Urban Ecologies

Metrolab Brussels' scientific program is structured by three main axes of research - urban inclusion, urban ecology, urban production - which correspond roughly to the social, environmental and economic dimensions of sustainable urban development. The second topic tackled by researchers has therefore been urban ecologies in 2018-19.

In our Post-Fordist times, Nature is deemed to be a key element for urban growth as it is profoundly implicated in the production and reproduction of the city.

Metrolab takes the standpoint of urban ecology affirming the oneoness of man and nature. Brussels is regarded as an ecosystem and urbanization itself is a constitutively socio-natural process. Brussels’ metropolitan area is the context where the intricate socio-natural relation of the city unfolds.

The close collaboration of the disciplines behind the Metrolab will enable to review Brussels’ metabolism through process-oriented accounts of its circulatory dynamics. This will emphasise the interplay of local, regional, and global systems sustaining the city urban form and it will inform practitioners – the actors of the ERDF projects – about the impact of their interventions.

The international conference and MasterClass on "Brussels Ecosystems" organised in November 2018 and January 2019, Metrolab centred the reflexion around a common goal: leveraging various aspects of ecology as a basis for reflection on the interdependence between the components of a city, while taking into account the notions that the world is a finite pool of resources and that humans are an integral part of nature. Brussels Ecosystems also wishes to contribute to the reflection on a future transition of Brussels’ ecosystems to a new environmental and territorial model.

The concept of urban ecosystem emerged in Brussels over forty years ago, in the context of studies conducted by the interdisciplinary teams of Paul Duvigneaud (1974). The goal of Duvigneaud’s work was to provide abroad perspective of the interdependencies that exist between the human and non-human worlds. While the positivist project of offering a global ecosystem science was eventually abandoned, the same ecosystemic concerns are still at the heart of research and innovation in a number of areas of natural sciences, social sciences, engineering, living space studies, and the humanities. Each of them includes the concept of ecosystem into its field of study, in order to develop specific methods.

Beyond the increasing weight of environmental issues, the ubiquity of the notion of ecosystem is contributing to an epistemological transition where more focus is placed on the interconnectedness of all things. Brussels Ecosystems intends to continue in this direction, experimenting with new interdisciplinarytools for critical evaluations and for project support thanks to both the conference and the MasterClass. The publication resulting from the work carried out during the two years, the conference, and the masterclass will be published in the spring of 2020. Geoffrey Grulois and Andrea Bortolotti contributed to the content and methodology of both events and research that is available in the publication Designing Brussels Ecosystems.

Duvigneaud, P. (1974). Études Écologiques de l’Écosystème Urbain Bruxellois : Contribution n° 1 à 4: L’écosystème ‘Urbs. In Mémoires de La Société Royale de Botanique de Belgique (6), 5–35.