10  19 
October 2021


To wonder and discover contemporary architecture

Imagine that you are strolling through the streets of Brussels, looking at it with a fresh pair of eyes without baggage of the years spent living there, of any specialised training or practical experience. Without preconceptions or prejudices, you have a chance to genuinely wonder about the many buildings, squares, parks, and back lanes and the many people who use them. Like a child, you (re)discover the city and take the time to ask questions — How is it that? Why this? Who is that?

The Brussels archiweek 2021 starts from the concept of unlearning to review and feature contemporary architecture in the city. Un-learning:

  1. proposes new ways to learn about our environment across generations and backgrounds.
  2. puts wonder at the centre of the discussion.
  3. questions individual habits in relation to collective interests.
  4. is a humble negotiation with inherited rules and predominant frameworks
  5. requires seeing anew or using the beginner’s mind .

Informed by the knowledge that an environmental crisis is not only ongoing but in fact accelerated, changes in the way we inhabit the planet are afoot. How can contemporary architecture support these changes and make them meaningful, even joyful? And which habits in the practice of architecture itself need to be unlearned, in response to these new conditions?

The team of curators of 51N4E, supported by a group of practitioners from Brussels and abroad, developed a three-part structure to explore this question during the 2021 archiweek. For the week’s programme, the three parts are articulated as follows:


Architectures and environments that support and inspire their users, owners, and visitors to unlearn and change habits. We look at a series of projects in Brussels that can lead the way, thanks to their approach to ownership, flexibility, and ability to provoke people to come together and meet.


Projects that question the mainstream types of ownership and experiment with new or different types. In search for affordability, (bio-)diversity, a sense of collectiveness or shared identity, new building practices arise and ultimately different outcomes.


Projects that experiment with a changeable programme. Buildings, both new and old, are structures that can house multiple uses. Considering unknown futures, they present and open endedness that program-based architecture does not allow for.


Projects that inspire people to gather in the city: to celebrate, to protest, to play, to care, to work, to eat, to drink, or to disappear in the crowd. Brussels counts several examples of places to gather, across social groups, in new and re-purposed buildings.

Everyone is invited to join guided tours in the selected projects during the weekend of 16 and 17 October.


A group of fifteen Brussels-based persons, onboarded through an open call, who participated in the preparations for archiweek and joined the curators during a two-day workshop on August 28 and 29. The characters range from 8 to 48 years and span different ethnic and geographic backgrounds across the city. They visited a sample of the selected projects and translated their learnings in a collective installation: large model of Brussels titled “a city for me, a city for us”. On Wednesday 13 October, they will present this installation together with the curators during the opening performance of archiweek.


A series of playful activities about architecture in the city, set up by partnering organisations. The formats are simple and engaging—walking tours, performances and activities in which everyone can participate and get to know unexpected corners of and stories about Brussels. The games take place on different locations in the city, from Saturday 9 to Sunday 17 October.


Concept: Roxane Le Grelle, Dieter Leyssen, Alessandro Cugola, Chloé Nachtergael

Advice: Aya Akbib, Arya Arabshahi, Oscar Broeckhoven, Gianmarco Causi, Seppe De Blust, Eva De Bruyn, Flore Fockedey, Yann Gueguen, Sotiria Kornaropoulou, Giulia Massenz, Wim Menten, Mickaël Minghetti, Mathilde Pecqueur, Rohan Patankar, Freek Persyn, Sebastien Roy, Harold Vermeiren, Kevin Westerveld

Textile design: Emma Bourguignon and Eff Libilbéhéty

Participants: Emma Bourguignon, Zoe Brennan, Gaia Carabillo, Diana Dede, Kalem Di Domenico, Rodrigo Garcia, Eff Libilbéhéty, Kimon Persyn, Zoë Persyn, Eva Petráková, Anastasia Shibanova, Linn Tramm, Julia Wielgus and Xabier Wins

Assistance: Milenca Persoons, Aya Akbib, Sophie Brewaeys

Photography: Sepideh Farvardin

© Sepideh Farvardin