Our contemporary cities are subject to new conditions of migration, multiculturalism and environmental risks. To design a public space that can act as a vector for diversified uses and to incorporate the environmental issues to its conception seems no longer sufficient to meet all these challenges. Brussels’ urban history demonstrates the fertile ground for the emergence of urban and cultural practices hold in its territory¹.
These practices constitute 1 strategic ways to approach to the urban project. Moreover, they constitute alternative ways to produce public space. They address human behaviour and they challenge design. They reveal other modes of actions derived from the spontaneity of the diverse encounter between different actors. These modes of actions reflect on matters beyond the architectural realization since they avoid the formalistic approach toward a common issue. They pursue the creation of a veritable meeting place.
Public Spaces have been defined as “(…) where various pathways intersect, where various trajectories merge and are sometimes confronted one with the other. They are places where culture meets politics; where social territories merge with individual territories”².
Public 2 Spaces are often a specific reflection of the society which created them: “(…) Public spaces have taken on various forms and names through time and across civilizations: they have been the Greek Agora, the Roman Forum, the main road through a village, a market or church square, a boulevard, a square, a garden, an esplanade (…)” ³.
In the contemporary 3 Brussels, public spaces have taken over the forms of abandoned squares, underestimated rooftops and silent galleries by rediscovering them through practices like festivals. During a time in which terrorism and authoritarianism pretends to determine the way we will live our cities the celebration of festivals constitutes a relevant urban practice. This is the case of the Brussels Street Photography Festival (BSPF).
The BSPF is a cultural project whose objective is to promote street photography as an urban research tool, a form of cultural communication and a visual art. The Festival itself consists in a series of activities that not only aim to respond to the contemporary challenges of migration, multiculturalism and environment but whose yearly setting-up envisions public space as a constant renewable resource.
The BSPF not only documents the street through images but it celebrates the street by encouraging the simple act of walking: the rhythmic step of the urban passers-by, their capacity for self-absorption and reflection, their will to self-question as they walk.Finally, walking gives us freedom as well as thinking does.
Then, after walking for some hours, there is no more thinking as the decisive moment has arrived: the time to define that angle, that sight, that unique image from which a new story will unfold. The BSPF encourages but also celebrates walking the streets to discover the power and spirit of the present-day in our contemporary cities. Happy shooting.
Sedaile Mejias. Architect / MSc.Cumlaude in Human Settlements / MSc. MagnaCumlaude in Urbanism and Strategic Planning. Co-Founder of CAKRI / Editor of BNR Brussels Newsroom / Coordinator of the BSPF Brussels Street Photography Festival.
¹ For more detailed information please visit CIVA’s exhibition in Brussels “Save/Change the City” (2017).
² MADANIPOUR, A. (2003) “Public and Private Spaces of the City” NY: Routledge.
³ DEGROS, A; DE CLEENE, M. in “Brussels [Re]Discovering its Spaces” (2014)