Even though spatially so close to Brussels Central train station with direct connection to international destinations and the Brussels airport, Cureghem is hardly ever considered as a location for national or international meetings, conferences or workshops. Richard Pfeifer, the 32 years old project manager of the syncity project and urban sociologist from Austria, reflects on Cureghem as a location for meetings and shares inspiring venues with us.
Cureghem: a space offering many lessons to learn to outsiders
Socio-cultural diversity is the very essence of Cureghem – a vibrant area with lots of people on the street and a counter-point to the very much gated Eurocrat districts in Brussles. Running a scientific meeting or a transdisciplinary workshop in this district means thinking outside the box of the usual settings. If you are working on urban issues, it means to interweave your content directly with the complexity of urban realities in 21st century Europe. On the way to your venue and during breaks, your participants might, for example, enjoy walking Chaussée de Mons or finding their way through the Abbatoir market just for the rush that it makes. Colours, languages and global commodities pop up everywhere. If they look closely, they will find hide outs to escape it all and have a lovely tea with fresh herbs and a down to earth conversation. At the same time, your meeting will take place in a neighbourhood where globalisation shows, including all its difficulties, which means continuities of various forms of exclusion and inclusion. Cureghem can also be a periculous place, in particular at night. It is important to not underestimate the side effects of a ruthless liquid world on the one hand, but be confident and benevolent on the other. Collaborating with local actors and institutions might be a precondition for setting up professional events in the area, to adapt as much as possible to the situation and act responsibly. Coming into Cureghem as an outsider for a meeting, the complexities of the real world will never escape your mind. Cureghem will welcome and dismiss you at the same time. It will challenge you. And it will confront you and your participants with complex urban realities, ideally reflected as a shared experience.
I strongly believe that Cureghem is a great place to host conferences, workshops and meetings. I do however, not believe that it is the best option for any kind of business meeting, political and commercial event. For me, it is a place for events that link to a community of urban practicioners, for people interested (theoretically as much as practically) in addressing current issues of urban sustainability. Cureghem resonates with events that engage with issues of democratic planning and governance, redistributional justice, societal impact and chances of digitialisation, ecology and regeneration of built environment, questions about social infrastructures and mobility, ecologically enhanced cycles of production-distrubtion-consumption and circular metabolisms of energetic and material flows. To cut a long list short; it is a place to think collectively about a better urban future, one that is resilient, diverse and inclusive.
The locations we used in the syncity project meetings and workshops were the Université Populaire d’Anderlecht, an empty shop at the Foodmet building in the ground floor of the Abattoir, an underground entry hall to the “Cureghem Cellars” and the Euclides hub in rue du Chimist. There is also a new conference place that just opened up in the heart of Cureghem: Circularium in Chaussee de Mons. A million thanks to our Belgium project partners for finding and sharing these great venues with us!
In proximity to all these venues, you can easily find cafés with terraces. All of the places worked perfectly fine and fitted the requirements of the project: Internet, warm drinks, spacious conference rooms, a beamer and friendly and well-organised technical support. With open eyes you and a sensitive mind, will find certainly find more spaces that allow for a good meeting. Lastly, I want to highlight the welcoming attitude of local restaurants and their fabulous dishes. I can hardly imagine a neighbourhood were meetings’ participants loose on their timeconstrains because of all that rich food culture. Be aware of falling in love with restaurant locations and don’t forget about the conference!
Cureghem is accessible
Cureghem lies within walking distance to Brussels Central train station – and unlikely modern-day industrial quarters – it lies also in walking distance to the city centre. The area around the Abattoir market, which is an economic and productive center of the district, is well connected to the metro station. Many parts of the city and especially the outskirts of Brussles are connected to the area by several tram lines. Being so close to the train station also means having hotels. Anything from the well known international chains to small-scaled accommodations were you can easily get in touch with other travellers and staff members is available. Cureghem is indeed well connected to the outer districts of Brussels and Belgium and to the rest of Europe and it provides hotellery and gastronomy in an incredible multiplicity.