WAVE Living Lab Brussels 2021

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Area Brussels Region
Place Municipality of Anderlecht
Country Belgium
Topics Brussels Canal Discovery
Author(s) Please enter your name(s)- optional
Dummy image case study template.jpg


  • Why do you think this case is relevant?

The Canal, or rather the Canals (the Willebroeck Canal and the Charleroi Canal), have had a profound impact on the landscape and spatial structure of Brussels, influencing its urban development and socio-economic context and enriching its industrial architectural heritage. Today, the canal continues to play an important role in the life of the city, fulfilling several functions: from naval transport to the promenade and the relaxation area for citizens. The area is strongly connected to the cultural and industrial heritage but at the same time strongly influenced by the multicultural character and the diversity of minorities.

  • What is your hypothesis considering the landscape challenges?

The changes in the dynamics of the city, both in terms of the industrial functions performed by the canal and of the mass emigrations, raise questions about the efficiency of the use of space and the methods of improving the quality of life in the city of Brussels. Encouraging multiculturalism and interaction, in a landscape with strong industrial influences can generally new urban development strategies

Location and scope

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Water as a natural system

Geomorphology, typologies and dynamics of water areas

  • Describe the water areas of your area in the context of the wider water system

The Charleroi Canal and the Brussels-Scheldt Maritime Canal therefore constitute the connection between Charleroi, Brussels and the Maritime Scheldt. The 102 km of these two interconnected canals cut the Senne hydrographic basin. All along the canals, interactions with the Senne and other rivers are possible (see diagram opposite). These interactions are sometimes reduced at times of high flow, in some places the exchange is permanent. Knowledge of interactions with the Senne is therefore very important. The course of the Canal and the Senne run parallel without significant interactions until Lembeek, the point where the excess water from the Senne flows into the canal via the weir. At Halle, the Senne plunges below the canal via a siphon and continues its course in parallel with the canal until the AA spillway where the second important point of interaction is located. Between Anderlecht and Vilvoorde are several other weirs from the Seine to the canal, but these are of lesser importance. On the section between Anderlecht and Vilvoorde, in the event of high flows, several weirs allow excess water from the sub-basins located on the left bank to be discharged into the canal. Since the commissioning of the Brussels-North wastewater treatment plant, water has been conducted there in the event of normal flows.

Evacuation along the canal is not via the locks but via the various longitudinal flow systems of the locks, controlled by sliding gates. In extreme situations, water can flow over the lock gates. The excess water brought to the canal by the various weirs are returned to the Seine downstream from Brussels via the piston valves in Vilvoorde. Normally, during a flood period, a significant storm flow is not discharged downstream of the Zemst lock. Below Zemst, several secondary water inlets flow into the canal via pumping stations and weirs (the Vliet, the Zielbeek). Further downstream, the canal connects to the Maritime Scheldt via the Wintam lock

  • How does water appear in the landscape of your living lab? What types of water areas are common?

The types of body of water that we meet in our Living lab are therefore artificial and built to meet a river transport objective. Until the 16th century, Brussels was linked to Antwerp by the Senne, which was the city's only navigable waterway, for the transport of goods. But the Senne was made up of many meanders and its water level was inconsistent with the seasons. So to make navigation easier, the canal was dug in the Senne valley.

The Canal therefore had the essential function of being a transport route for the transport of goods and later with the creation of the Charleroi-Brussels Canal (1832), transport linked to the mainly coal industry.

Today the Canal is seen both as a body of water which fulfills this transport function, but it is also considered to provide environmental and leisure services.

The Canal therefore corresponds to a series of bodies of water connected to each other by locks which fulfill the role of lifts to circulate the boats vertically and a complementary role of regulating water flows in particular.

  • Please identify the water bodies' catchment areas, tributaries and floodplains

The tributaries of the Brussels Canal: The Brussels Canal starts at Seneffe (Charleroi-Brussels Canal) crosses the Brussels-Capital region and flows into the Scheldt at Wintam in Flanders. The waters that compose it are the waters coming from the Senne. The Senne and the Canal have several tributaries in the Brussels-Capital Region.

The Geleytsbeek, a tributary on the right bank of the Senne, flows for 3 km through Uccle. Now vaulted from its source in the Fond'Roy Park, the Geleytsbeek reappears occasionally in the open, passing through valuable natural areas. It has just been put back in the open near the Stalle car park in Uccle.

The Vogelzangbeek, a tributary of the Zuunbeek, flows for almost 6 km on the border between Anderlecht and the Flemish Region. Shortly before its confluence with the Senne on the left bank, the Zuunbeek siphons under the canal. The Vogelzangbeek, a completely open water course, flows through typical Pajottenland landscapes.

The Neerpedebeek (Pede or Neerpede), a former tributary on the left bank of the Senne, now flows into the channel downstream of the Anderlecht lock. It takes its source in Lennik and travels about 10 km, crossing Anderlecht. It is arched in its downstream part at the level of the Parc des Etangs. The Pede valley is home to the last agricultural areas of the Region.

The Molenbeek-Pontbeek, a former tributary on the left bank of the Senne, has its source in Dilbeek, along Berchem-Sainte-Agathe, Ganshoren and Jette. It presents its most beautiful assets in the Parc RoiBaudouin

The Maelbeek, a tributary on the right bank of the Senne, has its source at the Abbey of La Cambre, crosses Ixelles, marks the limit between Etterbeek and Brussels and crosses St-Josse. It travels nearly 9 km. This watercourse has been completely vaulted and transformed into a "Maelbeek valley collector". All that remains is a string of ponds and water bodies built over the centuries along its course.

At Scheutbos in Molenbeek flows a smaller Maelbeek, a former tributary on the left bank of the Senne. The Leybeek is a tributary of the Maelbeek which has its source in the Scheutbos.

The Woluwe, a tributary on the right bank of the Senne, has its sources in the Soignes forest at WatermaelBoitsfort. It travels around 15 km through Auderghem, Woluwe-Saint-Pierre and Woluwe-Saint-Lambert before returning to Flanders where it joins the Senne at Machelen. Most of this stream is open to the sky.

  • Which dynamics do these water areas have?
  • Have there been any flood events in the past?

There has already been flooding at the canal in Anderlecht in the past. The flood gate play an essential role in controlling the water level in order to avoid overflows during heavy rains and therefore heavy floods. The valve system allows to control and manage the water flow.

In November, the Senne-Canal system was affected by a very exceptional event. The recurrence period of a few upstream rivers amounted, according to SETHY, to a few hundred years. Following the combined effects of the high flows on the Senne as well as on the Charleroi Canal from Wallonia, it was impossible to evacuate all the volumes of water using the existing infrastructures without generating an increase in the level. of water. Floods were inevitable. The water level of the Senne upstream of the dam at Lembeek reached a never-before-seen value of 35.36 m TAW, and therefore the spillway at Lembeek between the Senne and the Charleroi Canal reached a peak flow of 80 -85 m3 / s.

  • add 2-3 graphical representations to the image gallery, you can add more if you like

Water as a living space

  • Which habitats can be found in and along the water areas of your area?

The canal and its banks offer some of the time astounding biodiversity. Nearby the regular Black-headed Gulls and Herring Gulls, remarkable fowls for the Brussels Region such as the Little Plover, the Crested Lapwing, the Snipe or the White Stork have been watched. In Laeken, the numerous Gray Herons settling in colonies within the Royal Domain moreover visit the canal which borders it. On the buildings of the CERES flour plants, the biggest colony of swallows in Brussels has been set up around 150 nests, Which utilize the sand from the companies to form their nests. Encourage south, in Anderlecht, the Batelage basin makes it conceivable to watch from the towpath numerous species of water winged creatures (Moorhen, Common Scaup, Wagtail, ...) in an environment that remains solid green. Within the evening, one can too see, flying over the conduit, bats which come to nourish on flies, mosquitoes or butterflies. At last, among the fifteen species of angle found within the canal, able to specify the Common Eel, a migratory fish native to the Sargasso Sea.

  • How is the water quality in your water areas?

The tests were administered consistent with the Brussels decree which imposes two micro-biological controls, intestinal enterococci and Escherichia coli , and consistent with the results, the water is of fantastic quality.

  • Which areas are still natural, which are urbanised/artificial?
  • Are the rivers permeable for fish or blocked by artificial elements?(approx 200 signs)

Fishing within the Canal and in certain Brussels lakes is authorized subject to the ownership of a permit allowed by the Brussels-Capital Region. The most popular places on the Canal are located between the Anderlecht lock and Drogenbos (more than 100 meters from the locks), and between the Van Praet and Vilvorde bridges. You can catch roach, carp, pike, tench or even eel.

  • add 1-2 graphical representations to the image gallery, you can add more if you like

Blue and Green Infrastructure

  • What are the major potential elements of a green/blue infrastructure network? Are these likely to change/disappear? Why is that?
  • You find my background material on green infrastructure in our reading list
  • add 1-2 graphical representations to the image gallery, you can add more if you like

Water as a cultural space

Land use and water

  • map the land uses along your water areas: settlements, infrastructure, agriculture, resource extraction, natural areas, energy production...

Water has played a key factor in the development of the city, being used both as a natural resource and for maritime transport. As we can see on the first map, the main occupation of the land in the planning of the city, for political opinions, is industrial. Today, industrial activity operates in other parameters than in the eighteenth century, so that interest in derelict areas is growing.

  • describe in particular the historical evolution of land use pattern, please make use of historical maps

"The valley of the Senne, the river that runs through Brussels from southwest to northeast, is the birthplace of the city.

10th century: Brussels first emerged as a transhipment point for goods ,on an island called the Ile Saint-Géry, the furthest navigable point on the Senne ,in the marshy area around.

13th century: Brussels was established as an important industrial city. The river was the main source of primary energy, driving the numerous mills that were built along its banks. Hydraulic projects were used for flood attenuation, the creation of fish ponds and the irrigation of areas away from the flood zone. It was the main route linking Brussels to the economic hub of Antwerp and to the North Sea, via the Scheldt.

16ty century :Brussels’ initial economic boom was founded on drapery, tapestries, lace and similar goods so between 1551 and 1561, the Willebroeck Canal was bilte to connected Brussels to Antwerp in 30 km (significantly less than the 120 km of the meandering Senne)

18th century: With the development of other industries and urban growth, the need to develop a communication route between Brussels and Charlora becomes eminent for the transport of raw materials - mainly coal. in 1827, construction work began on a canal linking Brussels to Charleroi and the Hainaut mining area. This was opened in 1832. The Willebroeck Canal, meanwhile, was deepened to accommodate vessels of a greater tonnage. This growing of industri accelerated the development of the railway network, which had the effect of dividing up the urban landscape.

In the late 19th century, the rail network reached saturation point. Gradually, the idea gained ground of turning Brussels into a sea port. This was done by building ever more extensive and deeper port facilities to accommodate not just river barges, but seagoing vessels too. To ensure a straight-line connection with the Charleroi Canal, the bed of the Willebroek Canal was moved 60 m to the west, so that the Canals leading north and south now met where the Pont Sainctelette is located today.

The implementation of this idea in the early 20th century transformed the city."

source"Vous avez dit canal?!État des lieux illustré du Territoire du canal à Bruxelles" Urban Development Agency for the Brussels-Capital Region - 2014

more info : https://canal.brussels/en/node/8673/history

  • description evolution, status quo and driving forces, is the land use likely to change? Why is that? (approx 200 signs)

Two key factors in changing the dynamics and character of the canal, felt in the early 1970s, were the development of the peripheral areas of Brussels where the middle and upper classes moved and deindustrialization. As a result of deindustrialization and job losses, the main area of the canal ends up housing people with lower incomes. All these factors leave visible traces in the landscape, allowing the buildings and former warehouses to deteriorate.

Today, the port of Brussel is putting their effort encouraging the fluvial transport by supporting TRANSSHIPMENT and playing his role in the maintain of the canal: “the main aim the support of a modal shift from the road towards the more respectful environment-friendly modes of transport which are waterway and rail."

more info : https://port.brussels/en/port-brussels/about-port/missions

  • add 1-2 graphical representations to the image gallery, you can add more if you like

Cultural and spatial typologies of water areas

  • Which spatial patterns have evolved in relation to your water areas?
  • What is the role of water areas within the overall urban morphology? (approx 200 signs)
  • add 1-2 graphical representations to the image gallery, you can add more if you like

Sacred spaces and heritage

  • Which places/elements hold cultural value and to whom?
  • You may add a map and some images, please also explain in your caption why these elements are valuable

Visual appearance and landscape narrative

  • Which elements are essential for the landscape character?
  • Has the landscape been painted or otherwise depicted, when and whom? Which elements are essential?
  • Which narratives exist? Who has written about this landscape or depicted it in some way?
  • You can add text and images

Water and People

Accessibility and usability

  • Where are your water areas accessible, and where not? How strong are spatial obstacles preventing access?

Our water area is almost accessible all along the canal, but it is forbidden to dunk. There is only one place where it is possible to enter the canal and that is for paddle boarding. All along the canal it is possible to walk along it, provided that you are in soft mobility. Due to the fact that this waterway is canalized when we are in the city we are at 2-2.5 meters above the water level. The further away from the city you are, the closer you get to the water level, only when you are surrounded by fields you are 0.5 meters above the water level. There are very few places where you can't walk along the canal. This is due to the fact that the companies are located along the canal.

  • Who is using the spaces and how?

Along the canal there are paths on which various age groups can enjoy themselves by walking, cycling, rollerblading, or doing sports such as running etc. Some rest areas are located along the canal and face it. These cocooning spaces are usually found under one or more trees slightly set back from the path. When located in the downtown area, the spaces dedicated to pedestrians and cyclists along the canal are often narrow and thin in terms of width. The use is just to get from one point to another, but as you move away from the city center, the paths tend to widen and give way to a more diversified use where people use the space for recreation and enjoyment. Along the canal we find various spaces such as boat docking areas but also spaces for paddle boarding. As for the use of the canal itself, it is still active and often used by boats.

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

Community Mapping

What is to be mapped here?

  • Social groups from within the community, for example the youth, kids, students, parents, the retired etc. Typically, these groups have specific needs, which you can also make explicit on the map. These people might not be organized in any way, but they are usually present in the context you are observing
  • Local stakeholder groups: these groups are organized in one or the other way. They only exist within the community context you are observing. For example: the local community center, local churches, local interest groups, the landowners, small businesses and retailers
  • External stakeholder groups are not necessarily present in the environment you are observing, but they may have strong stakes and interests. These can be local authorities, politicians, associations, care services etc.
  • For each group, you may identify their needs, objectives, power and capacities
  • You may also identify gaps and power conflicts
  • Please try to redepict these elements in an integrated way and in relation to your water landscape. What is the relationship between these groups? Are they close or distanced from each other? Who is more powerful? Which voices are hardly heard? Do they have any shared concerns?

Possible Futures

  • You can summarize your findings with a SWOT diagram and a DPSI(R) Model
  • Link back to the Sustainable Development Goals: Which goals are at risk?
  • What is your worst case scenario for this landscape?
  • What is your best case scenario for this landscape?
  • Present your scenarios in the form of a collage or sketch
  • Add text and visuals

Collaborative Goal Setting

  • Define strategic planning objectives based on the evaluation findings from your analysis
  • Ideally, involve the community of your living labs into this process
  • Link back to your original targets from section one and the Development Goals
  • 150 words text contribution

Spatial Strategy and Transect

  • translate your strategic goals into a vision
  • develop a spatial translation of your vision
  • exemplify your vision in the form of a transect with concrete interventions
  • add map(s) and visualizations

From Theory of Change to Implementation

  • For implementing your vision: Which partnerships are needed? Which governance model is required?
  • Who needs to act and how? Draw and explain a change/process model/timeline
  • Which resources are needed? On which assets can you build?
  • add 150 words text and visuals


  • give a full list of the references you have used for your case

Process Reflection

  • Reflect in your intercultural and interdisciplinary team on the outcomes of your study
  • Which limitations were you facing?
  • What have you learnt from each other?
  • What did you learn in the Living Labs?
  • What would you do differently next time?
  • You can also use diagrams/visuals
  • 250 words text