Brussels hosted two Human Cities Festival. The first festival was launched in May 2010 under the theme of ‘Celebrating Public Space’. In 2012, the third festival came back in Brussels by questioning the reclaim of public space.
This biannual event showcased raising awareness of public spaces in Brussels through various meetings and events. The festival kicked off in May 6th 2010 with a PECHA KUCHA session. A symposium and scientific workshops welcomed numerous Belgian and international experts, professionals and students in urban planning, architecture, design and sociology, as well as key figures from public service. They shared their experiences, work and thoughts on urban planning, and its general uses, focusing particularly public spaces.
Based on the encouraging results of a first international colloquium in Brussels 2007, Lise Coirier and Chantal Vanoeteren brought their experiences together in order to launch the European cooperation project ‘Human Cities’. Since 2008, the HC network gathers numerous partners such as: Pro Materia (BE), the Faculté d’Architecture La Cambre Horta de l’ULB (BE), the Politecnico in Milan (IT), the Institute for Urban Planning in Ljubljana (SLO) and the Lighthouse in Glasgow (UK) which is replaced since 2010 by the Cité du Design in Saint-Etienne (FR). They work together to highlight and tackle the uses and attitudes of people in urban public space. They question the socio-cultural issues of urban design ranging from public spaces to urban furniture and objects in European cities today.
In Spring 2012, Brussels hosted its second Human Cities festival where scientific and cultural actors will stress bottom-up initiatives set up by citizens, artists and associations that re-shape the forms and appropriation of public space. The results of the third call for entries “Places To Be – Upcycling: Urban Readymades” – which was launched in Milan during the Public Design Festival in April 2011. In parallel a scientific colloquium and workshops gathered many experts who want to share their findings and experiences to promote user-friendly, participatory approaches for many players and users of the city. Those initiatives enriched by a toolkit and a documentary on Public Benches, specially designed by HC partners.
During several days, local and international cultural actors developed initiatives in the public space from art interventions, design installations, urban walks and pedagogical or public art workshops. These human-centred initiatives could be individual or collective, material and immaterial (neighbourhood festivities, services, mobilization, performances, testing of the toolkit, video screenings …).
Video by Ana Ocejo, a freelance Brussels-based camerawoman and video director, trained in journalism and audiovisual production