The Heyvaert area near the Brussels Canal has for centuries been one of the city’s manufacturing districts. Today the car- and mechanics-centred activities that dominate the area are set to leave the district, making way for an urban transformation towards a more liveable and sustainable neighbourhood. D’Ieteren Immo is the owner of one of the area’s largest industrial properties, a 25,000 m² site that has been in the hands of the company since 1940. The site was redeveloped in the 1950s as a seemingly endless factory of automobile innovation and progress. The buildings are extremely well maintained and offer remarkable examples of industrial architectural heritage. Acknowledging the value of their property, D’Ieteren wants to research the role it can play in the evolution of the district, while remaining coherent with the company’s entrepreneurial DNA.

In a first phase of the project, 51N4E developed a set of shared ambitions through a series of co-creative sessions with the owners as well as the local planning departments. By taking time to put together a shared, long-term objective, we propose an approach that makes it possible to both think about the long term and act in the short term.

The result of this process is a proposal for the incremental reuse of the site, starting with the reprogramming of the existing buildings with new users for five years, thus testing new programmes and relations with the surrounding neighbourhood and the city’s existing dynamics. In 2019 a project group bringing together members of D’Ieteren Immo and 51N4E drafted the process and business model to reprogramme 15,000 m² of industrial space on the site. Discussions with local associations and entrepreneurs were held to match the available spaces to the actual demands. The site was renamed Circularium in 2020 and offers space for entrepreneurs who contribute to innovation and the circular economy in the city. Strategic interventions in the common spaces and interfaces facilitate appropriation by a multitude of users, ranging from the professional enterprise to the general public. The use of adaptable infrastructures makes it possible to experiment with different models of cohabitation as an on-site learning process for a mixed programme in the area.

  • Location

    Brussels, Belgium

  • Client

    D’Ieteren Immo

  • Description

    Feasibility study for the reconversion of an industrial site and execution through temporary re-activation

  • Completion


  • 51N4E project team

    Eva De Bruyn, Dieter Leyssen, Jonas Trittmann, Arya Arabshahi, Daryan Knoblauch, Isaac Barbet

  • 51N4E involvement

    Design based research, stakeholder management, coalition forming

  • Programme

    Industrial, manufacturing, commercial, public space

  • Site surface

    24.000 m²

  • Photography

    Filip Dujardin, Eva De Bruyn

  • Image credits