In 2025 the fire station in the Northern Quarter will close its doors and move to a new complex at Thurn & Taxis. The Region is examining what can be done with the site at Helihaven. SAU-MSI (Société d’Aménagement Urbain – Maatschappij voor Stedelijke Inrichting) was commissioned to launch a call for applications via the the Bouwmeester Maitre Architecte to examine the possibilities of the site. Both the programme and the spatial, economic and ecological possibilities are examined. At the same time, the collective Permanent is conducting a study to determine whether the building can function as a mixed venue for artists and residents/users of the neighborhood.
In 2019, we (431) initiated the project Permanent together with Koen Berghmans and subsequently Community Land Trust Brussels (CLTB), because we were searching for an alternative to the way artists within their search for studio spaces are deployed in gentrification strategies. Since then, many parties have joined, and today Permanent consists of Level Five/Hactiris coalition of artists, VUB/Cosmopolis, Community Land Trust Brussels (CLTB), and Globe Aroma.
Since Permanent has focused on the Northern Quarter of Brussels, we withdrew from the project in April 2021, because we believe that a critical attitude towards gentrification has been relegated to the background. Artists need affordable space, but we seriously question whether this can go hand in hand with the spatial and social needs of the current residents. Especially since the Region is using art and culture so explicitly to ‘redynamise’ the Northern Quarter.
How could this gigantic site of approximately 15,000 m2 be used in its entirety for the current social needs of the North Quarter, instead of also projecting the needs of the Region, artists, etc. onto this building? Would it not be better to carry out such research in a place without the risk of gentrification?