The majority of the Brussels-Capital Region’s garden cities were built a century ago. To celebrate the occasion, the month of May will bring a festival of activities, exhibits and guided tours held in those same garden cities. From Berchem-Sainte-Agathe to Woluwe-Saint-Lambert, the aim is to highlight this unique heritage and make it a tourist asset for Brussels. And, at the same time, to improve the identity and social cohesion of these neighborhoods.
Few people are aware of the existence of the garden cities. They have an enormous tourism potential.Rudi Vervoort, Minister-President of the Brussels-Capital Region
Garden cities are remarkable, not only for their green character, but also for their historical, architectural, town planning and sociological significance. All these elements and many more are explored through a wide range of activities this May.The idea of garden cities came from England. The houses in these districts were among the first social housing in Belgium. Collective life, shared spaces, community projects, garden cities were a social model in their own right.
As a laboratory of life, these districts searched for a new balance between the individual and the collective. Nature and open spaces played a key role in the construction of the garden cities. As such, most are located on the outskirts of the city and served as transitions between the rural and urban environments. In many places, such as La Roue in Anderlecht, the houses have a front garden as well as a central park or green.
The 100th anniversary of the Garden Cities festival is a unique event. Numerous unbreakable ties were forged, and a new dynamic has emerged in these neighborhoodsPascal Smet, Secretary of State of the Brussels-Capital Region, Urbanism and Heritage
Le Logis and Floréal garden cities in Watermael-Boitsfort are probably the best-known garden cities, but far from the only ones. In fact, the Brussels-Capital Region has more than 30 garden cities. In total, they represent almost 7,700 dwellings. Most were built in the 1920s, but some were added in later periods. Some, such as the Cité Moderne in Berchem-Sainte-Agathe with its reinforced concrete and cubist style, were particularly innovative for their time.
To bring them up to current comfort and energy efficiency standards, the Brussels Regional Housing Association has already invested tens of millions in their renovation over the past few decades.
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the garden cities, a whole series of activities will take place from 7 to 29 May.
- Guided tours organized during the Iris Festival: on the weekend of 7 May, Brussels celebrates the Iris Festival, with an emphasis on the garden cities this year. Visitors can explore the cities for free with a guide, and there are lots of festive activities.
- Exhibits: the exhibit at CIVA focuses on the history of the Le Logis and Floréal garden cities and the relevance of the garden city model for today’s society. In De Markten community centre, Stadsbiografie Brussel reflects on the garden cities with a photo exhibition and artist collective z.a.t. will provide an artistic intervention. In addition, many exhibits are ongoing in the various garden cities themselves.
- Guided tours: discover the hidden gems of Forest Vert (Forest), Terdelt & Chomé (Schaerbeek), Diongre (Molenbeek-Saint-Jean), Verregat (Laeken), Kapelleveld (Woluwe-Saint-Lambert) and many other garden cities in the region with an experienced guide. Every weekend in May, visitors can get to know Brussels’ garden cities thanks to guided tours that visit several of them by bike or bus.
- Heritage cafés: during informal meeting opportunities, old photos and memories are shared. The photographs have been scanned and preserved by Erfgoedbank Brussel (Brussels Heritage Database).
- Party: in a lot of garden cities, an entire day will be spent celebrating with cosy neighbourhood parties. Terdelt (Schaerbeek) will kick off the event. Next is Heymbosch (Jette) and the Anderlecht garden cities of Moortebeek, Bon Air and La Roue.
- Social needs: In the coming months, initiatives will aim to learn the needs of the people living in the garden cities. Various lectures will also be held, including on affordable housing.
- Education: a separate programme was developed for schools to introduce students to this unique Brussels heritage.