Permanent organizes various public meetings and events to build up and share tools, skills and knowledge on how to develop and organize affordable and solidary urban spaces to work, interact and live, with a specific focus on the role of the artist. These events can consist of a walk, an intervention on the street, a workshop or talk or an online meeting. Together they shape a bottom-up trajectory that accompanies and nourishes the development of our mixed-use infrastructure. During our monthly meetings we take stock of the project and open up for all who want to know more or join in.

9.09–12.09.2021

Building Beyond: Collective Strategies for Just Cities

We are currently witnessing an emergence of collective infrastructures in Europe, based on solidary, cooperative and anti-speculative development models and visions, to produce more fair and affordable work- and living spaces for communities often overlooked. Artists are increasingly part of this conversation, as a new wave of institutional critique calls for different kinds of institution- and space-making in the arts.

This follows decades of entrepreneurial governance with cities primarily catering to the needs and aspirations of middle and upper classes, and with affordable homes, social infrastructures and locally rooted facilities either being pushed out of the city or being put up against each other in their quest for space. From an intersectional perspective, the city threatens to become increasingly homogeneous: in social, cultural, economic as well as in spatial terms.

Artists and the cultural industries more widely are both drivers and victims of these urban development dynamics, playing an instrumental role in projects of temporary use and urban regeneration but also being among the first who have to relocate following a development phase. Countering this, the emergent anti-speculative models and cooperative endeavours are both ideological and pragmatic: they challenge narrow notions of individual ownership but also offer concrete tools to combine needs and means to produce tangible access to essential needs such as affordable homes, community centres, and artists’ studios.

In Building Beyond: Collective Strategies for Just Cities we will take stock of different voices, experiences and practices of sharing and commoning within changing urban settings. Our core concerns are the ownership models, spatial conditions, and grassroot processes of collective infrastructures, focusing in particular on tensions and opportunities that emerge when creating infrastructures for shared and mixed use, and on the role the arts and artists can play.

Working through three designated themes, Beyond Property, Beyond Type and Beyond Participation, we ask ourselves:

  • How to move away from the capitalist concept of individual property towards a collective understanding of ownership (ownership through use, labour, being and belonging)?
  • How to set up and support a sustainable praxis of self-organisation and collaboration in a context of ownership?
  • How to keep co-owned spaces truly ‘open source’?
  • What are the spatial conditions to allow for a building to be shared, but departing from the acknowledgement that being-in-it-together doesn’t necessarily mean we are all the same, or have the same needs?
  • How to design for activities or bodies often overlooked or excluded from mainstream urban development, without pushing people inside existing architectural typologies that come with certain ideological imprints and potential regimes of control?
  • How to organize bottom-up urban development based on equality and solidarity and beyond participation as a token, without being naive about the power mechanisms and hierarchies at play?
  • How to reclaim the symbolic capital of the arts to push for fairer urban development, instead of being made complicit to processes of gentrification?

Bringing together a diverse range of actors from across Europe and beyond, Building Beyond offers a platform for dialogue and conversations, both with each other and with the artist-initiated project of Permanent Brussels that aims to develop a mixed-use infrastructure for housing, artists’ studios, educational spaces and community facilities in Brussels on collectively owned land.

Building Beyond is organized by Permanent Brussels and Brussels Centre for Urban Studies (Vrije Universiteit Brussel), in collaboration with Dept. of the Ongoing/Chair An Fonteyne (Dept. of Architecture, ETH Zurich) and Kaaitheater Brussels.

Permanent is a practice-based research project and collaboration between Level Five/Hactiris, Globe Aroma, VUB/Brussels Centre for Urban Studies, VUB/We.Konekt and Community Land Trust Brussels. They are joined by a collective of Brussels-based architects AHA, Czvek Rigby, and Architect Laura Muyldermans. Permanent is also an Actors for Urban Change and receives the support of BWMSTR Label, Brussels Centre for Urban Studies, Flemish Community and Flemish Community Commission (VGC).