Brussels (1695-2025)

The construction sector as an engine for social inclusion and circularity

Salvaging materials in Brussels in 1930s (Source: Comité d'études du vieux Bruxelles © Bibliothèque artistique, ArBA)

The interdisciplinary research program Re-Building Brussels (1695-2025): the construction sector as an engine for social inclusion and circularity aims to deliver insights in the long-term dynamics that shaped the relationship between urban construction and its ecological and social impact. The project  examines the ways in which - and the reasons why - material reuse and the labour market have evolved in Brussels since the beginning of modern urban growth in the eighteenth century until today.

A key long-term academic goal is to detect how the local state can install a regime in which foundational sectors can work as vehicles for both a circular transition as well as equitable labour market inclusion. Through an analysis of the Brussels’ construction sector over the past 330 years, we can gain much-needed insight in the political, economic and social processes that shape the required conditions. This research will at the same time tackle contemporary urban challenges of the circular economy and the labour market as a stepping-stone for social mobility, reducing intra-urban inequalities.

The program is funded by Vrije Universiteit Brussel (2021-2026) and builds upon the VUB IRP programme (2016-2021) Building Brussels. Brussels City Builders and the Production of Space, 1794-2015, in which the three VUB research groups Architectural Engineering (AELA), Historical Research into Urban Transformation Processes (HOST) and Cosmopolis – Centre for Urban Research (COSM) teamed up.

Since 2022 the interdisciplinary team of PhD researchers is complete: historian Karoline Da Silva Rodrigues (IRP), urban planner Jasmin Baumgartner (IRP, FWO) and architectural engineers Louise Huba (IRP, Innoviris) and Lara Reyniers (FWO).

Recent events:

2023 November: Research seminar Construction Cultures in the City

2023 May: Lectures & round table @ RESET

2022 March: EXPO @ Sint Goriks Hallen (download digital catalogue)

2022 February: Symposium @ Hageltoren