MolenWest: a new temporary occupation project, next to the Gare de l’Ouest railway station in Molenbeek

14 November 2019
© - 1010 Architecture & Urbanism © (O.T.)© - 1010 Architecture & Urbanism © (O.T.)© - 1010 Architecture & Urbanism © - 1010 Architecture & Urbanism The site is located right next to the Gare de l'Ouest metro station. © (Reportters)

Space for sports activities, containers for fun and creative activities for young people run by local organisations and a fablab accessible to local residents: these are the main components of MolenWest. This new temporary occupation, initiated by the Urban Development Corporation and the municipality of Molenbeek, is planned for a site belonging to the Brussels-Capital Region.

The 4,500 m2 site is located at the corner of Chaussée de Ninove and Rue Alphonse Vandenpeereboom, right next to the entrance to Gare de l’Ouest metro station. The Region is currently working out how it will be used permanently in the future. Meanwhile, for a period currently planned to last three years, the Urban Development Corporation (SAU) and the municipality of Molenbeek have cooperated to make a temporary occupation project possible there. The aim is to provide a response to the needs of the local area  surrounding this key public transport hub. It has been decided to create temporary spaces where locally active non-profit organisations can carry out their activities, on the basis of the ‘Autour du Parc de l'Ouest’ Sustainable District Contract programme and the diagnosis of the ‘Gare de l'Ouest’ Urban Regeneration Contract (CRU 3).

In concrete terms:

  • the Land Management Agency of the Brussels-Capital Region, which owns the land, has cleared the site.
  • the SAU, on the basis of one of the roles assigned to it by the Region, organised an architectural competition (won by 1010 Architecture & Urbanism) and is financing the fitting-out of the site: the installation of six containers connected by a transparent roof to accommodate the various activities, and of an additional unit for the site manager appointed by the municipality; the landscaping of the surrounds, the plantations and the public spaces; the adaptation of the fence; water, gas and electricity supplies; and lighting. Total estimated cost: 325,000 euros.
  • the municipality of Molenbeek, under the terms of an agreement with the Region, will be responsible for the management of the site during the temporary occupation: it is recruiting a site manager and signing agreements with seven non-profit organisations active in the district (see attached list and details below).
  • these seven organisations will run activities on the site during the day and during school holidays, including a homework club and sporting or creative activities (cooking, woodwork, etc..) under the supervision of professional instructors.

Minister-President Rudi Vervoort is ‘delighted by the new Molenwest project, which closely reflects the Regional Policy Declaration, promoting as it does both temporary occupation programmes in the context of regional projects and the work of civil society’.

Mayor Catherine Moureaux emphasises that ‘this district unfortunately has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the Region. We needed collective activities, and the introduction of this project is extremely positive because it will enable high-quality voluntary organisations to further increase their availability and get closer to the young inhabitants of this district.’

Gilles Delforge, the director of the SAU, says he is ‘convinced, in view of the success of See U, the large-scale transitional occupation project organised by the SAU on the site in Ixelles, that MolenWest will quickly prove its worth, in a different style and on a different scale, as a social venue in close touch with the area around Gare de l’Ouest.’

Presentation to the public on 11 December  2019 and launch in the spring of 2020

The SAU has submitted an application for planning permission, which is at the public consultation stage from 5 to 19 November, for the implementation of the plans that won the competition, namely for the development of a square near the entrance to the Gare de l'Ouest metro station, the creation of a fenced area and the installation of containers, shelters and outdoor sports and leisure facilities.

The conversion work is scheduled for early 2020 and the start of the temporary occupation is planned for the sprint of 2020.

The municipality and the seven organisations will hold an event to present MolenWest to the public on the site on Wednesday 11 December 2019.
The initiative is linked to the Gare de l'Ouest Urban Regeneration Contract (CRU 3) and the Autour du Parc de l'Ouest Sustainable District Contract, the latter of which includes plans to create a district centre to accommodate voluntary activities on a permanent basis.



MolenWest: voluntary hub and public space

  • Context:

The conversion of this site is a transitional project under the Gare de l'Ouest Urban Regeneration Contract under the coordination of the Urban Development Corporation (SAU) and the management of the municipality of Molenbeek.
The spaces created by the SAU will be made available free of charge to non-profit organisations that will occupy the premises.
Minor adaptations such as paintings and the introduction of street furniture will be carried out in a ‘participatory project’ involving the municipality, the SAU, the occupying organisations, their target groups and local volunteers, so that the users of the future site will help to create it and gain a sense of ownership.
The development of this site and the selected projects will help meet the needs of the neighbourhood – for things such as public space and social venues, schooling support, sports activities, support with socio-professional integration and cultural activities (art, cooking, etc.) – in an intergenerational approach.
The organisations at the heart of the project are receiving financial supported from the Gare de l'Ouest Urban Regeneration Contract and/or the Autour du Parc de l'Ouest Sustainable District Contract. They are voluntary organisations that are already established or that plan to establish a lasting presence in the local area.

  • Occupying organisations:
  • Centrum West D’Broej

The Centrum West youth centre, currently located on Rue de Menin, will extend its activities to MolenWest and continue to offer residents a range of activities in a larger setting that opens onto public space. Activities will include sport, workshops and sessions for young people and the elderly, and women's groups. 
Centrum West will also arrange for three young people from the Don Bosco Training Centre to be supported by a coach and given training in carpentry, painting and landscaping; these young people will be in charge of maintenance work at MolenWest.

  • Sport2be

A number of coaches will run free mixed sports sessions on Wednesdays and Saturdays. There are also plans to reserve a time slot exclusively for women to enable them to discover street soccer, as women’s participation in sport in this area is below the regional average.
Street soccer demonstrations will also be held in local schools in order to introduce the activity to young people.
In addition, Sport2be aims to encourage the integration of vulnerable young people by developing a first link with them through sport. Support will then be offered through individual coaching by an occupational integration manager. Visits to companies and training organisations will be held to enable the young people to find out about different work and trades and how businesses function, and to prepare for recruitment interviews.

  • Samen Voor Morgen (Ensemble pour demain)

A bilingual non-profit specialising in bringing public spaces to life and forging social ties. The organisation offers various activities: a reading club for children, cookery classes, discussion groups, various games and social occasions with an emphasis on diversity and sharing.

  • La Rue

La Rue will run a large project to support the renovation of energy-intensive privately owned housing according to various sustainable development criteria (insulation work, interior renovations or minor energy-saving alterations) in the selected buildings. Emphasis will also be placed on the renovation of the deteriorated building façades in the Gare de l'Ouest district. As part of this project, La Rue will run a permanently staffed office for residents on the site and hold information evenings there.

  • Fablab at the Cultural and Social Cohesion Centre

A fablab called ‘Fabwest’ will be installed on the site, with creativity and making workshops at which high-quality tools and machinery are available for use. These workshops will be open to children, young people and their families on particular days. Courses will also be organised during the school holidays. Finally, a bicycle repair shop will also be run there.

  • Information point for Autour du Parc de l'Ouest Sustainable District Contract and Gare de l'Ouest Urban Regeneration Contract

The socio-economic coordinators of the Autour du Parc de l'Ouest Sustainable District Contract and Gare de l'Ouest Urban Regeneration Contract will run an information point for the general public concerning these two urban development programmes.

  • ABEF

A new schooling support class for around fifteen students twice a week – secondary level.


Every Tuesday, the various organisations at MolenWest will join forces to propose an activity day for schools. For example, by arrangement, a class could spend the day at MolenWest and experience an introduction to the fablab in the morning, a workshop in the use of a pizza oven at lunchtime and a sports activity in the afternoon – programme details to be defined.

Finally, the space will be co-built with local residents. There could be a collective vegetable garden, climbing equipment – and who knows what else? Anything is possible!