From factory building to cultural factory: these hotspots are not to be missed (part 1)

From factory building to cultural factory: these hotspots are not to be missed (part 1)

Are you looking for quirky places where culture, entertainment and industrial heritage go hand in hand? Add these hotspots to your summer agenda!

It’s a familiar phenomenon in many cities: abandoned factories, empty warehouses and other building complexes waiting aimlessly for demolition. What a waste of space. Creative repurposing is a powerful tool against vacancy and dilapidation: make room for art and culture!

Brussels understands this and temporary occupations are blossoming here. You mainly see them along the banks of the capital’s canal. Start-ups, fab labs, arts centres, associations and entrepreneurs are breathing new life into dormant sites and transforming them into locally anchored urban laboratories and creative breeding grounds.

And what's more, all summer long they organise cultural events, cosy aperitifs and - whenever possible - crazy parties. Believe us: you don’t want to miss this!

  • See U

    See U

    We start with a bang: See U, Belgium's largest temporary occupation project. These barracks used to house the Ecole Royale de Gendarmerie. In a few years, the site will become a university district. In the meantime, it is an oasis of art, culture and creative entrepreneurship. It is home to, among others, the Kinograph pop-up cinema, a baby café, a food truck, an organic market and a beautiful wooden velodrome. During the summery See U (F)estival, you’ll be amazed by the weekly events, such as exhibitions, concerts, ball games, a vintage flea market and DJ sets.      

    Studio CityGate

    Studio CityGate is a creative hub, just a stone’s throw from Brussels-Midi station, in an old textile factory in Anderlecht. It is a prime example of an urban development project with a flourishing social and cultural dimension. For instance, there’s the opportunity to climb walls at Petite Ile, skate at Byrrrh, attend concerts at the Volta music centre and enjoy a meal on the spacious terrace at Antidote. This courtyard canteen is run by a Mediterranean festivities collective, and they definitely know how to keep the atmosphere going with heart-warming activities such as pétanque, mölkky, pizza baking and live music. Party alert: at the end of August, Brussels' most famous music festival Couleur Café will be setting up shop on the grounds of Studio CityGate, with its small-scale 2021 edition, GATE!

    Circle Park

    Right next to Studio CityGate, the brand-new Circle Park occupies a stretch of wasteland of no less than 18,000m². The site is surrounded by bright pink containers that provide shelter during a storm but also serve as cosy rooms for workshops on the circular economy. The cultural programme sounds very promising: open-air theatre in front of a 300-seat grandstand, flea markets, yoga and dance classes, concerts, neighbourhood parties... Keep an eye on their events calender! Meanwhile, you can visit the summer bar and the sports fields for a game of paddle and beach volley. Also nice to know, Pool is Cool’s outdoor swimming pool FLOW is just a few hundred metres away.

    FIRM Artlab

    FIRM Artlab opened the doors of its charming, old lamp factory in Jette this April. The commune has given 24 emerging artists a temporary place to work. You can see them regularly during performances, concerts and exhibitions. Jette-based cultural associations such as Jam in Jette and Shine Prod are also given carte blanche. On Thursday evenings, the courtyard comes alive. A pop-up bar, food truck, graffiti wall and DJ set provide the ideal setting for a vibrant after-work event. Unfortunately, this situation is temporary: in early 2022, the building will be demolished to make room for new housing. So, no time to waste, enjoy it while you can!

    Tour à PLomb

    The Tour à Plomb is a fairly recent addition to Brussels' rich cultural landscape. As a neighbourhood centre in the commune of the City of Brussels, it is bustling with (socio-)cultural, artistic and sporting activities. The site was created in 1832, and the tower was built in 1898. It lost its industrial function in the early 1960s, but its current cultural repurposing only happened in 2018. There are plenty of activities in the pipeline for this summer, as the Tour à Plomb will be hosting the first edition of Summer Academy, a free cultural summer camp, so to speak. It will host lectures, creative workshops, openings, and more cultural treats.    

    (c) Georges de Kinder 

    Le Tri Postal

    Right at the entrance of Brussels-Midi Station you'll find Le Tri Postal, in a mastodon of a building, that stood empty for more than 20 years. Until 1997, this was the largest postal sorting centre in Belgium. The national train company SNCB/NMBS has plans to repurpose the building in the future, but in the meantime, its collective Communa who is upgrading the neighbourhood with a number of creative projects. Every Thursday until mid-August, Tri Postal is hosting talented artists and DJs. For other events, keep an eye on their Facebook page, they're currently working on their summer programming.


    In 2019, Horst took place for the first time in the former Asiat army barracks in Vilvoorde, just outside Brussels. Those who were there never wanted to leave. Fortunately, the Horst team is allowed to do their thing for the next ten years, so no worries. Have you heard of Horst? This internationally renowned platform for avant-garde electronic music, visual art and architecture is so much more than just another summer festival. It’s all about inspiration, co-creation, connection, experimentation, cross-pollination and intense experience. It is an all-round and in situ masterpiece that you have to experience in person. And you can, because there are various activities during the summer: Horst Lab (3 to 11 July), Horst Exhibition (11 July to 12 September) and of course the climax Horst Arts & Music Festival, on 10, 11 and 12 September.         

    (c) Olmo Peeters - Horst 2019


    Read also: From factory building to cultural factory: these hotspots are not to be missed (part 2)