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La croissance d’une agglomération urbaine. Bruxelles vue à travers ses archives (1828-1915)

Friday, 8 January, 2010 - 18:30
Campus: Brussels Humanities, Sciences & Engineering campus
Faculty: Science and Bio-engineering Sciences
Benedikte Zitouni
phd defence

The doctoral dissertation analyses the growth of Brussels and how, throughout the 19th Century, it was
guided, manipulated or influenced by the Belgian State and its civil servants. The operation was quite
delicate: no urban territorial unit was provided for; the support of local officials was wavering; the
interests of landowners had to be managed; and, last but not least, any unilateral exercise of State power
was doomed to fail. For all planning competences were in the hands of the municipalities who,
consequently, were not subjected to the State’s rule nor, for that matter, to the Government’s planning
suggestions. This peculiar situation triggered a lot of inventiveness on the part of the State. Government
officials and civil servants made use of their bureaucratic or decorous role in the provincial road
department. They actively influenced the correspondence which the road department held with the rural
municipalities surrounding the City of Brussels. Indeed, up until the First World War, up until the
emergence of the modern planning laws, the registration of new streets and neighbourhoods, presented
both by private and public actors, passed through the Governor’s office. The examination of the provincial
archives therefore reveals how the State finally succeeded in reshaping the local considerations on time,
future, unity and assembly. It shows how the civil servants cleverly reinvented four urbanization
instruments - i.e. alignment, projection, road regime and ground leveling - to fit the Belgian capital’s
purposes. In sum, the doctoral dissertation analyses the framing and the shaping of urban growth by the
mere power of procedural and technical inventiveness.