< Back to previous page


Social mobility 'in situ' - Developing and designing inclusive dwelling environments in the ‘poor crescent’ of the Brussels Capital Region (BRGEOZ223)

This project addresses the capacity of new forms of housing to accommodate upward social
mobility within the Brussels Capital Region's 'poor crescent'. In particular, it looks at new
modes of conceiving urban housing projects and housing renewal strategies that address the
housing needs of underprivileged residents. These projects should incorporate crucial
prerequisites for upward social mobility such as space for entrepreneurship, services, and
housing-related open spaces that contribute to a livable and inclusive dwelling environment.
As such, the project aims to contribute to a sustainable solution for Brussels' housing crisis. A
strong demographic growth, driven by external immigration, is projected for the Brussels
Capital Region (BCR). Traditionally, the BCR is characterized by a strong socio-spatial
polarization. Recent patterns of residential mobility point to a displacement of socially mobile
residents and a mild gentrification in certain neighborhoods of the 'poor crescent'.
Starting out from this problem statement, this project researches new and innovative modes
to develop inclusive dwelling and living environments under the hypothesis that a model of 'in
situ' upward social mobility is more sustainable than the displacement that the current
patterns of residential and social mobility generate.

In order to reach this goal, this project will:
-­ investigate the impact of the residential mobility of middle and high income households
entering the 'poor crescent' from elsewhere
-­ investigate current projects in the BCR and best practice examples from elsewhere
that are aimed at an 'in situ' upward social and residential mobility of underprivileged
local residents
-­ investigate new housing typologies and their capacities to address new housing
needs, in particular of underprivileged local residents
-­ develop approaches that turn housing development into integrated and functionally
mixed urban projects, including services, room for entrepreneurship and public space
as crucial vectors of social mobility.

The research takes the level of the 'project', as well as its impact on the neighborhood as its
primary object of study. Following the literature on 'le projet urbain' the research investigates
the capacity of well-defined and well-designed spatial projects to have a structuring impact on
the wider urban and/or social environment. Part of the research is to investigate various
scales of spatial intervention, ranging from 'urban acupuncture' over small infill or block
projects to large-scale regeneration or newly constructed projects with hundreds of homes.

This 'project'-based approach implies that the mode of housing production, and the various
actors and stakeholders involved are an integral part of the investigation.
In order to develop scenarios and approaches for future housing development the research
relies on research-by-design techniques. In particular, it will use the capacities of urban
design experimentation to communicate new ideas and approaches to actors and
stakeholders and possibly unite them around shared projects. Design investigations will range
from urban masterplan design to the design of housing typologies.

The most important outcomes of this research project are:
-­ A critical inventory and status quaestionis of collective dwelling environments in the
BCR and their impact on social mobility of precarious groups in the poor crescent
-­ A collection of best practice examples
-­ A set of preconditions for inclusive dwelling environments, validated by research-bydesign
on sites in the BCR's poor crescent
These results can be applied in the BCR's housing, spatial planning and urban development
policies. Through stakeholder involvement and participation, the project also aims at capacity
building among community and non-profit organizations.
Date:1 Mar 2013  →  28 Feb 2015
Disciplines:Mathematical sciences, Civil and building engineering, Pedagogical and educational sciences, Environmental sciences, Earth sciences, Social and economic geography