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When you can’t see the city for the trees. A joint analysis of the Sonian Forest and urban reality

Quand les arbres cachent la ville. Pour une analyse conjointe de la forêt de Soignes et du fait urbain
Als we door het bos de stad niet meer zien: voor een gezamenlijke analyse van het Zoniënwoud en de verstedelijking
Lee Christopher Roland
Cet article est une traduction de :
Quand les arbres cachent la ville. Pour une analyse conjointe de la forêt de Soignes et du fait urbain [fr]
Autre(s) traduction(s) de cet article :
Als we door het bos de stad niet meer zien: voor een gezamenlijke analyse van het Zoniënwoud en de verstedelijking [nl]

Résumés

Dans l’épaisseur de l’“écotone” du massif forestier de la forêt de Soignes, il n’y a pas lieu d’étudier la forêt comme une “nature” indépendante des dynamiques urbaines. Dans cette partie de l’agglomération, la répartition des formes bâties ne s’est pas réalisée en couronnes isotropes à partir d’une centralité unique constituée par le Pentagone, mais bien à l’aune d’un second élément auquel ce dernier était historiquement lié : la forêt elle-même. Cet article retrace chronologiquement les rapports qu’a entretenus la masse végétale dénommée “forêt” avec les formes urbaines et les pratiques de l’habiter aujourd’hui associées à l’agglomération bruxelloise. Il met d’abord en lumière l’asymétrie qu’a installée la forêt durant l’Ancien Régime en matière de répartition des activités et du bâti. Puis, il fait état du rôle qu’a joué le massif forestier dans les processus d’urbanisation du sud-sud-est de Bruxelles au 19e et 20e siècle. Enfin, il explicite l’impact de ces interactions sur la construction du paysage forestier et sur sa gestion avant de se positionner quant à la manière d’appréhender la forêt aujourd’hui.

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Notes de l’auteur

All of the illustrations presented in this document are subject to copyright and are credited in the bibliography. The author has done his utmost to respect the copyright legislation in effect and to obtain the consent of the holders of the rights to the works reproduced here. However, if the holders of the rights concerned feel that there has been an infringement of their rights despite the efforts undertaken, they are asked to contact the author immediately in order to sort out the situation.

Texte intégral

Introduction

  • 1 The word “territory” must be understood here in the sense of “socialised space” [Baud et al., 2008: (...)

1The analysis of the realities of Brussels and Brabant is usually confined to one referent: the institutional boundaries of the territory.1 Admittedly, these boundaries have a certain function. But their pertinence may be questioned when studying territorial dynamics such as mobility, ecosystems or economic competition. These boundaries  geographically situated social abstractions  marginalise and fragment the temporal and spatial dimensions of these dynamics, thus interfering with their full comprehension. Is it nevertheless possible to act structurally in a geographic area without attempting to describe and objectivise these dynamics, which often condition  and have conditioned  both the progress of forms of developed land and the physical and biological processes with which they interact?

2At a time when the notion of sustainable development is being popularised, it is useful to bear in mind that this type of development requires a prior understanding of these dynamics, going beyond the “surface logic” [Corboz, 2001 (1983): 206, 225‑226, 254, 288] specific to the administration of the territory to focus on the configurations in situ. The challenge is therefore epistemological: it is related to concepts, methods and means of representation which are associated with territorial reality. It presupposes an examination of the geopolitical status of the spatialities studied, as well as the relationships they have (at several levels) with other socio-spatial typologies generally understood independently of them.

3It is therefore necessary to be cautious with respect to the concepts which intervene in the interpretation of urban reality (radioconcentrism, polycentrism, centrality, outskirts, etc.), as well as with respect to the categories which it contrasts with: the natural, the rural, openness. In other words, in order to establish modes of sustainable development, it is necessary to pay close attention to the elements which overdetermine our understanding of the territory, i.e. the “scales”, the “frameworks” (conceptual and spatial) and the “performatives”  the statements with legislative power  associated with it [Austin, 1991 (1962); Corboz, 2001 (1983): 210‑211, 253‑255; Secchi, 2006 (2000): 27‑28; Agier, 2009: 52‑53; Roland, 2011b: 7‑9, for the detailed definition of the three terms in quotation marks].

  • 2 The challenge here is not to associate a precise spatial definition with this term. We refer to Duj (...)

4In the case of Brussels, the Sonian Forest allows this challenge to be undertaken, as it represents cross-border ecological heritage, and because it calls spatial, historical and semantic referents into play, which have to do with both the natural and the artefactual. This article thus discusses the Brussels urban area2 based on this entity. It focuses on the south/southeast part of Brussels, from the Pentagon to a series of valleys: in the south, the Geleytsbeek, the Ukkelbeek, the Linkebeek, the Meerbeek and the Hain; in the southeast, the Ijse and the Argentine; and in the east, the Woluwe and the Voer (see figures 4 & 6). It is not aimed at presenting a thorough analysis of this area but at showing that its understanding – and therefore, its management – is based on the production of specific knowledge which should free itself of institutional determinism as well as the normativity of certain political and/or academic constructions in the area of urbanism, spatial analysis and environmental management [Corboz, 2001 (1983): 203‑207, 221, 249‑256; Latour, 1997 (1991): 10‑14, 23‑50, 192‑197; Larrère, 2009 (1997): 141‑143, 154‑156, 216‑224; Latour, 1998; Secchi, 2006 (2000): 33‑34; Feltz, 2003: 9‑13, 97‑99, 204; Agier, 2009: 10, 29‑30].

1. If we could not see the city for the trees…

5The dual nature of the Brussels socioeconomic landscape is a recurring theme [PWC & MPRBC, 2007: 67, 70‑71; Kesteloot & Loopmans, 2009; MRBC-AATL et al., 2010d: 30‑31; GRBC, 2011: 52‑53, 110, 267]. The south/southeast of the urban area is generally presented as being the home of the well-to-do classes. This contributes in part to the debates regarding the linguistic conflict, the mobility of commuters and the housing model represented by the residential allotment of one-family dwellings. These debates nevertheless focus rarely on the Sonian Forest. It is of course dealt with on its own, as an entity with an ecosystemic role within the Groene Gordel and the ecological network. But the views on dualisation or so-called peripheral spatialities [MRBC-AATL et al., 2010d: 38] are rarely related to the nature of the territory itself, i.e. the relationships established between urban forms, lifestyle practices and physical structures. Thus, although the forest constitutes one of these structures, the aim is to denounce the risks of degradation which it incurs, or to argue in favour of protecting the “natural ramparts” which it represents with respect to “Brussels urbanisation”, rather than explicitly analysing its role in the emergence and evolution of a highly spread out urban fabric.

6Nor is this role of the Sonian Forest highlighted as part of planning tools [GW, 1999; GRBC, 2002; MVG, 2004; VR, PVB et al., 2004] or in the framework of institutional mechanisms intended to make the urban development of Brussels more sustainable, such as the Vlaams Strategisch Gebied rond Brussel (VSGB) [MVG et al., 2008a & b] or the future Plan Régional de Développement Durable (PRDD) [GRBC, 2011]. As demonstrated by the “city projects” (figure 1a) and the ecological networks (figure 1b) resulting from these mechanisms, the relationships between the forest and surrounding areas are rarely dealt with. The notion of “edge” is not very present, as the VSGB favours the notion of Groene Gordel and the PRD, that of the ecological network. The impact of the forest on groundwater and surface water [VMM, 2008: 39, 53‑54], the way in which it regulates urban heatwaves [VITO, 2007: 7, 11; Van Weverberg et al., 2008], and its socioeconomic impact on lifestyle practices [Roland, 2011a: 56‑59, 157] are rarely considered. In other words, the wooded area is not considered as a founding element of urban development.

Figure 1. Juxtaposition (by the author) of strategic plans and regional ecological network projects

Figure 1. Juxtaposition (by the author) of strategic plans and regional ecological network projects
  • 3 One may object that these pitfalls are only related to representation. However, “[re]presenting the (...)
  • 4 An ecotone is an “area of transition between one type of habitat or ecosystem and another (e.g. the (...)

7This situation is partly linked to the Belgian institutional context, which fragments the knowledge of the central part of the country. However, its epistemological dimension must not be neglected. For example, the reference cartographic sources and documents serving as a basis for planning  in particular the Carte topographique 1:20 000 [IGN, 1988‑2002], the Carte d’Évaluation Biologique [Brichau et al., 1997‑2000 & 2000; INBO et al., 2010] and the European network Natura 2000 [EEA, 2010]  limit the representation of the wooded area to the transcription of homogeneous soil covering. This in fact constitutes a reduction with respect to its geographic and ecosystemic scope.3 In these representations, the forest is reified: it forms a distinct entity of fragments of habitat, “green spaces” and surrounding agricultural surfaces. At physical and biological level, these spatialities form “ecotones”.4 At usage level, they direct the future of the wooded area.

  • 5 The individualist hypothesis, formulated by H. A. Gleason, is a “concept which is related to the st (...)
  • 6 The term “ecological” refers to: what is based on the “academic study of interactions between organ (...)

8Figures 2 and 3 – made from detailed orthophoto maps – present the “discrepancy” which may exist between these representations and the configurations in situ of developed land and green areas. This type of discrepancy may be seen in particular in the configuration of the Special Conservation Zone of the wooded area, which was established when it became part of the Natura 2000 network in 2007. By associating a reference spatiality with the wooded area, this spatial definition perpetuates a specific land use designation: the wooded area. But, at regulatory level, it also isolates the forest from its edges. If one subscribes to the “individualist hypothesis”5 of the structuring of plant communities, this delimiting operation does not give itself the institutional means for a better understanding of the evolution of the forest with respect to its environment. In reality, it favours autonomous management methods (see figure 1), to the detriment of land use planning projects which pay closer attention to their “ecological” impact.6 In this respect, figure 3 clearly highlights the overlapping of developed land and green areas beyond the areas currently associated with the forest. In addition to being normative, the challenge is therefore also related to the landscape [CEE, 1992; Campbell & Reece, 2007: 1174, 1277, 1311, 1324‑1325; LAFS, 2009: 104].

Figure 2. Result of a pixel analysis highlighting the plant structures present within the area considered

Figure 2. Result of a pixel analysis highlighting the plant structures present within the area considered

Map made by the author using the software ENVI, covering an area of about 20 x 14 km

Figure 3. Dense woody vegetation spreads beyond the Special Conservation Zones of the wooded area and does not exist in a similar form in other parts of the urban area

Figure 3. Dense woody vegetation spreads beyond the Special Conservation Zones of the wooded area and does not exist in a similar form in other parts of the urban area

9The difficulty involved in considering the forest within a pertinent spatial extension and in taking its structuring role in urban development into account may be overcome with a historical, anthropological and spatial description of the wooded area and its surroundings [Geertz, 1973: 24‑28, & 1998; Arnaud, 2008: 7‑10; Mary, 2008]. This will be the focus of the rest of this article.

2. Defining the Sonian Forest as an ecosystem

  • 7 The term “suburban forest” is widely used in the literature [Maziers, 1994; GRBC, IBGE et al., 2003 (...)

10Describing the forest implies a prior change of scales and cartographic codes in order to integrate the following situation (figure 4): the Sonian Forest constitutes the only large-scale wooded area between the Belgian coast and the Sambre and Meuse valley, and its condition is urban for two reasons.7 The forest is located in the area of influence of the Brussels urban area as well as occupying a central position with respect to the North Western Metropolitan Area [CE, 2007: 8; INBO, 2009: 69‑77]. It is at the heart of a elliptic configuration delimited by cities such as Antwerp, Ghent, Kortrijk, Lille-Roubaix-Tourcoing, Lens-Liévin, Douai, Valenciennes, Mons, Charleroi, Namur, Huy, Liège, Maastricht and Hasselt. Its status is not comparable to that of forests in Ardennes and Kempen, or to that of the European beech forests situated in rural environments [Daise et al., 2009: 23‑24]. Unlike the latter, the Sonian Forest does not have a large-scale ecological equivalent within 60 km of its edge [EEA, 2006; EEA, 2010]. Furthermore, it is particularly exposed to urbanistic pressure.

Figure 4. Three scales highlighting the spatial condition of the Sonian wooded area

Figure 4. Three scales highlighting the spatial condition of the Sonian wooded area

11On a Belgian scale, the Sonian Forest is thus the only wooded area whose continuity depends on a significant number of forms of developed land – buildings as well as many mobility networks – associated with practices which have a direct impact on it. For these reasons, its diagnosis must go beyond the strict regulatory areas in order to objectivise two dimensions: on the one hand, the spatial area of these ecosystems and their relationship with water and soil; and on the other hand, the impact of human activities on these ecosystems.

  • 8 “Bruxellien, Brussels (formation): middle Eocene sand formation (45 million years ago), highly deve (...)
  • 9 “[, etc.] [The] Lédo-Panisélien Bruxellien aquifer [, etc.] contains the deepest sandy part of the (...)

12The first dimension implies an identification of the interactions between the wooded area and the valleys whose source is located there, such as the Argentine, the Ijse and the Woluwe. It also requires an understanding of the role of the biogeochemical system formed by the forest and Bruxellien sand8 in the preservation of groundwater quality, particularly that of the Lédo-Panisélien Bruxellien aquifer9 presented in figure 4 [DGARNE, 2005: 10, 17; DGARNE, 2006: 3‑13, 23‑24, 27; VMM, 2008: 12, 20‑21, 24‑26, 33‑35, 39‑40, 53‑54, 68; Daise et al., 2009 & 2011: 42‑45; LAFS, 2009: 181‑195; CIW & VMM, 2010: 11‑12, 21, 39; DGARNE, 2010: 5, 19, 22; Langhor, 2010; Vandermotten et al., 2012: 7‑12].

13The second dimension calls for an evaluation of the influence of types of settlement on the forest and its ecotones, as regards “local” uses (leisure activities, farming methods, residential landscaping, configuration of drainage networks, building practices, geothermal science, etc.), as well as in terms of infrastructure projects (RER, widening of the ring road, development of the Delta pole, future of the Auderghem viaduct, reorganisation of traffic at Bois de la Cambre – Avenue Louise – Drève de Lorraine) [Langhor, 2001: 111‑112; De Vos, 2005: 37‑40, 70‑71; Daise et al., 2009: 45‑47, 51‑56, 345‑350; Vandermotten et al., 2012: 52‑55].

14Despite their importance, these spatial questions will not be dealt with systematically. The keys to understanding them will be given through an equally fundamental perspective, i.e. that of the evolution of the forest over time. The current physical and sociocultural realities of the forest depend precisely on this evolution.

3. The Sonian Forest plateau: an “upstream/downstream” asymmetry in the emergence of Brussels urban reality (11th – 18th centuries)

  • 10 In fact, the forest ecosystem was formed during the last ice age, approximately ten thousand years (...)

15In order to understand the physical reality of the area concerned, we must go back to at least10 the Carolingian period, when a vast area called the “coal forest” was divided up following several clearing operations. It was during this period that the name Sonia silva (Sonian Forest) appeared, indicating the appropriation of this area by a series of human establishments. Figure 5 provides an idea of the area of the forest before this individualisation. At the time, it covered all of the south of Brussels as well as almost all of the plateau separating the Zenne from the Dijle, including Halle Wood and Forest Wood [Duvivier, 1861: 12‑13; Pierron, s.d.: 8‑9, 12; LAFS, 2009: 10‑16, 64‑65, 183‑184; Byl et al., 2010].

Figure 5. The gradual dividing up of the “coal forest”; situation during the Roman period

Figure 5. The gradual dividing up of the “coal forest”; situation during the Roman period
  • 11 This refers to a “large agricultural holding run by a religious community or a lord of more or less (...)
  • 12 This domination continued under the Burgundian regime, and then under that of the Habsburgs of Spai (...)

16This dividing up was synonymous with an increase in practices related to the forest. It was accompanied by an increase in forms of developed land on its outskirts, either along the existing edge, or in extensions made due to clearing for agricultural purposes or for development. Among these forms, several hamlets were established. The oldest date from the 10th century (Tervuren, Uccle, Overijse, Watermael); most of the others appeared between the 12th and 13th centuries. They were next to a large number of censes (land subject to quitrent)11 situated in direct proximity of the wooded area, and from the 12th century, were near religious or seigniorial areas, some of which were located in the middle of the forest. The presence of these areas was therefore closely related to the domination of the Dukes of Brabant. The Sonian Forest was declared “property of sovereigns” until 179412 [Ferraris, 1771‑1778; Pierron, s.d.: 11‑12; LAFS, 2009: 10; Jaumain et al., 2009: 71; Vandermotten et al., 2012: 20, 77‑80, 94‑100, 102‑103, 139‑142].

17These elements are still perfectly identifiable on Ferraris’ map (figure 6). They indicate the importance of the wooded area until the end of the Ancien Régime. For the people who lived on the outskirts – including the inhabitants of Brussels – it represented a source of fuel, construction materials and food, in addition to playing a part in agricultural practices. For the seigniorial and religious authorities, it constituted an essential source of revenue, as well as a place of recreation and pomp, where hunting activities were held [Pierron, s.d.: 225‑233; Liesenborghs, 2005; LAFS, 2009: 10‑16, 51‑54; Vandermotten et al., 2012: 17‑20].

Figure 6. Spatialisation of practices and of developed land in the territory considered during the second part of the 18th century

Figure 6. Spatialisation of practices and of developed land in the territory considered during the second part of the 18th century
  • 13 “J. E. Davidts [, etc.] defines [warande] as a place where animals were kept in a defined space sit (...)
  • 14 The term “landscape construction” is redundant: the “value attributed to the configuration of the l (...)
  • 15 The roads which went through the wooded area were cobbled from the 16th to the 18th centuries. Some (...)

18For purposes related to subsistence, production and representation, the uses which developed in the south/southeast of Brussels during this period were therefore not of the same nature as those which existed in the west and north of the city. Their spatialisation and the artefacts which they produced – road networks, buildings, parks and warandes (game preserves)13 – must be considered according to three observations: as regards the collective imagination, the forest was a landscape construction14 whose representation illustrated social practices (see figure 14); at functional level, it was a resource which was made accessible via a network of roads and drives which ran through it;15 in terms of management, it was the property of the sovereign authority who could decide on its use [Smolar-Meynart, 1998: 33, 36‑37, 118‑119; Van de Kerckhof et al., 2000: 274].

Figure 14. The staging of the forest – a theatre for the evolution of social practices

Figure 14. The staging of the forest – a theatre for the evolution of social practices

19This three-sided situation is not neutral. It signifies that, for the population of Brussels as well as for the authorities who lived there, the territories outside the town were not considered to be isotropic; the borders of the Duchy of Brabant, the ties with Leuven, the Sonian Forest and the physical boundary formed by the alluvial plain of the Zenne were factors which went against purely radioconcentric territorial dynamics. In terms of proto-urbanisation, the distribution of forms of developed land to the east of the Zenne was thus determined as much by a particular geopolitical and sociocultural situation – that of a ducal forest situated upstream from an urban settlement, both of which were under the control of the same authority – as it was by the physical extension of the city from its centre outwards.

  • 16 A road network inside the city considered as being on the east/west commercial route linking Flande (...)

20The forest also played a role in the emergence of certain morphological specificities of the Pentagon inherited from the Ancien Régime, for three reasons: firstly, the topography facilitated the leading of the forest towards Brussels; secondly, the forest represented the very material with which the urban settlement was built (from a material, economic and political point of view); thirdly, it monopolised the access within its territory to the main network allowing the transport of this resource, i.e. the Zenne as well as the Willebroek Canal (1561). As figure 7 suggests, the development of the central urban fabric was therefore not purely endogenous; it integrated the relationships with the forest [Jaumain et al., 2009: 53]. The asymmetry generated by this is suggested by place names such as Hout kaye, Hooy kaye, and de Hout merckt Straet, and by the continued presence of a wood market in Brussels from the 15th to the 19th century. But it is apparent above all physically in the forms of developed land. For example, figure 7 presents the relationships between the former Coudenberg warande (current Brussels Park) and the coppices in the northwest of the Sonian Forest, as well as the importance of uses and practices along the walsche weg (see notes 12, 14, 16 & 23). It also allows an evaluation of the northwest/southeast orientation of the routes inside the city – in particular the Steenwech16 – organised around the hub represented by Bassin des Marchands (1561) and Bassin Sainte-Catherine (1564) for several roads linking the Sonian Forest and Willebroek Canal. In this respect, let us mention the perpendicularity of the tree felling areas with respect to these roads – an explicit sign of practices which developed between the uphill slope and the downhill slope of the valley [Fricx, 1712; Henne & Wauters, 1845: 303, 528‑529; Ducpetiaux, 1847: 90; Smolar-Meynart, 1998: 33; Jaumain et al., 2009: 72].

Figure 7. As an element which intervened in the power relationships between urban stakeholders, the forest caused asymmetry in terms of the distribution of territorial dynamics very early on

Figure 7. As an element which intervened in the power relationships between urban stakeholders, the forest caused asymmetry in terms of the distribution of territorial dynamics very early on
  • 17 These means used by the sovereigns had an economic function, but also a cynegetic and representativ (...)
  • 18 The unstopped clear-cutting took place in the form of “successive clear-cutting of areas, one next (...)

21The role played by the forest in terms of territorial dynamics did not necessarily serve the urban authorities: the forest belonged to the sovereigns; its status was therefore not similar to that of the territories which constituted the “Cuve de Bruxelles” (from the 13th century until 1795). This was not a negotiated resource which the city used freely – it was the object of a right of passage from the 15th to the 18th century – but rather one of the guarantees of seigniorial power. From the 14th century, the seigniorial power established several means to preserve the integrity of the wooded area and to enhance its value.17 The forest “was built” as much as the city itself, with its facies becoming less and less spontaneous. It was gradually marked out and sloped parallel to its property boundaries, the roads which went through it were cobbled and levelled, the composite forest systems were eliminated, trees were planted in the “naturally” empty spaces, and the existing trees were replaced – most often by beech – in order to maximise exploitation. These transformations – which were particularly intensive from the 16th century onwards – resulted in works being carried out from the beginning of the 18th century in a forest which was highly regulated by man: the “even-aged beech forest”. From this moment on, young beech trees were grown in nurseries (in particular on the former domain of the Rouge-Cloître), and were then planted in the forest where they were the object of artificial selection, all according to an exploitation method referred to as “unstopped clear-cutting”18 [Pierron, s.d.: 96‑129, 147‑168, 243‑247; Mortier & Hasquin, 1997: 19‑20; LAFS, 2009; Vandermotten et al., 2012: 4].

22This management method, used throughout the wooded area from 1788 until the beginning of the 20th century, homogenised the wooded area. Furthermore, it increased its surface area. Its reason for being was nevertheless economic and strategic, bearing witness to the power relationships which existed. The abovementioned notion of asymmetry was a way to translate the geopolitical reality which prevailed from the 12th to the 18th century – that of a coalition of urban stakeholders determined by two complementary and opposing polarities: the city and the forest. As suggested by centering and areas shown on many old maps [Van Werden, 1659; Ferraris, 1770; Pierron, s.d.: 21, 89], in terms of geographic area, this reality goes well beyond the inner city of Brussels. It shifts the centre of gravity of the Pentagon to the southeast, with its evolution directly linked to this hinterland. Thus, during the Ancien Régime, this part of the current urban area must be seen as the fruit of a territorial coproduction, rather than the product of independent stakeholders [Pierron, s.d.; LAFS, 2009; Jaumain et al., 2009: 71‑72].

4. Silent subtraction: the privatisation of the wooded area on the eve of urban expansion (end of the 18th century / beginning of the 19th century)

  • 19 It must be noted that the Sonian Forest became a public area in 1794, during the occupation of the (...)

23This coproduction and the relative preservation of the wooded area which it established were questioned at the beginning of the 19th century, when a political crisis placed the sovereign authority  an age-old owner of the forest19  in a difficult situation. In this context, the process of rationalisation of forest “management” and exploitation begun during the previous centuries suddenly became synonymous with significant reductions in the surface area of the forest. As the authority’s social status had been lowered, the forest no longer had any influence at political level, and only its financial value counted from that point onwards.

  • 20 This sale therefore did not only concern the surface area covered by the former ducal property, but (...)

24The premise for this change in regime goes back to 1822, when William I sold the property of the Sonian Forest to a public limited company of which he was a shareholder: the Algemeene Nederlandsche Maatschappij ter Begunstiging van de Volksvlijt (ANMBV).20 Officially, this transfer of wood capital contributed to reducing the public debt incurred during the Napoleonic Wars. Unofficially, in a context of political instability, it brought the capital represented by the property belonging to a private estate back to the sovereign, until 1834, when the ANMBV – which had become the Société Générale pour favoriser l’industrie nationale during Belgian independence – asserted its national character. On the eve of the mechanised industrialisation of the Belgian territory and in an institutional context favouring financial precariousness, the forest therefore became dependent on a regime which was relocated with respect to Brussels, where the rationality of its configuration was purely synonymous with profit [Maziers, 1994; Corvol, 1995: 704; Kurgan-van Hentenryk, 1997 (1996): 21‑26, & 1998; Tallier, 2002: 1248‑1252, 1261; LAFS, 2009: 10‑15, 17‑18, 58].

  • 21 With the forest becoming the property of a public limited company, the latter was then liable for s (...)

25This silent subtraction of the “forest entity” with respect to Brussels dynamics deeply transformed the physical structure of the area situated to the south/southeast of the Pentagon. From 1825, it brought about an administrative division of the wooded area in order to implement the collection of a tax.21 As shown in figure 8a, the “triages” – pre-existing territorial areas linked to the surveillance of forest officers – were entrusted to municipalities which, until then, had bordered the former ducal property. Beyond its impact in terms of forest management (see note 22), this administrative reconfiguration thus established the future institutional power relationships between the city of Brussels and its outskirts, on the eve of the expansion of the central urban fabric [LAFS, 2009: 77‑78; Vandermotten et al., 2012: 4].

Figure 8. The impacts of the change of status of 1822 on the property of the wooded area and its spatial location in the Antwerp-Brussels-Charleroi route

Figure 8. The impacts of the change of status of 1822 on the property of the wooded area and its spatial location in the Antwerp-Brussels-Charleroi route

26Furthermore, the alienation of 1822 led to the creation of the Route de la Banque (1833). By crossing the forest to connect Chaussée de Charleroi and Chaussée de Malines, it formed a new route situated on the ridge line separating the catchment area of the Zenne from that of the Dijle. Contrary to the roads, this route – represented in figure 8 – was no longer intended for the Pentagon: on the one hand, it opened up the industrial activities of the region of Charleroi where the Société Générale continued to invest [Trioen, 1839]; on the other hand, it maximised the access to the southern part of the wooded area, more precisely to a series of wooded plots of land which the Société sold in large numbers, between 1831 and 1836 (before its “voluntary nationalisation” through the repurchase of securities held by William I), to members of the business upper middle class. Figures 12b and 12c indicate in this respect the reduction in forest routes and paths in the southern part of the forest in the 19th century. Furthermore, they illustrate the acquisition of private areas in the remains of the ducal forest, in particular that of the de Meeûs family in Ohain (1833, 1836), the de Béthune family in La Hulpe (1833), the Coghen family in Uccle (Wolvendael castle, 1829), the Bischoffsheim family (purchased by the Vanderhecht widow in 1832 and resold to the said family in 1848) and the Verhaegen family (future Tournay-Solvay property) in Watermael-Boitsfort [IGM, 1975 (1858); Kurgan-van Hentenryk, 1997 (1996): 21‑26, 112; Tallier, 2002: 1267‑1269, 1271‑1274; Verwilghen, 2006: 21‑22, 70‑72, 75‑76; LAFS, 2009: 24; Vandermotten et al., 2012: 55, 60, 124].

27The change in status of the wooded area was therefore both institutional and spatial (figure 8). The forest – formerly linked to its nearby outskirts and in particular to the east side of the Zenne – was from then on part of the Antwerp-Brussels-Charleroi route, which was materialised by the prolongation of the canal (1832) and by the creation of the Brussels-South/Charleroi-South railway line (1843‑1873). The profits generated by the sale of these areas were used to finance the canalisation of the Sambre and the port of Antwerp infrastructures [Maziers, 1994; Jaumain et al., 2009: 93].

  • 22 Linthout wood (in Schaerbeek and Woluwe-Saint-Lambert), Solbosch (in Ixelles) and Mesdael wood (in (...)
  • 23 Brussels was limited to the Pentagon. The transformations therefore refer to: the emptying of drain (...)

28These extralocal spatial determining factors also deeply modified the reality in situ: in the short term, they completely changed the existing landscape structures, and in the long term, they directed development outside Brussels for several decades. In 1842, when the forest was returned to the Belgian state (in the framework of the financial regulation following the breaking up of the kingdom of the Netherlands), the latter recuperated only 4 386 of the 11 718 hectares of the former property belonging to a private estate (see note 21). A large part of the forest surface area had therefore been divided into plots, sold, cleared and then converted into farmland or large private properties. It was precisely these pieces of land and these properties, such as Linthout wood and Mesdael wood, Mangelingenbosch, Solbosch, Streek Veld, Stockel and Heeghde22 (figure 9), as well as certain sites inherited from the Ancien Régime or purchased (in particular between 1819 and 1821) through the confiscation of church property (mainly in 1796), which nurtured the speculative logic specific to the process of urbanisation. Following the transformations which made the physical and political expansion of the city of Brussels possible,23 these plots of land represented not only a pool of land for the young capital, but above all a financial capital to add value for the investors who supported its development [Wauters, 1855: 11; Corvol, 1995; Tallier, 2002: 1245; Jaumain et al., 2009: 281; LAFS, 2009: 17, 58, 77‑78; Zitouni, 2010: 70; Vandermotten et al., 2012: 4‑6].

5. The great coalition: the Sonian Forest at the heart of political and financial deals of the new Belgian state (19th century)

  • 24 Among the first large-scale programmes for the remains of the Sonian Forest were: in Solbosch, in I (...)

29Under the influence of economic, political and urbanistic logics, as well as due to the very nature of programmes requiring significant land assembly,24 the occupation of forest surface areas from 1822 by forms of developed land began in the second half of the 19th century. It was permitted by two urbanistic operations: the Léopold quarter (1837) and Avenue Louise (1861‑1862). The first involved the former coppices of the forest situated near the Pentagon; the second “sought” the former Heeghde which had been cleared at the time, more precisely a piece of land given to the Belgian state in 1843 by Léopold I: the future Bois de la Cambre (1864‑1865) [Jaumain et al., 2009: 40, 112‑113; Vandermotten et al., 2012: 34, 35, 65, 83, 106].

30As regards these operations, the land transfers which took place at the beginning of the century acquired a special value. Two hypotheses – presented in figure 9 – are worth mentioning:

  • 25 The Société Générale shareholders included Jacques André Coghen and Maximilien de Béthune. Furtherm (...)

31In the case of the Léopold quarter, the challenges related to the political extension of the city of Brussels (mainly in 1853) met the ambitions of large middle-class families, anxious to go beyond the Maelbeek valley to enhance the value of the land which they had acquired from the Société Générale. The establishment of the new quarter near Solbosch, Mesdael wood and Linthout wood was not innocent. On the one hand, the shareholders of the company in charge of the development of the neighbourhood – the Société civile pour lagrandissement et lembellissement de la capitale de la Belgique (1837) – included the representatives of these families whose financial capital was sometimes made up of these very sites. On the other hand, this company – founded by Ferdinand Meeus – was a subsidiary of the Société Générale, a company which the latter managed from 1830 to 1861 and of which these families were shareholders25 [Wauters, 1855: 11; Witte, 1969: 6‑47; Kurgan-van Hentenryk, 1997 (1996): 26‑36; Tallier, 2002; MRBC-DMS, Berckmans & Genon, s.d.: 9, 11; Jaumain et al., 2009: 91, 112, 218].

32In the case of Avenue Louise, beyond the real estate operation whose value was enhanced by the creation of Bois de la Cambre and its promenade, it was an occasion for the city of Brussels to acquire a rare and contested resource with respect to galloping urbanisation, i.e. the drinking water present in the ground of the Sonian Forest. The political annexation of the avenue and the park in 1864 were thus followed by the first water collection in the Sonian Forest in 1873 (law of 8 June 1875) [ICM, 1879; Ranieri, 1973: 31‑33; Pierron, s.d.: 8‑9; MRBC-DMS, Douillet & Schaack, s.d., a & b; LAFS, 2009: 197; Jaumain et al., 2009: 91].

Figure 9. The connections between the first urbanistic developments outside the city and the plots of land from the Sonian Forest, in particular Heeghde, Solbosch, Mesdael wood, Mangelingenbosch and Linthout wood

Figure 9. The connections between the first urbanistic developments outside the city and the plots of land from the Sonian Forest, in particular Heeghde, Solbosch, Mesdael wood, Mangelingenbosch and Linthout wood
  • 26 We are referring to the Plan général d’alignement des faubourgs established by Charles Vanderstraet (...)

33More than the first urbanistic tools26 [Zitouni, 2010: 122‑125, 134‑136], and behind the arguments linked to the landscape and sociocultural value of the forest – as was the case during the creation of Bois de la Cambre – the political and financial interests of a limited number of protagonists therefore appeared to direct the development of the urban fabric in the 19th century. These interests – determined by the land assets acquired through the sale of the Sonian Forest – may be seen as factors which reinforced the geopolitical asymmetry which had existed several centuries earlier. The city and the forest were no longer opposing polarities in power relationships, but rather two elements which served the intentions of a coalition of hegemonic stakeholders who had helped themselves to a geographic area which went beyond the physical boundaries of the urban fabric. It is therefore not surprising that this asymmetry was evident in the spatial distribution of the developed land outside the city, which had a stronger presence to the south/southeast of the Pentagon until the middle of the 20th century (figure 11a) [Dejemeppe et al., 2012: 21]. Furthermore, inasmuch as it involved attracting creditworthy buyers to the former edges of the wooded area, it is likely that it asserted conclusively the process of social dualisation which characterises Brussels today [Van Hecke et al., 2009: 153‑155, 170‑171].

34In reality, these hypotheses were first confirmed by the northeast extension (1875) of the Léopold quarter, by the establishment of middle-class populations from Ixelles and Saint-Josse in the Maelbeek valley and by the major roads built by Georges Brugmann to enhance the value of land in Saint-Gilles, Forest and Uccle. It was then corroborated at the turn of the century by the movement of middle-class residential homes to the north/northwest edge of the forest and by the gradual urbanisation of the former Heeghde (Langeveld, Vert Chasseur), Linthout (George Henri neighbourhood), part of the Mesdael, and the upstream part of the Woluwe valley (Watermael-Boitsfort, Woluwe-Saint-Pierre, Woluwe-Saint-Lambert) [MRBC-DMS, 2005‑2007; ICM, 1885; ICM, 1879; ICM, 1904; Ranieri, 1973: 66, 70; MRBC-DMS, Herla & Deschaumes, 2007; Jaumain et al., 2009: 43, 196, 218, 285, 357‑359, 363; Zitouni, 2010: 53‑96].

6. Appropriation of outskirts “on the outskirts”: Sonian Forest land and the productivist system elite (end of the 19th century – 20th century)

  • 27 The garden city is based on the “hypothesis that it is possible to combine the advantages of the ci (...)

35At the beginning of the 20th century, the major roads in the Léopold quarter and Avenue Louise  fortified by these first establishments  were transformed into true development priorities. Within a few decades, they connected the central urban fabric with the land with development potential situated on the outskirts of the wooded area (figures 10, 11 & 12). This change was deeply influenced by the aims of Léopold II in terms of planning and real estate promotion (figure 15). Let us also mention that it also took advantage of the historical location of roads, the theories of garden cities,27 international exhibitions (1880, 1897, 1910), the railway and tramway network (extended between 1869 to 1952), and the emergence of forest tourism among large sectors of the population [Ranieri, 1973: 21, 24, 71, 88, 112, 343, 353‑356; Jaumain et al., 2009: 39, 90‑91, 98, 286, 306; LAFS, 2009: 36‑37; Zitouni, 2010: 220‑223; Vandermotten et al., 2012: 20‑28].

Figure 10. Three views on the morphogenesis of the area considered, from the end of the 18th century until the 21st century

Figure 10. Three views on the morphogenesis of the area considered, from the end of the 18th century until the 21st century

Figure 11. The south/southeast process of diffusion of the residential environment during the 20th century

Figure 11. The south/southeast process of diffusion of the residential environment during the 20th century

Figure 12. Synthesis of morphogenesis of the area considered, from the end of the 18th century until the 21st century

Figure 12. Synthesis of morphogenesis of the area considered, from the end of the 18th century until the 21st century

Figure 15. The emergence of the urban area over three centuries and the role played by Léopold II’s interventions (1865‑1896)

Figure 15. The emergence of the urban area over three centuries and the role played by Léopold II’s interventions (1865‑1896)

36As regards the abovementioned graphic documents, the main lines of this change may be summarised as follows:

  • 28 This route was supported by the creation of Léopold Park and the Luxembourg (1855) and Etterbeek (1 (...)

37A first route,28 in the east, established the densification of upper parts of Schaerbeek and Etterbeek around Rue de la Loi, Avenue de Cortenberg and Avenue d’Auderghem. That of the two Woluwes, Stockel, Kraainem and Tervuren was then begun via Avenue de Tervuren through the forest (1896‑1899). Beginning at the Royal Park (1775‑1780), it joined the northeast part of the forest via Avenue de Tervuren – more specifically the royal area of Tervuren – and it joined several sites with a monumental and recreational vocation: the Cinquantenaire (1888), the parks – Woluwe, Parmentier and Étangs Mellaerts (1887‑1899, 1906) – and the Ravenstein golf club (Belgian Royal Golf Club) [Ranieri, 1973: 77‑98, 124; Jaumain et al., 2009: 302‑304; Vandermotten et al., 2012: 106, 107].

  • 29 This route was supported by the railway developments of the South Station (on the former property o (...)
  • 30 By-road W connected Place Rouppe and Saint-Gilles, and then, via Chaussée de Waterloo, it joined Fo (...)

38A second route,29 in the southeast, led to the urbanisation of Ixelles and Saint-Gilles around Avenue Louise. It then led to that of Auderghem, Forest, Uccle, Watermael-Boitsfort and La Hulpe via two operations: on the one hand, its prolongation towards Avenue de Tervuren, with the creation of Avenue de la Vénerie, Boulevard du Sovereign (1901‑1910) and Avenue des Nations (1922); on the other hand, the establishment of by-road W to Braine-l’Alleud and Wavre,30 and the asphalting of Drève de Lorraine (1925). In the same way as in the east, these operations were once again polarised by part of the forest: Bois de la Cambre [Ranieri, 1973: 70, 103‑113; MRBC-DMS, Herla & Deschaumes, 2007; MRBC-DMS, Douillet & Schaack, s.d., a, b & c; Jaumain et al., 2009: 315; LAFS, 2009: 36‑37].

  • 31 The Tracé Royal connects the Castle of Laeken to the Palace of Coudenberg. It is made up of Rue Roy (...)
  • 32 It was not until between 1963 and 1973 that they were no longer used in this way. Currently, half o (...)
  • 33 This territory corresponds more or less to the triangle formed by the Castle of Laeken, the royal a (...)

39By establishing a direct connection between the Pentagon, the boulevards of the ring and the historical location of roads (Chaussée de Waterloo, Chaussée de La Hulpe, Chaussée de Wavre and Avenue de Tervuren), these two routes eventually integrated the hamlets which were historically located on the outskirts of the forest into urban dynamics (see figures 7 & 10a). Furthermore, they played a special role for the ruling classes. The continuity which the two avenues established between the Tracé Royal,31 an extension of Rue de la Régence (1927) (figure 9), and the drives in the wooded area – which were open to car traffic32 – made a north-south crossing of the city possible, from the area of Laeken to the east and south edges of the forest, via a succession of tree-lined boulevards which skirted round the working-class neighbourhoods of the Pentagon. In the long term, these routes established a territory33 which was historically dedicated to the “elite”. This secured the land acquisitions of these stakeholders – in particular those of Léopold II, whose properties are presented in figure 15. Furthermore, they inaugurated new relationships with the central urban fabric, which was from then on “avoided”, both in terms of practices as well as from a morphological point of view. The establishment of the racecourses in Boitsfort (1875) and Groenendael (1888), and the Ravenstein golf club (1904‑1906) were revealing in this respect [Ranieri, 1973: 77‑98, 101‑102; Pierron, s.d.: 12, 168‑171; Verwilghen, 2006; Jaumain et al., 2009: 83, 154; Vandermotten et al., 2012: 20‑23, 43].

  • 34 During the 20th century, the funds released from the sale of the wooded area once again welcomed a (...)
  • 35 In Belgium, the political regime referred to was characterised by the promulgation of two laws: the (...)

40In the 20th century, the two abovementioned radial components therefore had a major influence on the nature of the territory and on the way it grew in density. As both causes and consequences of the south/southeast movement of diffusion of the residential environment, their impact was the result of a three-sided situation. At sociocultural level, they responded to the desire to be close to “nature”, which was felt to be healthier and more comfortable than the urban centre (which was congested and poor). This “nature” was partly embodied in the forest landscape. At economic level, they made the vast pieces of land which had been sold during the previous century by the Société Générale34 accessible and appealing. At political level, they were directly in keeping with post-war Fordism favouring the creation of single-family housing estates and large housing developments on the outskirts of the urban centre.35 Beginning in 1950, the major housing development operations – mainly those devoted to single-family dwellings – thus went beyond the current regional boundaries, but still on the outskirts of the Sonian Forest. This irremediably created an asymmetrical distribution of forms of developed land in the urban area (figures 11 & 12), often coupled with a difference in social status of the populations [Dubois, 2005; Cassiers & Denayer, 2009; MRBC-AATL et al., 2010a, b & c; Dejemeppe et al., 2012: 22‑25].

7. The cultural determining factors of naturalisation (end of the 19th century – 20th century)

41While the forest determined the evolution of urban reality, in return the latter had a deep impact on the construction of the forest landscape and its management. The physical configuration of the forms of developed land led to modifications in the flora and the forest soil, and therefore in the water regimens associated with them. City practices also modified the way the forest was viewed [Larrère, 2009 (1997): 203‑206; IBGE et al., 2009: 31; Van Hecke et al., 2009: 167; Roland, 2011a: 56]. For example, while it was managed for production and profit purposes in the 18th and 19th centuries, in 1907, the gradual colonisation of its edges tolled the knell of unstopped clear-cutting, with the large clearings perceived by walkers as being “unsightly” – in particular the landscape painters of the Rouge-Cloître and Tervuren [LAFS, 2009: 51‑61, 181‑209; Vandermotten et al., 2012: 99].

  • 36 “Said of a partial cutting removing only trees in their maturity or which are a nuisance. The woode (...)

42A new transformation of the wooded area and its representation took place alongside urbanisation (figure 13). It was characterised by the “construction” of a “more natural” forest, i.e. more picturesque, more irregular, less dense and more diversified, with areas of spontaneous sowing being reintroduced. This transformation was begun in 1886 with the introduction of progressive group felling of a selective nature,36 and then was applied to the entire wooded area in place of the former management method. It led to a decrease in forest exploitation – as the planting method no longer lent itself to this – as well as to a questioning of the cathedral-like beech forest itself, with the lapse of time between felling set at 100 years in 1788, 120 years in 1886, 180 years in 1975 and 200 years in 2003. The suppression of large-scale felling and the resulting delay of the age of felling led to the ageing of the beech forest [INBO, 2011: 22‑23]. It therefore tended to diversify spontaneously, to the detriment of the homogeneous and regular facies established in the 18th century. In this respect, the comparison of the routes in the forest in 1930 and 2007 (figures 12c & 12d) illustrates the shift from exploitation to recreation [Daise et al., 2009: 356‑357; LAFS, 2009: 33‑42, 51‑61, 105, 213‑218; Vandermotten et al., 2012: 20‑25].

Figure 13. Illustration of the change in the way the forest was viewed during the process of urbanization

Figure 13. Illustration of the change in the way the forest was viewed during the process of urbanization

43This transformation was closely linked to groups of stakeholders – in particular the Touring Club (1896) and the Ligue des Amis de la Forêt de Soignes (1909) – whose positions and aims were explained by the evolution of the social and political situation: firstly, the implementation of universal suffrage and the “1944 social pact”; and secondly, the community tensions and the process of regionalisation of the country. But it must also be considered alongside the social dualisation which accompanied the asymmetrical development of forms of developed land in the 20th century. Thus, in 1959, when a listed status prevented any reduction in the forest surface area inherited in 1842 (i.e. 4 386 hectares, in other words the former ducal property reduced by about 7 000 hectares of forest), it of course represented an ecological challenge, but perhaps it was also the sign of a (physical and cultural) appropriation of the forest by the people who lived in its outskirts. Although this listing was established for preservation purposes, at legal level, it above all legitimised the privatisation of the forest edges which took place during the 19th and 20th centuries, preventing any public intervention in terms of their future and their management. The “naturalisation” of the wooded area begun during the previous century therefore played a special role: beyond the concerns regarding the landscape, aesthetics and the environment, it above all contributed to reinforcing the difference in status between the wooded area and its privately owned edges; it redefined the boundaries of “the city” and “nature” within public action [Secchi, 2006 (2000): 23; Corvol, 2005: 279‑287; Cassiers & Denayer, 2009; LAFS, 2009: 11; Vandermotten et al., 2012: 20‑26; Vandekerkhove et al., 2007, 30‑31].

  • 37 Part of the wooded area depends on a fourth authority: the Belgian Royal Trust (1930). It manages a (...)

44Afterwards, with the regionalisation of competences in the areas of the environment, urbanism and land use planning – which, from 1974 to 2001, authorised more and more differentiated policies in these areas in the territory of the Regions [Vandekerkhove et al., 2007] – this change of status became more pronounced, to the point that in certain respects it became synonymous with a disinterest in the role of the forest in the construction of urban reality. It was considered as a “natural oasis” whose tripartite management since 198337 was confined to three Natura 2000 administrative areas, each under the remit of a regional authority’ [LAFS, 2009: 73‑79]. The projects and the studies which focused more or less on the wooded area led to a multiplication of partial and biased interpretations, in particular when their only referents were the areas of political action in the evaluations which they carried out. Three types of pitfall may thus be pointed out: the methods of evaluation and the operational frameworks of management tools [GRBC, IBGE et al., 2003: 55‑56, 100‑109; Declercq, 2008; Daise et al., 2009: 289‑392; VR, 2009a: 18‑21, & 2009b], the absence of a coordination of plans – in particular those determining land use [GW, 1977‑1987; VR, 1972‑2002; GRBC, 2001; MRBC-AATL et al., 2010a] – and the lack of interest in the physical and historical reality of the territory in terms of representation [AGIV, 1996‑2000; AGIV, 2000; VR, 2008: 30‑35, Kaart 5; Dejemeppe et al., 2012: 73‑75]. The first two lie within the scope of institutional determinism; the third, within that of the normativity of reasoning.

Conclusion: the lessons drawn from a ’thick description’, bringing together the forest and urban reality

  • 38 Admittedly, the emergence and democratisation of the car, as well as the development of road infras (...)

45The south/southeast of the Brussels urban area cannot be summarised as being the radioconcentric expansion of the central fabric [Eggerickx & Poulain, 1990; Thisse & Thomas, 2010: 16], or as being a “material expansion of the urban area beyond an initial boundary” [Lussault, 2007: 333]. It is rather the sum total of nuclear developments which were historically polarised by the forest in an endeavour by several stakeholders to enhance its value at sociocultural, political and economic level. This increase in value took place through spatial and urbanistic interventions which were conceptually associated with “the city”. But it was always based on the control of a geographic area which went well beyond the latter. With the landscape and the physical structures associated with this area – i.e. the forest – having determined the urban forms, it is no longer entirely appropriate to speak of “outskirts” or “periurbanisation”. Technical progress and the democratisation of transport associated with industrial modernity are not enough to explain the asymmetrical distribution of developed areas – an asymmetry present despite the relatively isotropic network made up of railway networks at the beginning of the 20th century38 [Secchi, 2006 (2000): 74‑75; Lussault, 2007: 333‑337].

46Urban reality and the forest ecosystem were not “unities with their own balance and self-regulation” [Campbell & Reece, 2007: 1322‑1325]. Everywhere at a distance of 1 to 2 km beyond the current forest conservation areas, more or less old forest remains mixed with artefacts, while within these areas, the structure of plantings differed from the edges towards the central parts. How was it possible to guarantee the validity of environmental policies which were not linked to urban practices, apart from proving that acidification, eutrophication, the loss of ecotopes, desiccation, compaction and insularisation were problems which were endogenous to the forest [Latour, 1997 (1991): 10‑14, 192‑197; Larrère, 2009 (1997): 139‑164, 172‑183; Defloor et al., 2000: 25, 30; AGIV, 2000‑2001; Langhor, 2001: 113‑114, & 2010: 13‑14; Feltz, 2003: 24; AGIV, 2005; Lussault, 2007: 19‑20; INBO, 2009: 133‑137]?

47Practically speaking, if the city and the forest are not independent entities, and if the emergence of one depends on the future of the other (figure 16), it is therefore necessary to indicate the gaps which exist between their physical reality and the sectoral character of concepts and representations associated with them. Among these, spatial definition operations require special attention. By determining “established relationships between a geographically defined area and the social group which occupies it” [Corboz, 2001 (1983): 254], they determine not only what is planned and what is left for others, but they also establish the spatiotemporal and epistemological frameworks of the problems studied [Lussault, 2007: 81, 82]. The establishment of new views and tools [Corboz, 2001 (1983): 254] requires a descriptive operation, allowing an “understanding of past, present and future profiles of use” [Campbell & Reece, 2007: 1322], and therefore an integration of the physical and landscape structures into the planning of this use [Secchi, 2006 (2000): 113‑133; Schmithüsen, 1999]. This description – following the example of landscape ecology and anthropology – is not exclusively quantitative; it also involves in situ observation and induction [Campbell & Reece, 2007: 1175‑1176, 1322‑1323]. It must integrate the historical and systemic dimension of the territory and thus avoid its bureaucratisation. At academic level, “describing” involves an ethical dimension, i.e. that of rendering common challenges [Stengers, 1995 (1993); Larrère, 2009 (1997): 219‑234; Hache, 2011]. Although they are considered as peripheral to managed structures, they nevertheless constitute the basis of sustainable development [Corboz, 2001 (1983): 203; Secchi, 2006 (2000): 63; Feltz, 2003: 179‑181].

Figure 16. Evolution of the geopolitical configuration of the territory and its physical reality over three centuries

Figure 16. Evolution of the geopolitical configuration of the territory and its physical reality over three centuries

This article is part of current doctoral research. Its support committee includes professors David Vanderburgh (director), André De Herde (co-director), Bernard Declève and Bernardo Secchi, as well as Serge Kempeneers, director of the Espaces Verts division at Bruxelles Environnement. The text is based on a research report entitled La forêt de Soignes, pour un état du lieu [Roland, 2011a], written by the author and available on request. Several investigations have been carried out in situ in the framework of this report. A first version of the article was submitted on 30 September 2011. It was revised in collaboration with the Brussels Studies editorial team. Michel Maziers also made some corrections. The structure of the final version received the input of J.-P. Peemans within the framework of the Séminaire de recherche approfondie : Bruxelles en projets organised in the framework of the École doctorale en développement territorial (Louvain-la-Neuve – Brussels, spring 2012).

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Figuur 1.2: West-Oost dwarsprofiel door het Brulandkrijtsysteem, (Bron: VMM, afdeling Operationeel Waterbeheer), p. 12
Figuur 1.6: Grondwaterlichamen in het Ledo Paniseliaan Brusseliaan Aquifersysteem van het Brulandkrijtsysteem, (Bron : VMM, afdeling Operationeel Waterbeheer), p. 34
Figuur 1.9: Grondwatervoeding in de dagzomende delen van de freatische grondwaterlichamen van het Brulandkrijtsysteem, (Bron: VMM, afdeling Operationeel Waterbeheer), p. 40
Figuur 2.4: Stijghoogtekaart van het Ledo Paniseliaan Brusseliaan Aquifersysteem in het Brulandkrijtsysteem, (Bron: VMM, afdeling Operationeel Waterbeheer), p. 53
Figuur 2.24: Vergund debiet in het Brulandkrijtsysteem per grondwaterlichaam en per sector (jaar 2005), (Bron: VMM, afdeling Operationeel Waterbeheer), p. 68 URL: http://www.vmm.be/publicaties/2008/blks_systeem_definitief_ok.pdf (consulted on: 4 January 2012).

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EUROPEAN ENVIRONMENT AGENCY (EEA), 2006, CLC 2006 V13 – 100m (g100_06.zip) (Corine Land Cover 2006 seamless vector data version 13: 02/2010; produced by The European Topic Centre on Land Use and Spatial Information), EEA (eds.), [online: 30.12.2010 15.01.2011].
Layers involved: 111 – Continuous urban fabric; 112 – Discontinuous urban fabric; 121 – Industrial or commercial units; 122 – Road and rail networks and associated land; 123 – Port areas; 124 – Airports; 131 – Mineral extraction sites; 132 – Dump sites; 133 – Construction sites; 141 – Green urban areas; 142 – Sport and leisure facilities; 311 – Broad-leaved forest; 312 – Coniferous forest; 313 – Mixed forest; 511 – Water bodies, Inland waters, Water courses; 512 – Water bodies, Inland waters, Water bodies; 521 – Water bodies, Marine waters, Coastal lagoons; 522 – Water bodies, Marine waters, Estuaries; 523 ‑ Water bodies, Marine waters, Sea and ocean / URL, 27.05.2010 (1 pub.): http://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/data/corine-land-cover-2006-raster (consulted on: 27 May 2010). © European Environment Agency

EUROPEAN ENVIRONMENT AGENCY (EEA), 2009, Biogeographical regions in Europe 2008 (data provided by Directorate-General Entreprise and Industry), EEA (eds.), [online: 09.11.2011]. URL, 25.08.2009 (1 pub.): http://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/figures/biogeographical-regions-in-europe (consulted on: 9 November 2011). © European Environment Agency

EUROPEAN ENVIRONMENT AGENCY (EEA), 2010, Natura2000_Public_MID2010_100KLAEA.zip (Natura 2000 data – the European network of protected sites; derived from Unit Nature & Biodiversity, DG Environment, European Commission), 1:100 000, EEA (eds.), [online: 31.01.2011]. URL, 04.11.2010 (1 pub.): http://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/data/natura (consulted on: 31 January 2011). © Directorate-General for Environment

EUROPEAN ENVIRONMENT AGENCY (EEA), 2011, WFD_RBDSU_f1v4.zip (River Basin Districts, River Basin Districts Subunits – WISE River basin districts (RBDs) – version 1.4: 06/2011; Data reported by EU Member States, Norway and Switzerland under the Water Framework Directive, Article 13 / The country borders were harmonised with EuroGlobalMap, EuroGeographics, www.eurogeographics.org / Catchments in non-EU Member States were extracted from CCM1, JRC), 1:250 000, EEA (eds.) [online: 24.10.2011]. URL, 01.07.2011 (1 pub.): http://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/data/wise-river-basin-districts-rbds-1 (consulted on: 24 October 2011). © Directorate-General for Environment

EUROPE BASE MAP, 2004‑2007, Minor Water (map), Major Water (map), [online: 04.01.2012]. URL: http://web.mit.edu/course/11/11.951/oldstuff/albacete/gis/europe/basemap/ (consulted on: 4 January 2012).

FERRARIS, J.-J. F., 1770, Carte Topographique de la forêt de Soignes et de ses Environs, 1:29 000, Bruxelles, Institut Géographique National (eds.).

FERRARIS, J.-J. F., 1771‑1178, Carte de Cabinet des Pays-Bas autrichiens et de la Principauté de Liège, 1:11 520, Bruxelles, Bibliothèque royale de Belgique (eds.), [online: 10.07.2009]. URL: http://www.kbr.be/collections/cart_plan/ferraris/ferraris_fr.html ; http://www.urba.be/Rues/rues_v.htm (consulted on: 10 July 2009).
Fig. 5b: Harrewyn, 1694, “La villa de Watermael” (engraving); Castella et Praetoria Nobilium Brabantiae, Jacques Le Roy (eds.), Ugent (eds.), [online: 01.01.2011‑01.03.2011]. © Universiteitsbibliotheek Gent
Fig. 5e: a. i., 1693, Le prieuré de Val-Duchesse (engraving), [online: 01.01.2011‑01.03.2011]. URL: http://www.urba.be/Rues/rues_v.htm. (consulted on: 1st March 2011).
Fig. 5f: a. i., 1725, Le site du Rouge-Cloître (engraving), [online: 01.01.2011‑01.03.2011]. URL: http://www.rouge-cloitre.be/lieu/lieu_index.php?id=12 (consulted on: 1st March 2011).
Fig. 5i: Jan Brueghel l’Ancien, sine dato, Le château de Tervuren (126 x 153 cm, oil on canvas), Madrid, Musée du Prado, [online: 01.01.2011‑01.03.2011]. URL: http://www.ethesis.net/jacht/jacht_hfst_1.htm (consulted on: 1st March 2011).
Fig. 5j: a. i., c. 1690, Canonica Ruber Vailis Het Roo Klooster / Reverendo Admodum Domino, D. Laurentio Stroobant, Canonice S Pauli Ruber Vailis in Zonia, Priori Meritissimo D. D. Lucas Vorstermas Junior (engraving), [online: 01.01.2011‑01.03.2011]. URL: http://www.malem-auder.org/spip.php?article26 (consulted on: 1st March 2011).
Fig. 5m: Sanderus A., 1659, Conventus FF. Minorum Capucinorum nuncupatorum Sancti Francisci in Nemore Iuxta Furam Ducis. / Anno Christi MDCLVIII.), [online: 01.01.2011‑01.03.2011]. URL: http://www.ethesis.net/jacht/jacht_hfst_1.htm (consulted on: 1st March 2011).
Fig. 5q: a. i., c. 1560, Insignis Canonica Vimidle Vallis in Suva Zonia Oad Canonicoaum Regularium St Augustini Congregatione Windesnemensis Vulg. Groenendael / Admodum Reverendo Patri in Christo, AC Domino, D. ioanni Lamantio isignis Canonice Viridis Valles Cingregationis Windesnemensis Priore Meritissimo D.D., Lucas Vorstermans, Ivioor, UGent (eds.), [online: 01.01.2011‑01.03.2011]. © Universiteitsbibliotheek Gent
Figure 14
Fig. 14.1: van Orley, B. (c. 1488‑1541), c. 1533, Le Mois de Mars – Départ pour la chasse devant la cour de Bruxelles (copy), [online: 01.01.2011‑01.03.2011]. URL: http://www.llph.co.uk/FlemishWall2/medieval-brussels.jpg (consulted on: 1st March 2011).
Fig. 14.2: Pieter Bruegel l’Ancien (1526/1530‑1569), 1566, La danse de la mariée (119 x 157 cm, oil on panel), [online: 01.01.2011‑01.03.2011]. URL: http://letatlinstudio.com/art/arts/bruegel_54115dance1.jpg (consulted on: 1st March 2011).
Fig. 14.3: van Alsloot, D. (1570‑1628), 1609, Vue de l’Abbaye de la Cambre près de Bruxelles (54 x 79,5 cm, oil on panel), [online: 01.01.2011‑01.03.2011]. URL: http://www.culture.gouv.fr/Wave/image/joconde/0372/m074386_4c05016_p.jpg (consulted on: 1st March 2011). © Musée des beaux-arts de Nantes, © Videomuseum, © Direction des musées de France, 2007, © Gérard Blot
Fig. 14.4: van Alsloot, D. (1570‑1628), 1616, La Fête au Vivier d’Oye (57 x 100 cm, oil on panel), [online: 01.01.2011‑01.03.2011]. URL: http://pintura.aut.org/SearchProducto?Produnum=15757 (consulted on: 1st March 2011).
Fig. 14.5: Jan II Brueghel (1601‑1678), c. 1620, Les archiducs en promenade dans le parc du palais (copy), [online: 01.01.2011‑01.03.2011]. URL: http://artmight.com/Artists/Breughel-Jan-1568‑1625/Breughel-de-Fluwelen-Archdukes-strolling-Sun-126679p.html (consulted on: 1st March 2011).
Fig. 14.6: de Vadder, L. (1605‑1655), sine dato, Het Zoniënwoud met marktkramers (picture: Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Gent, Paul Hermans), [online: 01.01.2011‑01.03.2011]. URL, 07.04.2009 (1 pub.): http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bestand:MSK_Lodewijk_de_Vadder_Het_Zoniënwoud_met_marktkramers_17‑03‑2009_11‑39‑39.JPG (consulted on: 1st March 2011).
Fig. 14.7: d’Arthois, J. (1613‑1686), Tenier II, D. (1610‑1690), sine dato, Vue dite de Val Duchesse (150 x 188 cm, oil on canvas), [online: 01.01.2011‑01.03.2011]. URL: http://www.insecula.com/oeuvre/photo_ME0000087413.html (consulted on: 1st March 2011). © Copyright A.K.
Fig. 14.8: Van der Stock (17e s.), sine dato, Tableau représentant l’arrière du palais du Coudenberg vu depuis la warande, [online: 01.01.2011‑01.03.2011]. URL: http://www.trabel.com/brussel/Brussel-royalsquare.htm (consulted on: 1st March 2011).
Fig. 14.9: Goetsbloets, P. A. J., sine dato (1793‑1797), “Traque dans la forêt de Soignes”; Tijdsgebeurtenissen, [Devleeshouwer, 1997: 4].
Fig. 14.10: a. i., 1900‑1930, Ferme St-Hubert Langhendries. Petite Espinette. Bucherons dans la forêt de Soignes, [online: 06.04.2012]. URL: http://cartes-postales.delcampe.be (consulted on: 6 April 2011).
Fig. 14.11: a. i., 1920, Avenue Louise (picture), Collection de Dexia Banque, [MRBC-DMS, s.d.: 1].
Fig. 14.12: Degreef, J. (1852‑1894), 1892, La Paysagiste (69 x 85 cm, oil on canvas), [online: 01.01.2011‑01.03.2011]. URL: http://www.wmaker.net/museedixelles/photos/Jean-Baptiste-Degreef-1852‑1894--La-paysagiste-1892_gp694870.html (consulted on: 1st March 2011). © IRPA
Fig. 14.13: Privat-Livemont, H. (1861‑1936), sine dato, Affiche de l’Exposition internationale de 1897, [online: 06.04.2012]. URL: http://ceramiques-de-hasselt.hasseltskeramiek.be/pagina4.html (consulted on: 6 April 2012).
Fig. 14.14: Cassiers, H. (1858‑1944), sine dato, Affiche de l’Exposition universelle de 1910, [online: 06.04.2012]. URL: http://www.dpvintageposters.com/cgi-local/detail.cgi?d=1245
Fig. 14.15: a. i., c. 1911, Ex-libris des Amis de la Forêt. Je protège : protégez-moi, Les Amis de la Forêt de Soignes (eds.), [online: 06.04.2012]. URL: http://mediaplan.ovh.net/~jacquesd/AFS/OWS/Images/afs_hist06.jpg (consulted on: 6 April 2012).
Fig. 14.16: Baillie, M., 2008, Extrait d’un reportage réalisé en forêt de Soignes lors de la signature de la déclaration d’intention pour une collaboration interrégionale visant la mise en œuvre du schéma de structure par les trois ministres compétents, 10.11.2008, IBGE-BIM (eds.), [online: 06.04.2012]. URL: http://www.soignes-zonien.net/gestion%20de%20la%20foret/schema-de-structure (consulted on: 6 April 2012).

FONTEYN, G., VAN DE PERRE, G., TOMEI, K., 2007, Rand in zicht: een verrassende kijk op de Vlaamse Rand rond Brussel, Roeselare, Roularta (eds.), 192 pp., [online: 06.11.2011, 05.06.2012]. URL (06.11.2011): http://www.derand.be/Rand-in-zicht-unieke-luchtfoto-s.html (consulted on: 5 June 2012).
URL (05.06.2011): http://www.docu.vlaamserand.be/ned/search-detail.asp?PublicationId=2364 (consulted on: 5 June 2011). © vzw ‘de Rand’

FRICKX, E., 1745, “Carte particulière des environs de Bruxelles avec le Bois de Soigne et d’une partie de la Flandre jusques Gand; Carte particulière des environs de Maestricht, partie de Liège Faucquemont, Pays d’Outre Meuse; Comte de Namur; Carte particulière des environs de Louvain, Aerchot, Dist, Tirlemont, Leau, Iudogne, Malines, et de partie du Pays de Liège” (4 Maps, c. 1730, 22 x 18 inches); Atlas des Pays-Bas, Amsterdam, Covens & Mortier (eds.), [online: 15.01.2011]. URL: http://www.raremaps.com (consulted on: 15 January 2011).

GOOGLE MAPS, 2010, Orthophotoplan Google, Google (eds.), [online: 06.11.2010]. URL: http://maps.google.be © 2010 Google – Imagerie, © 2010 DigitalGlobe, Aerodata International Surveys, GeoEye, Données cartographiques (consulted on: 6 December 2010).

GOUVERNEMENT DE LA RÉGION DE BRUXELLES-CAPITALE (GRBC), 2002, Plan Régional de Développement, [online: 06.11.2010, 11.05.2012]. URL (06.11.2010): http://www.prd.irisnet.be/Fr/arrete_complet1.pdf
Fig. 1a: Plan Régional de Développement, Carte 1 – projet de ville, 15.10.2002 URL (15.05.2012): http://urbanisme.irisnet.be/lesreglesdujeu/les-plans-de-developpement/le-plan-regional-de-developpement-prd/le-prd-de-2002‑1/prd-cartes-officielles/Carte1Kaart.pdf/view (consulted on: 15 May 2012).
Fig. 1b: Plan Régional de Développement, Carte 4 – amélioration du cadre de vie, 15.10.2002 URL (15.05.2012): http://urbanisme.irisnet.be/lesreglesdujeu/les-plans-de-developpement/le-plan-regional-de-developpement-prd/le-prd-de-2002‑1/prd-cartes-officielles/Carte4Kaart.pdf/view (consulted on: 15 May 2012).
Fig. 1b: Plan Régional de Développement, Constat introductif, Figure 56 URL (15.05.2012): http://urbanisme.irisnet.be/pdf/prd2002/b1pag41 (consulted on: 15 May 2012).
Fig. 1b: Plan Régional de Développement, Les 12 priorités, Figure 116 – Maillage écologique – situation existante de fait URL (15.05.2012): http://urbanisme.irisnet.be/lesreglesdujeu/les-plans-de-developpement/le-plan-regional-de-developpement-prd/le-prd-de-2002‑1/le-prd-de-2002/priorites (consulted on: 15 May 2012).
Fig. 1b: Plan Régional de Développement, Les 12 priorités, Figure 117 – Actions en matière du maillage bleu URL (15.05.2012): http://urbanisme.irisnet.be/lesreglesdujeu/les-plans-de-developpement/le-plan-regional-de-developpement-prd/le-prd-de-2002‑1/le-prd-de-2002/priorites (consulted on: 15 May 2012).

INSTITUT BRUXELLOIS POUR LA GESTION DE L’ENVIRONNEMENT (IBGE-BIM), 2009, Database. 

INSTITUT CARTOGRAPHIQUE MILITAIRE (ICM): VERSTRAETEN, Th., 1879, Carte topographique et hydrographique de l’Entre-Senne-et-Dyle. Tracés des aqueducs, prises d’eau et galeries de drainage de la distribution d’eau, 1:40 000, Bruxelles, Archives de la Ville de Bruxelles (eds.; ref. plan No. 105).

INSTITUT CARTOGRAPHIQUE MILITAIRE (ICM), 1885, Carte routière des environs de Bruxelles (rédaction et gravure : 1865‑1878, révision de la voirie (gravure): 1884‑1885, transports de la gravure : 1885 ; on canvas), Bruxelles, Archives de la Ville de Bruxelles (eds.; ref. plan No. 113/4).

INSTITUT CARTOGRAPHIQUE MILITAIRE (ICM), 1904, Carte routière des environs de Bruxelles (rédaction et gravure 1865‑1878, mis à jour de la voirie 1904), 1:40 000, Bruxelles, Archives de la Ville de Bruxelles (eds.; ref. plan No. 124/6).

INSTITUT GÉOGRAPHIQUE MILITAIRE (IGM), 1975 (c. 1858), Carte topographique et hypsomètrique de Bruxelles et ses environs. Dressée à l’Échelle de 1:20 000 d’après les plans et documents de l’Établissement géographique fondée par Ph. Vander Maelen, par Jh. Huvenne dessinateur topographe et gravée par J. Ongers, Bruxelles, Commission française de la Culture de l’Agglomération de Bruxelles (eds.).

INSTITUT GÉOGRAPHIQUE MILITAIRE (IGM), 1975a, Bruxelles et ses environs (± 1880) (map; exécutée à partir des cartes de l’ICM à l’échelle 1:20 000), 1:25 000, Commission française de la Culture de l’Agglomération de Bruxelles (eds.).

INSTITUT GÉOGRAPHIQUE MILITAIRE (IGM), 1975b, L’Agglomération de Bruxelles (± 1930) (map; exécutée à partir des cartes de l’ICM à l’échelle 1:20 000), 1:25 000, Commission française de la Culture de l’Agglomération de Bruxelles (eds.).

INSTITUT GÉOGRAPHIQUE MILITAIRE (IGM), 1975c, L’Agglomération de Bruxelles (map; restitution : 1950‑51; levé normal : 1952‑53‑54; interprétation partielle : 1956), 1:25 000, Commission Française de la Culture de l’Agglomération de Bruxelles (eds.).

INSTITUT GÉOGRAPHIQUE MILITAIRE (IGM), 1975d, L’Agglomération de Bruxelles (map; restitution : 1950‑51, levé normal : 1952‑53‑54, révision : 1969‑70), 1:25 000, Commission Française de la Culture de l’Agglomération de Bruxelles (eds.).

INSTITUT GÉOGRAPHIQUE NATIONAL (IGN), 1988‑2002, Carte topographique 1:20 000. Ed. 1. (31:3‑4, 7‑8 ; 32: 1‑2; 39: 1‑2, 3‑4; 40: 1‑2), 1988‑1997 (aerial photography), 1991‑2001 (photogrammetric plotting), 1993‑2002 (map editing), Bruxelles, IGN (eds.).

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Notes

1 The word “territory” must be understood here in the sense of “socialised space” [Baud et al., 2008: 504]. In addition to having a spatial dimension, this term therefore also has a historical dimension. This refers to the notion of palimpsest proposed by André Corboz: the territory is the “result of a very long and slow stratification which must be understood in order to intervene” [Corboz, 2001 (1983): 212‑228, 252‑256; Secchi, 2006 (2000): 13‑19, 135‑144; Roland, 2011b]. 

2 The challenge here is not to associate a precise spatial definition with this term. We refer to Dujardin et al., 2007, and Van Hecke et al., 2009 (pp. 75‑76, 108), for an attempt to define the “operational urban area”, the “urban region” and the “urban residential complex”.

3 One may object that these pitfalls are only related to representation. However, “[re]presenting the territory requires an understanding of it. [, etc.] Representation is not an exact copy, but is always a construction. A map is drawn in order to understand first and to act next” [Corboz, 2001 (1983): 221; Caron, s.d.: 5‑6; Schmithüsen, 1999]. 

4 An ecotone is an “area of transition between one type of habitat or ecosystem and another (e.g. the transition between a forest and a prairie). [, etc.] An ecotone has its own physical conditions, which differ from those on either side of it” [Campbell & Reece, 2007: 1322, G-18]. 

5 The individualist hypothesis, formulated by H. A. Gleason, is a “concept which is related to the structure of a plant community and which explains that a plant community is an accidental grouping together of species which occupy the same territory simply because they have the same abiotic needs, in particular as regards temperature, precipitation and soil.” This hypothesis “indicates that the communities should generally be without clear geographic boundaries, as each species has its own (i.e. individual) distribution along the ecological gradient” [Campbell & Reece, 2007: 1277, G-28]. 

6 The term “ecological” refers to: what is based on the “academic study of interactions between organisms, on the one hand, and organisms and their environment, on the other hand” [Campbell & Reece, 2007, Glossary: G-18, and p. 1173].

7 The term “suburban forest” is widely used in the literature [Maziers, 1994; GRBC, IBGE et al., 2003; Forrest & Konijnendijk, 2005; LAFS, 2009]. Given the geographic location of the wooded area and the semantic distinction which the term “suburban” establishes between urban reality and the forest, it seems less appropriate.

8 “Bruxellien, Brussels (formation): middle Eocene sand formation (45 million years ago), highly developed in Brabant to the east of the Zenne. Bruxellien sand is characterised by intercalations of nodules or sandstone beds, ‘Gobertange stone’” [Vandermotten et al., 2012: 147].

9 “[, etc.] [The] Lédo-Panisélien Bruxellien aquifer [, etc.] contains the deepest sandy part of the Maldegem, Lede, Brussels and Aalter formation, and the upper sandy part of the Ghent formation. [, etc.] The Brussels sand represents the most represented unit” [VMM, 2008: 20, author's translation and interpretation]. In the framework of the 2000/60/EC directive, the quantitative state of the aquifer is qualified as good. Its chemical state is qualified as average to mediocre [EC, 2000, for the definition of the terms in italics]. A large amount of drinking water is collected from it, however. This poor state is partly explained by the fact that the body of water is in an “area of direct resupplying” due to the permeability of the sand. In other words, 'the infiltration and resupplying of the layer takes place throughout the entire surface area of the body of water' and it “is in contact with all of the water which runs through its area” [DGARNE, 2006: 7, 9; IBGE et al., 2009: 21]. All of the types of land use in this highly urbanised area therefore directly determine the water quality. Excessive nitrate and pesticide levels have been observed in particular due to the leaching of soil by runoff water in the Walloon part of the system, which is used more for agriculture [DGARNE, 2006: 23, 24]. From the viewpoint of these phenomena, the presence of the Sonian Forest and its edges – a sort of large-scale drain – is a determining factor. Furthermore, the biggest piezometric heads in the aquifer system are seen in the Flemish part of the Sonian Forest [VMM, 2008: 53, 54]. This presence is also important for the underlying confined aquifer, associated with the Craies du Brabant. Its direct resupplying area is located on the southern edge of the Sonian Forest, where the layer is in contact with the Argentine. From a more general point of view, the VMM specifies that the groundwater supply of the entire system of the “Craies Bruland” is partly explained by the spatial distribution of the areas which are impermeable due to urbanisation and the “vast wooded areas situated in the southeast of Brussels” [VMM, 2008: 39, author's translation and interpretation].

10 In fact, the forest ecosystem was formed during the last ice age, approximately ten thousand years ago [LAFS, 2009: 10, 181‑195; Vandermotten et al., 2012: 7‑12, 52‑53].

11 This refers to a “large agricultural holding run by a religious community or a lord of more or less great importance”. In most cases, the “censier” was from “the circle of those acquainted with lords and abbeys. They were the ones who entrusted men with nothing but their brawn with the responsibility of exploiting these inherited farms from the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries. [, etc.] [The “censier”] was just a tenant. [He] respected the trust placed in him from one lease to the next. Furthermore, he generally had the role of notable in the village.” Thus, although he was not the owner, he “managed a true fortune along with a whole network of relationships” [CHAB, 1992: 67‑70]. Moreover, it is not unlikely that he acquired neighbouring plots of land. These remarks are not insignificant given the spatial arrangement of censes around the Sonian Forest and the mechanisms to enhance land value which existed in the 19th century. A precise study of the social evolution of families and property transfers under the French regime could perhaps allow an identification of certain connections between these stakeholders and the geopolitical configuration at the beginning of the 19th century [Ferraris, 1771‑1778; CHAB, 1992: 73, 79, 236; AGR, s.d.; Roland, 2011a: 46].

12 This domination continued under the Burgundian regime, and then under that of the Habsburgs of Spain and Austria.

13 “J. E. Davidts [, etc.] defines [warande] as a place where animals were kept in a defined space situated in the surroundings of a castle. [In addition to the role of animal reserve, the enclosed character of the warande] also had the function of defining a secure and protected space. In this respect, the author gives the example of the villages of Vure, Vossem and Duisburg, whose inhabitants hid in the [ducal] warande [of Tervuren] during enemy raids. This use dates back mainly to the Middle Ages. The right of refuge was nevertheless granted to the abovementioned villages until 1746. [, etc.] [T]he term warande may also refer to a lord's hunting grounds, which belonged to a private estate most of the time.” The terms Libre Warande or Franche Garenne were therefore used [Liesenborghs, 2005, author's translation and interpretation; Roland, 2011a: 103].

14 The term “landscape construction” is redundant: the “value attributed to the configuration of the landscape is and can only be cultural” [Corboz, 2001 (1983): 225].

15 The roads which went through the wooded area were cobbled from the 16th to the 18th centuries. Some of them, such as the Waalseweg or Waelsche weg (which later became the Chaussée de Waterloo), were already present in the 14th century. The drives appeared in the 17th and 18th centuries on the initiative of the court, mainly on either side of Chaussée de Waterloo and Chaussée de La Hulpe, and in the Heeghde (part of the Sonian Forest situated closest to the Pentagon), but also around Tervuren. Their role was therefore above all cynegetic, although they were used later in the emptying of the wood. Other drives were created in the 19th century, near the Route de la Banque, but exclusively for exploitation purposes. This was the case in particular of Avenue Brassine in 1835 [Jaumain et al., 2009: 362; LAFS, 2009: 23‑27, 65].

16 A road network inside the city considered as being on the east/west commercial route linking Flanders and Rhineland during the Ancien Régime. Its name indicates that it “was one of the first cobbled paths in the city (the current Rue de Namur, Rue de la Madeleine, Rue du Marché-aux-Herbes, Rue du Marché-aux-Poulets, Rue Sainte-Catherine and Rue de Flandres, and outside the city, Rue de Gand)” [Jaumain et al., 2009: 70].

17 These means used by the sovereigns had an economic function, but also a cynegetic and representative function. Sometimes they took the form of rights of use and of regulations within the ducal property (the oldest known forest code dates from 1371). They thus limited the passage of herds, the bringing of livestock to pasture, the cutting of grass for livestock and the felling of trees by city dwellers. Other times they took the form of physical modifications made to the forest, either to prevent its degradation or to make it easier to use. For example, in the first case let us mention the transformation of the Heeghde into coppices by Philip the Good in 1465; in the second case, the lowering of the Vivier d’Oie hill (1708), or the complete reorganisation of the Heeghde (razed between 1704 and 1728) and its roads “for the new hunting grounds of Their Royal Highnesses” between 1781 and 1789 [Pierron, 1905: 142, 143, 161]. These multiple interventions were partly explained by the fact that the whole forest was damaged regularly by the habitants and the occupation forces during periods of unrest. This was particularly true from the 16th to the 18th century, with the religious wars (16th and 17th centuries), the bombing of Brussels by Louis XIV (1695) and the Brabant Revolution under Joseph II of Austria (1787‑1794). It was in response to the damage caused by these conflicts that the management of the wooded area underwent a complete overhaul in 1788. This is explained in the body of the text [Pierron, 1905: 142‑145, 159, 161, 311‑336; LAFS, 2009: 10‑14, 51‑56].

18 The unstopped clear-cutting took place in the form of “successive clear-cutting of areas, one next to the other”, spread out over tens of hectares [LAFS, 2009: 233]. These cuts were often organised over several years based on felling plans. They were adopted in the 16th century for the Sonian Forest. The term “even-aged beech forest” refers to a planting method initiated by the lieutenant wautmaître of Brabant, Jean Charles Théodore de l’Escaille, and was applied to the entire wooded area from 1788 by the Austrian Joachim Zinner (1742‑1814). This type of non-spontaneous planting was based on monocultures of beech trees of the same age, with trees being planted simultaneously for the same felling. It gave the forest its ‘cathedral’ aspect, characterised by the regularity and the straightness of its trunks. This way of renewing the wooded area was continued during the French regime (from 1794 to 1815) and Dutch regime (from 1815 to 1830), and then from Belgian independence until 1860 [Mortier & Hasquin, 1997: 39‑77; GRBC, IBGE et al., 2003: 14; LAFS, 2009: 51‑61, 105, 108, 110‑111].

19 It must be noted that the Sonian Forest became a public area in 1794, during the occupation of the southern Netherlands by France. It was, however, seized from the southern provinces by William I during the Dutch regime [LAFS, 2009: 17; Vandermotten et al., 2012: 4].

20 This sale therefore did not only concern the surface area covered by the former ducal property, but also other forest areas inherited from the Ancien Régime or acquired following the confiscation of Church property (partially under Joseph II and totally during the French regime, in 1796), i.e. a total of 28 008 bonniers, 11 718 of which were part of the Sonian Forest and its coppices. Furthermore, it is important to mention that the sovereign carried out a selection of property which he privatised within a much more vast forest area (approximately 140 000 hectares), thus underlining the importance of the commercial value of the Sonian Forest during this period, due to a rationality of exploitation as well as to its geographic position with respect to Brussels, which was in full expansion. In 1823, the forest thus represented 30 % of the land assets of the ANMBV and 12% of its global capital [Corvol, 1995: 704; Tallier, 2002: 1248‑1252, 1261].

21 With the forest becoming the property of a public limited company, the latter was then liable for state tax, which was why its administration was entrusted to the municipalities which surrounded it at that time. Despite their totally arbitrary and obsolete character, the “triage” borders – set in 1824‑1825 purely for tax reasons – still determine forest management now more than ever. The boundaries of municipalities in the wooded area were used during the creation of the linguistic borders (1962, see Gilson laws), and established the distribution of the forest surface areas which were the object of differentiated management policies during the regionalisation of forests in 1983 [Jaumain et al., 2009: 47‑50; LAFS, 2009: 12, 77‑78].

22 Linthout wood (in Schaerbeek and Woluwe-Saint-Lambert), Solbosch (in Ixelles) and Mesdael wood (in Auderghem and Woluwe-Saint-Pierre) were three coppices of the Sonian Forest situated at the boundary of the first suburbs of Brussels. It was a recognised fact that they belonged to William I when the wooded area was sold to the Société Générale in 1822 [Tallier, 2002: 1250, 1253], but they were not part of the ducal property [Vandermotten et al., 2012: 4]. The first was in part the property of the Forest Abbey and the castellan domain of Brussels during the Ancien Régime. It then became property belonging to a private estate during the French regime before being sold by the Société Générale in 1830. It was exploited from 1833 and disappeared from cartographic representations in 1847 [DGT, 1847]. The second – former property of La Cambre Abbey – was also cleared in the 1830s. At first intended for agriculture, it was then chosen as a site for the Plaine des Manœuvres (1836), and then for the ULB-VUB campus around 1970 (La Plaine campus). The third still existed in 1847 [DGT, 1847], but was already partly divided up. It belonged to the castellan domains of Brussels and Ganshoren during the Ancien Régime. Apart from these three sites, let us also mention other parts of the Sonian Forest which were sold by the Société Générale: in Woluwe-Saint-Pierre, Streek Veld and Stockel; in Forest, Mosselman wood or Kruysbosch (pieces of land currently occupied by Duden Park), Sept-Bonniers wood or Seven bunders bosch (former fief of Brabant sold in the 16th century and then cleared in the second half of the 19th century) and Kersbeke (former property of the Stalle lords sold to Forest Abbey and then cleared in 1855); and in Uccle and Ixelles, Heeghde or Heegde. The latter constituted a section which was distinct from the rest of the wooded area in terms of forest management during the Ancien Régime. It covered the current surface area of Bois de la Cambre, and extended well beyond it. A large part of it was sold by the Société Générale. Furthermore, it included Mangelingenbosch which belonged to La Cambre Abbey and was next to the ducal property where the 1910 World Fair was held, later to become the site of ULB in 1921 [Henne & Wauters, 1845: 620; DGT, 1847; Wauters, 1855: 55, 259, 275, 564, 644; Tallier, 2002: 1250; MRBC-DMS, Herla & Deschaumes, 2007: 9; Jaumain et al., 2009: 275, 285, 296, 367, 384‑385].

23 Brussels was limited to the Pentagon. The transformations therefore refer to: the emptying of drainage ditches and the demolishing of the ramparts in 1782, the creation of the boulevards of the inner ring from 1815 to 1850, and the abolition of the tax barrier for merchandise entering the city in 1860 [Demeter, 2008: 8, 9; Jaumain et al., 2009: 215, 93].

24 Among the first large-scale programmes for the remains of the Sonian Forest were: in Solbosch, in Ixelles, the Plaine des Manœuvres complex (1836) including the artillery barracks (1877‑1903) and the military arsenal (1884); in Waterloo, to the east of Chaussée de Waterloo, the Waterloo sugar refinery (1836), a former Meeûs-Rittweger property; in the former Heeghde, in Uccle, the Boitsfort racecourse (1875); on the plateau of Linthout wood (in Schaerbeek and Woluwe-Saint-Lambert), the Institut des sourds-muets et aveugles des frères de la charité (1878), the national shooting range (1889, transformed into infantry barracks in 1894) and the Ecole des sœurs du Sacré-Cœur de Lille (1903, former Linthout castle); in Hoeilaart, along the former Route de la Banque, the Groenendael racecourse (1888); in Mesdael wood (in Etterbeek), Collège Saint-Michel and the Van den Plas industrial coachbuilding company (1904); in Streek Veld and Stockel (in Woluwe-Saint-Pierre), the former Avenue de Tervuren Racecourse (1906, replaced by a sports centre in 1975); and in Duden Park, the former Mosselman wood (in Forest), the Union Saint-Gilloise stadium (1919) [Tallier, 2002: 1270‑1271; Jaumain et al., 2009: 166, 196, 218, 292, 300, 306, 341].

25 The Société Générale shareholders included Jacques André Coghen and Maximilien de Béthune. Furthermore, among the families who had purchased pieces of land from the Société Générale were: d’Arenberg, de Béthune, Lecocq, Moyard, Hamoir de Reus, Meeûs, Coghen and Bénard. The last three families mentioned were shareholders of the Société civile pour l’agrandissement et l’embellissement de la capitale de la Belgique [Witte, 1969: 13; Tallier, 2002: 1267‑1268; Jaumain et al., 2009: 90‑91, 112, 285].

26 We are referring to the Plan général d’alignement des faubourgs established by Charles Vanderstraeten in 1840, and to the Plan d’ensemble pour l’extension et l’embellissement de l’agglomération bruxelloise of 1860, established by road inspector Victor Besme (in office from 1960 to 1903) [Ranieri, 1973: 14, 61; Zitouni, 2010].

27 The garden city is based on the “hypothesis that it is possible to combine the advantages of the city and the country, while doing away with the inconveniences” [Corboz, 2001 (1983): 200, 201]. During the 1930s, several of these were established in old remains of the forest. This was the case for the garden cities of Joli-Bois (1922, extended in 1950‑1951, and then in 1955) and in the neighbourhood of Chant d’Oiseau (1925‑1926) in Woluwe-Saint-Pierre, as well as the one on the Blankedelle plateau in Auderghem. Other garden cities were established in direct proximity of the forest edges: in Watermael-Boitsfort, the Floreal (1922‑1925, extended until 1965) and the Logis (1921, extended until 1975); in Uccle, the garden city of Homborch (begun in 1928, finished between 1951 and 1959); and in Woluwe-Saint-Lambert, the Kappelleveld (1925‑1978, acquisition of land between 1922 and 1926) [Jaumain et al., 2009: 305, 321, 287, 337, 366].

28 This route was supported by the creation of Léopold Park and the Luxembourg (1855) and Etterbeek (1880) stations. Furthermore, several infrastructure routes accompanied its development. Among these, let us mention: the Brussels-Namur-Luxembourg railway line (1854‑1859), the military boulevards (1875‑1906), the Brussels-Tervuren railway line (1877‑1882) and the urban motorway beginning at the current Place Flagey (1937) and leading towards the garden city of Kappelleveld. It connected with Avenue de Tervuren at Quatres Bras. It was made up of a series of avenues: Victor Jacobs (1909), Eudore Pirmez (1903), de la Chasse (1900), George Henri (1892), de Roodebeek (1902), Emile Vandervelde (1938), Albert Dumont, Val des Seigneurs and Baron Albert d’Huart [Jaumain et al., 2009: 162, 196, 216‑217, 218, 286‑287, 315, 320].

29 This route was supported by the railway developments of the South Station (on the former property of Forest Abbey), by the Chaussée de Charleroi (1841) and by a series of avenues: Brugmann (1871‑1873), De Fré (1864‑1866), Vanderaey (1880), Coghen (1874‑1879), Longchamp (1875, became Avenue Winston Churchill in 1945), Fonsny, Van Volxem (1872), de Wolvendael (1912), Jean et Pierre Carsoel (1930), Lancaster (1901) and Hamoir (1900‑1902). Furthermore, it benefited from the creation of parks: Duden (1913), Forest (1882) and Wolvendael (1929) [Jaumain et al., 2009: 363‑364, 384‑386; LAFS, 2009: 36].

30 By-road W connected Place Rouppe and Saint-Gilles, and then, via Chaussée de Waterloo, it joined Fort Jaco and Petite Espinette. It then continued towards Rhode-Saint-Genèse and Braine l'Alleud where it branched off towards Wavre along the southern edge of the Sonian Forest. It went as far as Vert Chasseur in 1891, Petite Espinette in 1894, Grande Espinette in 1910 and Wavre around 1930. This road was a determining factor in the evolution of forest tourism and its accessibility to large sectors of the population [LAFS, 2009: 36, 37; Vandermotten et al., 2012: 21].

31 The Tracé Royal connects the Castle of Laeken to the Palace of Coudenberg. It is made up of Rue Royale (1820‑1824), Rue des Palais and Avenue de la Reine (1851‑1870). Its inclusion in the continuity of urbanistic operations carried out at the edge of the wooded area dates from the second half of the 19th century.

32 It was not until between 1963 and 1973 that they were no longer used in this way. Currently, half of Drève de Lorraine, the beginning of Drève Saint-Hubert, Drève du Haras, Avenue Dubois, Vlaktedreef, Chaussée de Tervuren and Drève de la Demi-Heure are still accessible to cars [Vandermotten et al., 2012: 28].

33 This territory corresponds more or less to the triangle formed by the Castle of Laeken, the royal area of Tervuren and the large private properties situated to the far south of the Sonian Forest, i.e. the former domain of the de Béthune family in La Hulpe and the Domaine Royal d’Argenteuil, former domain of the de Meeûs family, straddling La Hulpe, Waterloo and Lasne.

34 During the 20th century, the funds released from the sale of the wooded area once again welcomed a series of large-scale programmes: in Uccle, the Verrewinkel cemetery (1945) and Institut Pasteur (1980); in Watermael-Boitsfort, the international school (1951) built on the former Bischoffsheim property; in Auderghem, the former GB hypermarket situated under Rue de la Vignette (1961) and the Centre Sportif de la forêt de Soignes; in Ixelles, the VUB campus (from 1970); in Forest, Forest National (1969‑1970), the skating rink and the municipal stadium; in Braine l'Alleud, the Golf Club des Sept Fontaines (1987); in Overijse, the Golf Club d’Overijse (1986); and in Beersel, the Forest cemetery [Jaumain et al., 2009: 220, 315, 325, 338, 340, 390].

35 In Belgium, the political regime referred to was characterised by the promulgation of two laws: the De Taeye law (1948) – encouraging private initiative for the construction of affordable dwellings and the purchase of small pieces of land – and the Brunfaut law (1949) – organising public investments in the area of housing, in particular via the financing and development of a national housing fund. From the second half of the 20th century, this political regime and the legislative framework which accompanied it may be seen as factors explaining the division of several pieces of land which used to belong to the forest. The pieces of land which were disposed of were usually large, in particular when they were purchased for private areas. They were particularly in line with the creation of residential lots or with the construction of large housing developments. Among these operations were, among others: in Auderghem, the Tenreuken council housing including HLS Oudergem (1950‑1981); in Uccle, the Fond Roy, Prince d’Orange and Verrewinkel neighbourhoods, the Cobralo development (1953‑1981) next to the Homborch garden city, the Tilleuls (1962) and Melkriek (1967‑1971) council housing; in Forest, La Magnanerie (1956‑1961); in Wezembeek-Oppem, the Bel Air neighbourhood; in Woluwe-Saint-Pierre, the Chant d’Oiseau, Saint-Paul and Dames-Blanches neighbourhoods (1948); in Overijse (Jesus-Eik), the Jolypark and Onze-Lieve-Vrouwedal neighbourhoods; in Kraainem, the Haut-Kraainem residential developments; and in Rhode-Saint-Genèse, the residential developments located between Avenue de la Forêt de Soignes and Drève de Linkebeek [Jaumain et al., 2009: 321, 322, 365, 386‑389; Dubois, 2005].

36 “Said of a partial cutting removing only trees in their maturity or which are a nuisance. The wooded area is gradually opened by removing certain trees in order to prepare a relative isolation of the tops of some seed trees, 130 to 140 years old. This seed felling of less than a hectare is intended to be replanted by a clump of trees from natural sowing. This cutting favours productivity and young recruits, as the soil is preserved in fertile conditions with constant shelter under the crown of old trees. Furthermore, in order to ensure enough light for the young trees, periodic (every eight years) and gradual cutting – referred to as intermediate felling – removes the trees from the old cluster which have become more of a nuisance. Replanting is begun in several places and takes place over 25 to 50 years. The gaps obtained also allow homogeneous clumps of light-demanding species to be planted – such as oak trees – which are naturally supplanted by beech, a shade bearer which dominates the other trees in the well-drained soil of the Sonian Forest. A forest with an irregular aspect is therefore obtained, presenting patches of trees of all ages and of variable surfaces. The last intermediate felling is referred to as final. What remains of the former regular beech forest disappears and the forest takes on a more natural aspect” [LAFS, 2009: Cammaerts, R., 59‑60].

37 Part of the wooded area depends on a fourth authority: the Belgian Royal Trust (1930). It manages and owns the Boitsfort ponds, the arboretum, the Capuchin wood, the Ravenstein golf club and castle, the British School of Brussels and Val-Duchesse [Ranieri, 1973: 353‑356; LAFS, 2009: 19; Vandermotten et al., 2012: 58].

38 Admittedly, the emergence and democratisation of the car, as well as the development of road infrastructures, have played an important role in the spreading out of residential settlements since the 1960s. But one must not forget that these factors intervened quite late with respect to the first forms of distribution of developed land within the area considered. For example, Boulevard de la Woluwe was only finished in 1964, the development of the former Route de la Banque dates from 1968‑1978, the E411 towards Namur was finished in 1968‑1970, the E40 towards Liège, in 1970, the Hermann-Debroux viaduct in Auderghem, in 1973, and the ring road, in 1970‑1978 [Jaumain et al., 2009: 288, 322].

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1. Juxtaposition (by the author) of strategic plans and regional ecological network projects
URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/1101/img-1.png
Fichier image/png, 752k
Titre Figure 2. Result of a pixel analysis highlighting the plant structures present within the area considered
Crédits Map made by the author using the software ENVI, covering an area of about 20 x 14 km
URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/1101/img-2.png
Fichier image/png, 2,8M
Titre Figure 3. Dense woody vegetation spreads beyond the Special Conservation Zones of the wooded area and does not exist in a similar form in other parts of the urban area
URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/1101/img-3.png
Fichier image/png, 1,0M
Titre Figure 4. Three scales highlighting the spatial condition of the Sonian wooded area
URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/1101/img-4.png
Fichier image/png, 2,2M
Titre Figure 5. The gradual dividing up of the “coal forest”; situation during the Roman period
URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/1101/img-5.png
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Titre Figure 6. Spatialisation of practices and of developed land in the territory considered during the second part of the 18th century
URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/1101/img-6.png
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Titre Figure 14. The staging of the forest – a theatre for the evolution of social practices
URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/1101/img-7.png
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Titre Figure 7. As an element which intervened in the power relationships between urban stakeholders, the forest caused asymmetry in terms of the distribution of territorial dynamics very early on
URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/1101/img-8.png
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Titre Figure 8. The impacts of the change of status of 1822 on the property of the wooded area and its spatial location in the Antwerp-Brussels-Charleroi route
URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/1101/img-9.png
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Titre Figure 9. The connections between the first urbanistic developments outside the city and the plots of land from the Sonian Forest, in particular Heeghde, Solbosch, Mesdael wood, Mangelingenbosch and Linthout wood
URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/1101/img-10.png
Fichier image/png, 432k
Titre Figure 10. Three views on the morphogenesis of the area considered, from the end of the 18th century until the 21st century
URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/1101/img-11.png
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Titre Figure 11. The south/southeast process of diffusion of the residential environment during the 20th century
URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/1101/img-12.png
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Titre Figure 12. Synthesis of morphogenesis of the area considered, from the end of the 18th century until the 21st century
URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/1101/img-13.png
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Titre Figure 15. The emergence of the urban area over three centuries and the role played by Léopold II’s interventions (1865‑1896)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/1101/img-14.png
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Titre Figure 13. Illustration of the change in the way the forest was viewed during the process of urbanization
URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/1101/img-15.png
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Titre Figure 16. Evolution of the geopolitical configuration of the territory and its physical reality over three centuries
URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/1101/img-16.png
Fichier image/png, 1,5M
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Référence électronique

Lee Christopher Roland, « When you can’t see the city for the trees. A joint analysis of the Sonian Forest and urban reality », Brussels Studies [En ligne], Collection générale, n° 60, mis en ligne le 02 juillet 2012, consulté le 23 avril 2019. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/1101 ; DOI : 10.4000/brussels.1101

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Auteur

Lee Christopher Roland

Lee Christopher Roland has a degree in architecture from I.S.A. St-Luc Bruxelles, and studied as an exchange student at McGill University, Canada. Following his professional training periods, in 2009 he began to work as a researcher and teacher in the Faculté d’architecture, d’ingénierie architecturale, d’urbanisme (LOCI) at Université Catholique de Louvain. He is carrying out research entitled Le territoire en batterie : Bruxelles comme palimpseste in partnership with Bruxelles-Environnement in the framework of the convention Prospective Research for Brussels (Innoviris). He recently published an article entitled Épaisseur empirique, le tiers état.

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