Grappling with the urban in landscape design
Keywords:Metropolitan Landscapes, Bureau Bas Smets & List, Brussels, urban design, landscape design, design methodology
On January 2016, a joint consortium of the Flemish and Brussels Chief Architects published Metropolitan Landscapes. Espaces ouvert, base de développement urbain/Open ruimte als basis voor stedelijke ontwikkeling. Based on the assumption that open spaces have the potential to spur and structure future urban development and surpass administrative boundaries, Metropolitan Landscapes presents research by design, authored by four prominent design firms with the intention of jumpstarting conversations about a shared spatial vision for the fragmented territory of Brussels and its periphery. In this article, we examine the methodology and definitions put forth by Bureau Bas Smets & List, explore the historical context that has rendered the landscape approach so promising in Brussels, and perform a thematic and critical reading of the four projects and their underlying rationale. These projects demonstrate the potential of landscape to engender novel territorial solutions. However, by choosing to ignore competing spatial claims and tending towards a techno-managerial rationale based on infrastructural and ecological systems, these designs raise questions as to the capacity of the landscape approach to deal with everpresent socio-political concerns in Brussels.