Project Details


The proposed research Re-Building Brussels (1695-2025): the construction sector as an engine for social inclusion and circularity builds upon the ongoing IRP programme (2016-2021) Building Brussels. Brussels City Builders and the Production of Space, 1794-2015 in which research teams Architectural Engineering (AELA), Historical Research into Urban Transformation Processes (HOST) and Cosmopolis – Centre for Urban Research (COSM) joined forces to investigate the viability of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the construction sector in Brussels, an understudied yet essential sector in economic history, and an important one for the foundational economy and the productive city. The first phase of the programme delivered a detailed inventory of the sector from material suppliers over builders to finishers over the past 200 years and yielded important insights on changing networks, infrastructural needs, hotspots, types of workspaces and their integration in urban space. As such, it identified urbanist and planning strategies to safeguard space for production in dense and mixed urban areas today (Degraeve, De Boeck, Van Dyck 2018). In this second programme, we aim to improve our understanding of the long-term dynamics that shaped the relationship between urban construction and its ecological and social impact. This project will therefore examine 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. 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.
Effective start/end date1/07/2130/06/26


  • architecture
  • city builders
  • Brussels Capital Region
  • urban history
  • spatial planning
  • foundational economy
  • construction sector
  • workshops
  • material suppliers


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