Let's talk about Belval
“Let’s Talk About Belval” is a proposal for an educational experiment: throughout Fall Semester 2022, students of the Master in Architecture Programme at the University of Luxembourg will unpack the spatial, social, economic and environmental contexts of their own place of study—Belval. Following 20 years since the conception, development and partial implementation of its Masterplan, we will reflect on the history, present and future of Belval, asking: Could Belval be seen as a “success story” of Luxembourg’s project of regenerating formerly industrial sites and brownfields? How was the process of design of spatial planning and governance of Belval designed? Which parts of the original plans were implemented and to which extent? Which aspects of the project have proven successful and which have not? What can be changed, reused, and transformed under the premises of everyday urbanism and urgency of resilient urban planning? What are the structures of governing and repairing projects such as Belval? In a post-carbon scenario, is it legitimate to develop a city of knowledge following the same extractive logics that has given shape to the capitalist city of the twenty century? How are environmental challenges of today addressed in post-industrial growth models shifting from ore mining to data mining and the development of digital technologies? Are we addressing the regeneration of our industrial residual spaces or just providing financial forces with a new “urban brand” to increase profit? Beyond “model urbanism,” how does Belval continue to affect its surrounding territories and its inhabitants? And finally, who are Belval’s existing communities and communities in becoming?
This design studio will propose a critical exploration of the urban politics, land and housing rights, the urban commons, and the soil communities, through current spatial, political, and economic mechanisms operating in Belval, imagining alternative scenarios of regeneration of post-industrial heritage and city-making in Luxembourg.
Merging two student groups (Semester 1 and Semester 3) into a single design studio, we will be working as an open and fluid team, consisting of students, teaching staff, but also external experts and users of the Belval Campus on a semester-long immersive on-site research project. The semester will kick-off with an intensive, festival-like week, which will be interrogating the spatial and social realities of Esch-Belval. The kick-off week will combine lectures, reading groups, discussions, and small-scale project work all tackling Belval as a case study through different perspectives: from spatial politics and real estate to the questions of media, representation and construction. All of the events of the first intense week will be open to the public and take place in the public spaces of the Belval Campus.