News & Events

Cosmopolis Lunch Seminar with Rien van de Wall & Wim Menten: "From urban motorway to public space. A new look on Brussels' petite ceinture"

22 December 2016 , Department of Geography, room F4.66, 12h00-14h00

How can cities in 21st-century Europe deal with large-scale traffic infrastructures in their inner cores? How can they re-imagine these 'public' spaces and improve urban mobility at the same time? This lunch seminar will address these questions by applying them to a specific Brussels case: a proposal for the redevelopment of the inner ring road.

The Brussels inner ring road (petite ceinture) is one of the city's most infamous urban motorways. Paradoxically, this space, which is entirely tailored to motorised traffic, has also become the symbol of "Brussels, traffic-jam capital of the (western) world". This situation is not only hazardous to the city's accessibility, but also negatively impacts urban development, public health and public finances. A fundamentally different approach to this continuous and vacant space of 50 hectares, 4 times the size of the Parc de Bruxelles, could offer abundant opportunities for addressing these major challenges.

Based on master's thesis research carried out at VUB STeR* in 2013-14, brings forward an integrated vision on urban development and mobility. The initiative wants to open the debate on the future role of the boulevards as a public space and as a structuring element of the city's spatial and mobility organisation. Many interests are at stake, extending from the local scale, to that of the metropole. Hence, a reorganisation of the boulevards—if it pursues a certain ambition—needs to be well thought-through in respect to governance. Furthermore, it should be embedded in a larger mobility policy including measures that actively direct people towards multimodal mobility patterns.


Rien van de Wall is a historian (KU Leuven) and urban planner (VUB). After working as a policy assistant at the Flemish regional administration, he now works as a project officer at the Planning Agency of the Brussels Capital Region. With his master's thesis, he was awarded the 2014 Afstudeerprijs by the Flemish urban planners association VRP and the 2015 Georges Allaert Publicatieprijs by the Centre for Mobility and Spatial Planning of Ghent University.

Wim Menten is an architect (Luca) and urbanist (KU Leuven). As senior project architect, he is part of the team of Robbrecht en Daem architecten, an office renowned for its involvement in public space and public building projects.