OSMOS are helping Brussels University Alliance* to reconvert part of Crown Barracks, a 12,000 square meter complex in the South of Brussels that was previously used by the military and then as police headquarters. The Brussels University Alliance brings together the two major universities of the Belgian capital and obtained around 12 million euros from European Structural Funds in order to reconvert two large buildings of the Crown Barracks that will host a variety of functions, including student accommodation, common learning and living areas, commercial space, restaurants, a business incubator, exhibition areas, spaces for urban agriculture and other functions.
The complexity of this program required a way to bring together knowledge on the different functions and their ramifications for the buildings. We decided to address this challenge by NOT focusing on specialised knowledge in each area, but by explicitly engaging experts and stakeholders in a reflection on the INTERACTIONS between four themes that together capture a large portion of the project’s complexity. The four themes include:
1. The landscape – the larger environment around the two buildings.
2. Flows – the technological problems related to the circulation of water, energy, food, waste and people around the site and beyond;
3. Privacy -the specific quality that the private areas dedicated to housing will have to offer.
4. Common space – the quality of the publicly accessible areas such as restaurants, exposition spaces etc.
The four themes will be developed through focus groups, interviews and a synthesis of research that stakeholders from the four themes will be working. It will concludes with four ‘Theme Guidelines’ which is essentially a synthesised hypothesis on each theme. As the project brings together academics and professionals from a diverse range of backgrounds, we will be hosting a half day workshop where the stakeholders can work directly and intensely on their theme.
Ultimately the workshop is an integrated approach. The Theme Guidelines will be used to work on the “edges” between each of the other three themes, to use a term borrowed from Christopher Alexander’s A Pattern Language. Working on the edges provides at least two advantages. First, it forces stakeholders and experts to leave the comfort zones of their respective specialisations and contributes to a better understanding of how a specific element will behave when it is inserted into a larger system. Second, looking at the same interactions from two different perspectives yields “early warning” alerts whenever different specialisations provide conflicting solutions for the same type of interaction. For instance, it is not uncommon that engineers view the interaction between technological infrastructures and commons space differently than the business or residential community. This method is a way to articulate such potential conflicts at a very early stage in the planning process.
Osmos pitching TURAS strategies to stimulate place based economic sustainability
The workshop aims to bring a more “systemic” reading of the project site, less conflictual between the partners and more sustainable in the long run in terms of management and use. Both universities aim to have a stronger link to the long-term development of the site so the outcomes of this step will help to both create a planning method for the stakeholders and also take a broader interest of how two buildings can relate to the whole site.
For more information on how OSMOS has developed from the TURAS project and what it offers in transitional planning see www.osmosnetwork.comKeywords: transitional planning, systems thinking,