Community development projects like Brussels’ RECYCLART aim to breathe life into forgotten areas of the city, and develop the skills and talents of local people in a co-created, flexible environment.

The project began in 2001 with the objective to transform the obsolescent Chappelle-Kapellekerk Station and surrounding areas of downtown Brussels, into a practical and lively community space. To do so Recyclart took three key forms: an Arts Centre; “Fabrik factory” a handicraft and production centre; and a bar and kitchen. The idea is that whilst these centres work independently they also collaborate and converge on different activities.

A central aim for each of the core areas is to act as a springboard toward employment for members of the community, a space to express ideas, learn trades, and acquire certificates to enter the world of work. The RECYCLART project has in this respect proved extremely successful in facilitating employment opportunities for the local community. As such RECYCLART is not just another re-gen café-come-gallery space, alien to the needs and interests of local people, but instead brings together art, craftsmanship and community to provide a transformative and practical space for local people.

In practice the project seeks to not only provide the space and resources for creative learning, but also act as a mediator between local ideas and broader resources, bringing artists, scientists, designers, builders, geographers and most importantly users together to create public spaces relevant and usable to local people. The development of  Ursulines skate-park provides a good example: Following requests from local skaters for somewhere to skate in downtown Brussels RECYCLART stepped in to act as an intermediary. Bringing together a landowner, designers, the skaters and an architecture firm a collaboratively produced public space was developed and later won the  2006 European Urban Public Space award.

Key to RECYCLART’s success then is in bringing people from across the city together, and providing spaces and resources for intercultural and intergenerational exchange through a variety of public projects. Other examples of RECYCLART projects include: Pain Publik, a bread-making workshop which moves across the city in a mobile oven; and the Palavar Tree, an art installation by the centre which acts as an open community meeting place.

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