reportage

Circle Park: sun, fun, and circular economy

There’s ample room for play and sports ... and for getting a tan.© Saskia Vanderstichele

Brussels has languished for several months; it is high time summer arrived. With open-air cafes, padel courts, concerts, and a marketplace for creatives, Circle Park will be the place to be on sunny days.

Summer bars are popping up again!

See U

In addition to its Velodrome, the former Fritz Toussaint barracks has an open-air cafe that runs all summer long. Ten or so food-trucks serve a range of food at this festive bar that accompanies the festival season, with an organic market and concerts byemerging bands.
rue Fritz Toussaintstraat 8, Elsene/Ixelles, www.see-u.brussels

Firm Artlab

Jette has an urban open-air cafe, one with a food truck that changes every week, thanks to this place, which hosts artistic afterworks, at which the Zenne pils keeps flowing, to coincide with different planned exhibitions.
avenue Firmin Lecharlierlaan 143-147, Jette, Facebook: firmbrussels

Le jardin du pesage

This outdoor cafe leads up to a beautiful Art Nouveau building, the former Bosvoorde/Boitsfort Hippodrome, providing an ideal setting for the terrasse. You can eat there or just stop in for a drink and a platter of cheeses and cold meats.
Terhulpsesteenweg 51-53 chaussée de la Hulpe, Ukkel/Uccle, www.lejardindupesage.be

Like Sleeping Beauty, it seems like Brussels is emerging from a long slumber. After lying dormant, life is finally resurfacing. New projects, each one like a healing embrace, are springing up all over the city. From the range of available options, one that is not to be missed is Circle Park, a large-scale project that has been set up in Anderlecht, between the canal and Studio CityGate. Circle Park is a project that has moved into a temporary site on an industrial wasteland for a three-year period.

The space spans a vast 10,000m² concrete paved area surrounded by 5,000m² of green space. This “playground” belongs to the Brusselse Geweste­lijke Huisvestingsmaatschappij/Société du Logement de la Région de Bruxelles-Capitale (BGHM/SLRB). It is managed by Entrakt, a cooperative company that has existed for more than ten years and specialises in this type of temporary challenge (it has been involved in more than 100 projects, from Magasin Centraal in the city centre to The Production Hub, former offices in Laken/Laeken that are used as a base for film shoots, among other things).

As its name suggests, Circle Park aims to put the emphasis on the circular economy, a new ethical model for a planet that needs to reinvent itself. You enter Circle Park via 156 Grondels­straat/Rue des Goujons. The entrance is impressive, leading under an enormous portico made from stacked containers. This recycled Arc de Triomphe opens out into Dantestraat/Rue Dante, the axis that separates the different zones of the project. If you are facing away from the canal, the part on the right is devoted to sports facilities. It contains five padel courts that can be reserved by anyone for €32 an hour, to be divided between four players, via the Playtomic website and professional-standard beach volleyball facilities.

1757 Circle Park 3
© Saskia Vanderstichele

In the left-hand part, the part we are particularly interested in, the space is divided into two distinct environments. The first, closest to the water, is an incubator to house alternative companies that are involved in social and participatory projects. That space is still under development. It will contain repurposed containers and other temporary structures built to fit the needs of the different ventures. The second space has a very festive ambiance thanks to the presence of a bar, which is also housed in containers.

Vast open space
The duo behind the Circle Park Guinguette is already known for its excellent work in the Park van Vorst/Parc de Forest and at Hangar du Kanaal (La Mouette), two establishments that Brussels will have to do without in the summer of 2021 because they are having work carried out. Reunited thanks to the company Act for Transition, Géraldine Taymans and Alice Billiet have become experts in pop-up festivities, organising cultural events that include drinks and snacks, with a focus on local food networks. The vast open space where the duo have taken up residence features a large sunny terrasse and a series of containers that can be reserved like private rooms. It is a joyful site surrounded by a beach volleyball court, which is free to access, a ping-pong table, and a pétanque (boules) court. This “kid-friendly” open-air cafe offers a selection of games that are available to children for free.

Another important feature is the 300-person stand for people attending concerts and shows. Géraldine Taymans, who manages the events side of things, explains: “Due to Covid-19 restrictions, we were unable to put together a programme in advance, not knowing what the configuration would be. Now that the situation is becoming clearer and given the huge amount of space, we will be able to organise DJ sets, and concerts featuring acts such as Pelouse Grass Band, as well as creators' markets with the not-for-profit organisation Fais-le toi-même.”

1757 Circle Park 2
© Saskia Vanderstichele
| The Circle Park Guinguette in Anderlecht opened its doors just last weekend. It will undoubtedly be a hotspot in no time.

On the catering side of things, Alice Billiet is reproducing a winning formula that has been tried and tested in Vorst/Forest and at Hangar du Kanaal. She nails the fundamentals with her choice of carefully selected drinks: Zinnebir (€3.20), Manneken Pils (€2), and beers from local microbreweries such as Saison du Kanaal (€3.80) by La Jungle (CityGate) and 100PAP (€4), a beer whose sales support aid for undocumented immigrants. We also recommend the freshly made lemonade (€2.60) made with Aixandri juice, the coffee (€2.20) from Santos Palace in Anderlecht, and Moussap, an excellent hibiscus and mint beverage made in Brussels by Moustapha Koma. The delights on offer also include a range of food for sharing.

Again, the emphasis is on the local; there is a 150-gram pizza margherita (€4.50) from Antidote, a CityGate eatery we have praised before, cookies from Charli (€3), and pasteis (€2.60) from Forcado. Over the coming months, the food selection will be expanded by the arrival of food-trucks, such as Yalla Yalla, a truck that serves Lebanese and Mediterranean food. Circle Park also happens to be located 150 metres from the Pierre Marchant bridge, the very spot where Pool Is Cool, after several years of preparation, will be opening its first open-air public swimming pool on 1 July. This 7 by 17 metre structure will include tanning beds and feature numerous events, including film screenings presented in collaboration with Cinéma Galeries and a performance by the Lithuanian visual artist Lina Lapelyte, winner of the Venice Biennale in 2019, in partnership with the Kunstenfestivaldesarts.

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