Co-Creation of an URBiNAT Healthy Corridor for Neder-Over-Heembeek, Brussels

Area characterisation: 

Neder-Over-Heembeek is characterised by strong neighbourhood identit(ies) and tight-knit communities, and has an active network of associations. It is one of the greenest parts of the City of Brussels, thanks to its agricultural heritage, its position on the outskirts of Brussels and in dialogue with Flandres, and its comparatively late inclusion in the Brussels agglomeration (annexed in 1921 by the City of Brussels). It has been the site of contentious urban developments since then, but has proved resilient in maintaining a self-proclaimed “village identity”.

Neder-Over-Heembeek (see orange outline in Figure X), and more specifically the social housing areas of Versailles, Val Maria, and Craetbos (see white outline in Figure X), were selected as the study area due to their peripheral position in Brussels. Located in the northernmost corner of the Brussels Capital Region, Neder-Over-Heembeek is wedged in between the canal, the royal domain, and the ring road: all rather non-porous barriers that have created a physical and social sense of isolation for inhabitants of this neighbourhood, leading to a growing sense of abandonment. 

These neighbourhoods appear in socioeconomic indicators at a regional level as particularly marked by inequalities and poverty rates (see discussion of Urban Revitalisation Zones in 3.3), which can be partially explained by the urban typologies that characterise them : Versailles is a “Cité” in the Le Corbusier style, and Val Maria followed the “garden city” principles popular at the time of its construction. These social housing zones are managed by two organisations, the Logement Bruxellois (Versailles) and Comensia (Craetbos and Val Maria), both members of the Housing Association of the Brussels Capital Region (SLRB-BGHM).


Brussels is one of the four follower cities of the URBiNAT project, and was chosen for its green character, its history of involvement in European and international agreements and cooperation, and its current practice of citizen participation in political and territorial processes. The URBiNAT project, implemented in Brussels through a Living Lab in the neighbourhood of Neder-Over-Heembeek, is meant to reconnect the social housing neighbourhoods amongst themselves, with the broader neighbourhood, and with the rest of the city. This in order to reduce socio-spatial fractures linked to its peripheral characteristics and particular history of socio-demographic developments.


The co-creation process in Brussels has been guided by the URBiNAT methodology, which fed the Living Lab throughout the project period. It was also anchored in local dynamics, synergies with local actors and internal projects, and affinities of the local task force.

After the co-diagnostic a number of focal themes were drawn out to focus the co-design of the projects in light of the needs and opportunities identified. These were presented to members of the community, to colleagues in the municipality, and used as tools for further dialogue via the artistic synthesis and public activities.

As a necessary effect of the articulation between the ambitions of the URBiNAT project and the project realities on the ground, the local task force developed an iterative experimental process throughout the project lifetime. This enabled the creation of spaces and moments of experimentation within a local administration that can tend towards a rigidification of processes with silo effects. Dialogue with all actors - internal technicians, politicians, local actors and associations, active inhabitants and “unusual suspects” - was stimulated by a case-by-case common exploration, leading to a mycelium of projects and networks of actors that together form the Healthy Corridor concept, but also subsist outside of it.

The main approach of the local task force was to create key moments of interaction in public space that were open to all, but with specific target groups in mind, for joyful and playful interactions using a panoply of creative and well-known tools and participatory NbS from the URBiNAT NbS catalogue.

Potential impacts/benefits: 

Many projects are underway in Neder-Over-Heembeek at the moment - carried by both the municipality and local actors at a variety of scales - that will have an impact on the development of this neighbourhood in the coming years. 

URBiNAT is a small but crucial addition to this constellation of projects that stands on the precedents and strengths of the neighbourhood. It will support in establishing linking points between municipal operational programs and strategies for this territory, creating a coherent narrative and vision for the neighbourhood that can act as a complementary compass for the future.

The implementation of the Healthy Corridor in Neder-Over-Heembeek will be led and carried primarily by the City of Brussels, in close coordination with local and regional actors where relevant and necessary for the needs of the project.

The NbS projects identified in previous chapters each have a department and organisational unit (UO) and members of the executive body of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen (elected political representatives) identified as project “owner”, responsible for taking the lead in further project development and implementation.

Each NbS project has its own anticipated phasing in time and level of operationalisation. The common thread in each of these is a focus on:

  • transversal development of the project (across internal municipal units);

  • inclusion of key local actors where relevant to further co-design and co-implement the project;

  • ensuring its relevance and the adequacy of its response to place-based needs. 

The methodology for each project will be described in synthetic project descriptions (“fiches projets”), that are internal versions of the NbS cards (cf. Annex 8.1). These will facilitate cross-unit discussions and coordination. These will be further developed in the working groups, for which a preliminary diagram can be found below.

NbS benefits 
  • Developing climate change adaptation; improving risk management and resilience
  • Developing climate change mitigation
  • More energy efficient buildings
  • Reduction of energy in the production of new buildings and building materials
  • Greater ecological connectivity across urban regenerated sites
  • Improve connectivity and functionality of green and blue infrastructures
  • Enhancing sustainable urbanisation
  • Changing image of the urban environment
  • Increase willingness to invest in NBS
  • Provision of health benefits
  • Social inclusion
  • Social learning about location & importance of NBS
NbS classification 
  • Participatory NBS
  • Social & Solidarity Economy
  • Territorial NBS
Sustainable Development Goals 
  • 5. Gender Equality
  • 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • 10. Reducing Inequality
  • 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • 12. Responsible Consumption and Production
  • 17. Partnerships for the Goals