With Parckfarm, a new typology of public space is taking shape in the former abandoned railway valley behind Tour & Taxis - now a fully-fledged city park. It combines the characteristics of a 'lived' or convivial city park with local micro-urban farming. Together with local residents, artists, farmers and designers, the initiators of Parckfarm want to reclaim the green public space for residents as an urban commons. The initiators of Parckfarm vzw aim to exert a sustainable impact on the strategic development of the site.

The Parckfarm project emerged in the summer of 2014 from the Parckdesign festival, a design biennial exploring possible avenues for creating alternative forms of public space in Brussels, an initiative of Brussels Environment. The 2014 edition promoted the participatory management of public green space, with a special focus on creativity and artistic practices. In other words, the focus shifted from 'built spaces' to 'lived spaces'. For the 2014 edition, the initiators of the festival decided to work with the abandoned residual space of Tour & Taxis, a neglected railway valley located between several multicultural neighbourhoods. Tour & Taxis is located in the border area between the municipalities of Molenbeek, Jette and Laeken, neighbourhoods burdened with high rates of unemployment. Since 2000, a private building developer has invested in redeveloping the entire Tour & Taxis site, which has undergone a complete transformation in recent years. The private and exclusive development of the Tour & Taxis site contributes to the creation of spatial, social and economic boundary conditions at the site, which do not always benefit residents of the surrounding districts. In 2014, the public authorities, in association with Parckdesign, decided to make room for (temporary) experimentation in this area of forgotten open space, in an attempt to make the development of the site socially and ecologically sustainable. At the same time, this experiment represents the first chapter of the largest regional park to be created in Brussels.

Alive Architecture (Petra Pferdmenges) and Taktyk (Thierry Kandjee) make up the curatorial team. They invited artists, (landscape) architects, students, neighbourhood and city residents to jointly experiment with an alternative, more democratic model of the public space, in terms of design, programming and organisation. An open character, low-threshold use and room for appropriation are key in this endeavour. They started out with what was already available, namely some informal allotments. In the design process, spontaneous participation was high on the agenda so that the neighbourhood felt closely involved in the project from the beginning. After the festival the project was continued by the inhabitants of the surrounding neighbourhoods with the establishment of the non-profit organisation Parckfarm T&T. Thus, a transitory practice has taken on a permanent existence, and Parckfarm T&T contributes in a sustainable way to the social and spatial changes in the neighbourhood.

Today, the strength of Parckfarm T&T is the involvement of citizens from different backgrounds, origins and religions. Parckfarm supports local residents in setting up projects, workshops, neighbourhood celebrations and other civic initiatives. The programming is aimed at a multicultural and multilingual audience, with the aim of stimulating the coexistence of different groups in the public space. Parckfarm T&T strives to strengthen social relations within and between the various communities around the Tour & Taxis site. In addition, Parckfarm T&T focuses on promoting ecological practices in urban areas by concentrating on (micro) urban farming, providing sustainable food and setting up sustainable economic models from the Farmhouse, its beating heart, a design by 1010 a+u (Bert Ghellynck).

Parckfarm T&T continues to be supported by policymakers because of the sustainable impact it aims to achieve. The project relies on an interplay of top-down mechanisms and local bottom-up initiatives.

partners and actors
Alive Architecture (Petra Pferdmenges), Taktyk (Thierry Kandjee), Parckfarm vzw

Parckfarm in the spotlight
Parckfarm is putting the abandoned residual space in the railway valley of Tour & Taxis back into use. By combining the urban park as a place for encounters with micro-farming, it is appropriating the public space for the residents of the neighbouring districts.

Parckfarm floor plan
imageParckfarm floor plan
Parckfarm is located in the border area between the municipalities of Molenbeek, Jette and Laeken. The residents of these surrounding districts do not always benefit from the private and exclusive development of the Tour & Taxis site.

Parckfarm floor plan

Parckfarm activity report
imageParckfarm activity report
In terms of the environment, the aim is to promote sustainable food, urban farming and sustainable economic models. The social component aims to encourage encounters between local residents and to strengthen social relationships.

Parckfarm activity report

photo: Parckfarm VZW, 2017

Parckfarm, from pop-up to stayer
articleParckfarm, from pop-up to stayer
Instead of taking a new initiative ourselves, we responded with the landscape agency Taktyk to Parckdesign, a call for experimental projects in public space from Brussels Environment. We started from what was there: the Region wanted to build a park, and some local residents maintained informal vegetable gardens there. Hence Parckfarm.

Parckfarm, from pop-up to stayer

photo: Laurent Vermeersch. Bruzz, 2018

Parckfarm, new public park as a concrete utopia
articleParckfarm, new public park as a concrete utopia
Places like Parckfarm, where the ecological, urban agriculture, the social, the multicultural, the global and the local come together in a unique way in a true urban commons - we should cherish that.

Parckfarm, new public park as a concrete utopia

photo: Sint-Jans-Molenbeek 2014

Parckdesign 2014: Parckfarm Tour & Taxis, Brussels
articleParckdesign 2014: Parckfarm Tour & Taxis, Brussels
Parckfarm relies on top-down mechanisms and is supported by bottom-up initiatives. This allows it to have an impact on the strategic development of the Thurn&Taxis site.

Parckdesign 2014: Parckfarm Tour & Taxis, Brussels

photo: Databank Publieke Ruimte, Brussel

Curating the City-Making Process
fileCurating the City-Making Process
The interaction between the curators, the designers and the local residents led to the co-creation of the park, and allowed for the activation and appropriation of Parckfarm by the neighbourhood in a sustainable way that ultimately exceeded the duration of the festival.

download / view PDF:
Curating the City-Making Process

Parckfarm by Alive Architecture / Taktyk
articleParckfarm by Alive Architecture / Taktyk
The Parckfarm project started with monthly meetings in the Café Pannenhuis. Here, neighbours, farmers, designers and politicians came together to exchange ideas, shape the project, and propose their own initiatives that could take place in Parckfarm.

Parckfarm by Alive Architecture / Taktyk

photo: Landezine (Landschape Architecture Platform)

articleFlanders Architecture Book No.12 Bespoke Architecture
With Parckfarm, attention shifted from the importance of built to lived and experienced public space. Parckfarm evolved from an ephemeral practice to a permanent urban phenomenon.

photo: Vai, 2016