Places: Solbosch “Jardin des Semeurs” (BE)

In a corner of the Université de Bruxelles’ Solbosch campus lies a vacant site where once one of the original university buildings stood but was demolished some years ago due to maintenance reasons.  The site has remained vacant since and with no plans to build on the site or for it to serve an immediate purpose for the university however it is a useful site for possible long-term projects.  For the moment the site has become a weed garden and of little value for the students or local community.   The university likewise has no funds or interest to develop it.

The site is neither large or prominent however is located on a place with both short-term users (the students) and long-term users/residents (the staff and local community).  What interested us is how to create value for the site that suits both short and long-term residents and will be co-built by both groups on a shoe-string budget.

The Workshop

In late April, OSMOS invited  a range of interested stakeholders from university staff, academics, students (associated with the campus transition movement) and residents to have a hands on discussion and essentially ‘develop’ a plan for what could be done on the site.

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We divided the groups into four topics: research, agriculture, pleasure and ecology.  We gave each a set of ‘playing cards’ containing a photo on one side and then on the other side four questions: the title of the photo, the cost, the importance and effort that would go into developing it.  There were additional empty cards that the participants could fill in if needed.

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Once each group had filled out a short list of cards, we brought all four groups together and laid out the cards.  The group then had a chance to collective decide what cards they had in common and what would be compatible on the site.

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The benefit of this approach was that each team could think firstly within their group about what could go into the site’s masterplan and also consider how much (of their own) effort would go into building it.  By prioritising the elements and allowing each of the groups could work out collectively how to fit elements onto the site and to negotiate how much space and effort to dedicate to each.

The outcome was a plan that we developed combining where possible the elements selected by each group.