An Edgeryders Space Program? Mapping the road to your own space

At least for me, the Sustainable workspace for collectives event uncovered a lot of strange information, quite hard to navigate.

Brussels appears to be nearing the end of a period. We might call it the temporary spaces era. In that period, it has been fairly easy for several people and groups, many of them artists, to get physical spaces for free. There was, however, a catch; freedom came with precarity. Arrangement around these spaces gives landlords the freedom to re-allocate them to newer, more profitable uses at a moment’s notice. A layer of intermediaries emerged, severing any direct contact between landlords and the communities using the space. Communities are now tired, and have realized it does not make sense to invest on a space if you are not sure you can use it long enough to recoup your investment.

There seems to be no clear way forward. And the terrain is populated by enigmatic actors, whose role is, to an outsider like me, unclear. What does the Bouwmeester, or City Master Architect, do, for example? And how exactly did the venerable holding company Sofina partner up with a local politician to launch DigitYser? Who are the intermediaries, and what can you trust them to do?

As I listened to the discussion in the room, I could not help thinking that a strategic map of Brussels would be very valuable for anyone who wants to build their own space, like, er, our own space, The Reef (more on that in future posts). The room had a lot of knowledge, but it is not structured, it is mostly based on having been around for a long time, and talking to people. @yannick, Pauline, Adrian, Koen and others can act on that knowledge. Me? No, I miss the context. Even though I have lived in Brussels for seven years, I felt very much the outsider.

It would be great if these conversations resulted in some kind of instructable that an outsider could, potentially, follow to successfully starting a space. An Edgeryders Space Program of sorts, where the #culture-squad could contribute by deploying its considerable skill at documentation and organization of knowledge.

Am I making sense?


Cool debrief of the discussion of yesterday. I follow you on most of the analysis.

There are some guides already made by Toestand and communa to create temporary spaces (the book leegstons for exemple), but the problem is it doesn’t create a long-term solution against the precarity.

I don’t know the answer either about how we could better the situation for users of vacant spaces, but I have really high hopes on that “20th commune” discussion that is opening up and showing the way towards a more holistic vision about “vacant spaces and their alternative uses”

For me it’s there that edgeryders should go to see how the future of vacant spaces will develop. I think it’s best to have multiple actors with multiple stories and principles , it creates a way to contrôle each other actions in a certain way.


Thanks, @yannick! What do you mean by this?

That it’s good idea that Edgeryders doesn’t go for a middleman, like an entrakt or citydev or even Toestand Or communa. It follows more in the philosophy of what actors like Toestand or communa preach: that everybody should be able to use vacant space to create projects.

But between what you preach, and what happens there is always a difference :slight_smile:


There is an event in St Vide tomorrow May 4th. Unfortunately I’m out of town and can’t attend, but maybe others can and report back?

1 Like

Oh, would have been very nice to join, but I’m leaving for Indonesia tomorrow. Will share it with the others!

1 Like

very nice summary from alberto.

what did i learn?

some names / actors. and also this concept that energy inside spaces is limited to time. users of those spaces are also nomadic. they like to change. that makes challenges for the design of those spaces

what would you like to happen in this group

i don’t know

suggestion on event format

very nice facilitation. conversation was interesting.
maybe the purpose of the meeting was too broad. the discussion was running a bit all over the place

what next

i also felt lost in terms of what is next. what can we concretely do to add value to this issue. i like the idea of creating a structured concept model of this subject. who would be the final user of this? artists/freelancers/social innovators that are looking for a cheap production space.

i also like to follow the discussion on the extended reef.


I think the final user would be the person/group who wants to get a space but doesnt know how to navigate the system, especially who are the people who hold the power to negotiate, the risks that come with that, and many more.

Hm, I missed that… who mentioned it, or in what context?

1 Like

Paging Pauline @plb here as well,
And a warm welcome on the forum!

We seem to agree that there are many moving pieces in the Brussels ecosystem, and a way forward needs to be a sustained, concrete action.
Would you be interested in more of a research effort, or a practical mapping like the one suggested by Alberto? or something else? All of this helps us design the next meeting and perhaps turn it into a working session? Half a day?

Short clarification about digityser (which was a comment I made to extrapolate another reality enfolding in Brussels)

It didn’t partner with a politician, maybe my comment wasn’t clear enough but this is how it went from what I can recall from memory :
Sofina owns the building, it was empty for years.
Phillippe (DigitYser founder) was looking for a space after his data science community lost a space they used at AXA. There was a call for project by the City of Brussels to create digital space for boosting entrepreneursship in the context of the Nextech call.
Philippe went on with a proposal of what digityser is today : a coworking / event space / free meetup around all things digital and entrepreneurship, he got access to the building in 2017 and very soon the team at digityser deployed 200+ events even before the space was officially open. This managed to convince the city and the rising that there was enough energy and network to make the digityser ideas come true. That when digityser unlocked the first part of subsidies (from the city régional level) the link with the city régional level happened through Didier Gossuin (at the time in charge of digital) the total amount of subsidies was around 500.000, in 3 steps, 4% of the capital needed to launch the digital space. The space is using the second part of this amount mainly structurally : building costs, renovation, modification of the space etc… Since then the activities at digityser (event space rented to compagnies, coworking etc…) are making the space break-even, meaning it can now works without subsidies or any political link.

  1. What did you learn and how is that important in your work?

I learned more about the quest for reclaiming the city of Brussels from different initiatives in Brussels and the hard reality and precariousness of the situation for citizens projects, social housing and artists.

It is not directly related to my work but I’m fascinated by how different cities across Europe are inventing new means to reclaim the city and I wish Brussels could get inspire by some of it and ultimately we could win some battles in the interest of the many. The 20th commune is yet to be conquered.

  1. What would you like to happen in the future in this group, or see discussed in the next events, and why?

I would be interested to keep participating, reflecting on these issues and help different groups join forces to change the situation of Brussels before big international groups end up owning the majority of the real estate of the city.

  1. Any suggestions about the event format and how we can improve the culture Culture series.

Loved the facilitation and exchanges, but maybe the scope of the talks turned too become too big…perhaps because it is a first session and that if the format was adapted to a shorter or less broad view over the issues it would feel less big and impossible or difficult to tackle.


Thank you @rmdes, this is really useful information.