A new and innovative district, where two stories merge

Mediapark.brussels represents a confluence of two stories. The story of the urban development of the Reyers-Meiser district. And the story of Brussels’ first broadcasters, VRT and RTBF – the offspring of RTB-BRT and ultimately of INR-NIR. Two parallel stories that have merged to write a third, shared story: that of a new district of Brussels that is creative, vibrant, leafy, open to the city and the world, and the crucible of an innovative media ecosystem.

The story of the development of the Reyers-Meiser area

  • Chaussée de Louvain, a medieval road that was cobbled in the 15th century, entered Brussels via the Porte de Louvain at Place Madou in those days. The present geometrically straight route of Chaussée de Louvain was completed in 1707 under Austrian rule. Where Place Dailly is located today there was a customs post, created in the late 18th century.
  • The Reyers-Meiser district, then at the outer edge of the ‘Brussels suburbs’, began to be developed in the 19th century, at the time of the Industrial Revolution and the accompanying urban changes. The centres of the villages of Schaerbeek, Evere and Woluwe-Saint-Lambert, dating back to at least the Middle Ages, were separated from Brussels by a large stretch of countryside. The Plasky and Reyers-Meiser districts are situated on the Linthout plateau, which forms the watershed between the catchment areas of the Maelbeek and the Woluwe.
  • The creation of the military boulevards, planned in 1866 under Charles Rogier, Leopold II’s minister, was included in the general plan to expand the city of Brussels and enhance its attractiveness, conceived by the architect and town planner Victor Besme, who came up with the blueprint for Brussels’ growth beyond the confines of the ‘Pentagon’. Work began in 1886, on the section between the Etterbeek barracks and the Bois de la Cambre. Boulevard Auguste Reyers was completed in 1906 and Boulevard Wahis/Lambermont in around 1910. These projects were thus contemporary with the great urban transformations that Brussels experienced during the second half of the 19th century: the culverting of the Senne and the Maelbeek; the creation of large public parks (Cinquantenaire, Joshaphat and Duden); and the creation of Avenue Louise and Avenue de Tervuren.
  • Le Tir National (the National Shooting Range), formerly known as Kattepoel, located on the Linthout plateau, remained a wetland of fields and meadows until the 19th century. In 1889, Victor Besme created a vast military complex there, including an imposing building and some ten hectares of land for artillery exercises and shooting practice. The shooting range was to the rear of the site, towards Evere.
  • At the edge of the former Tir National, the Enclos des fusillés, a small, little-known cemetery on Rue Colonel Bourg, contains the graves of 365 resistance members from the two World Wars, including Edith Cavell and Gabrielle Petit.
  • The creation of the E40 motorway was decided on as part of a 1964 plan involving the creation of the Motorway Ring around Brussels and motorways heading in towards the city centre. Although much of the planned infrastructure was not eventually built, the motorway between Brussels and Liège and the Reyers Interchange were built in the early 1970s, coming into service in the early 1980s.
  • The urban developments in the Reyers-Meiser district gradually severed its links with neighbouring districts, while turning an extensive green area over to private ownership and hence removing it from public access for a long time.

The story of the first broadcasters in Brussels

  • The National Broadcasting Institute (INR-NIR), created in 1930 and based in Rue du Bastion (which became Square du Bastion in 1965), moved in 1939 to the Maison de la Radio, which was designed by architect Joseph Diongre and whose first stone was laid in late 1935. In the 1950s, Place Flagey thus witnessed the beginnings of Belgian television and, in 1960, the birth of RTB-BRT. Lacking space in the Maison de la Radio, RTB-BRT decided to build a new broadcasting centre, the Cité de la Radio-Télévision, on Boulevard Reyers on the site of the former Tir National, where it would gradually bring together all its services. The construction work took place between 1964 and 1978, in order of urgency: first television and then radio. In 1967, RTB-BRT left the Place Flagey building to move to 52 Boulevard Reyers. After RTB-BRT was split into RTBF and VRT in 1977, the public broadcasters of the French and Flemish Communities continued to share a common building with a common entrance, one occupying the left wing and the other the right wing.
  • The Reyers Tower, the telecommunication tower used by the two channels, was erected in 1979. Its construction was a considerable technical feat at the time. The circular upper section, with a diameter of 34 m, sits atop a 73 m concrete pillar, dominating the entire district if not the whole of Brussels. Sometimes nicknamed ‘the Flying Saucer’, this 4,000 tonne behemoth was hoisted into place, centimetre by centimetre, between 10.30 am on Monday 19 May 1980 and 11 am on Friday 23 May, at a speed of 1.39 metres per hour. This was a worldwide first: never had such a mass been raised to such a height before. In total, the building stands 89 metres tall. Since 2006, the Reyers Tower has been incorporated in the Brussels Lighting Plan: each night, it becomes a beacon above the city.
  • A ‘media district’ has gradually developed around RTBF and VRT, populated by small, medium-sized and large audiovisual companies such as RTL-TVi, BeTV, Nostalgie, NRJ, Studio L'Equipe and so on. Today, it accounts for some 5,000 workers, including 3,500 at RTBF and VRT.
  • In 2013, VRT, which had considered leaving Brussels, and RTBF both decided to build new headquarters – separated this time but still neighbours – close to their current premises on Boulevard Reyers. In the context of the consolidation of the land they occupy, this will lead to greater openness to neighbouring districts and the reforging of links between them.

The new common story: a creative district and an innovative media ecosystem

When the Region began to develop a Master Plan for the Reyers strategic zone in 2008, it involved RTBF and VRT. With the two broadcasters, it planned to transform the fenced grounds on their land into a public park passing from one side to the other, thus providing a new green space for local residents and creating new links between Chaussée de Louvain and the Diamond District. The Master Plan proposes a series of changes to the public spaces and buildings aimed at improving the quality of life in these districts, whose development has been seriously affected by the dense road infrastructure and by various economic activities that have developed on vast inward-looking sites.

  • The consolidation of the RTBF-VRT site on Boulevard Reyers decided on in 2013 allows the local and regional authorities in Brussels, in collaboration with RTBF and VRT, to give this district a fresh boost through the mediapark.brussels project.
  • The new headquarters of the two public TV broadcasters are set to become the keystones of a new creative district and an innovative media ecosystem, thanks to the desire of RTBF and VRT to open up more to the surrounding area.
  • The public authorities at regional and municipal level have decided to create a new space for living, working and leisure activities here, centred on creativity, open to the city and the world, connected with neighbouring districts, and making the most of its strategic location between the airport and the European Quarter, to become an attractive, employment-generating centre whose influence will extend beyond the confines of Brussels.
  • This unifying and inspiring urban project, with creativity and quality of life as its distinguishing features, the precise outlines of which are currently being worked out, will ultimately include:
    • the construction of some 3,000 new dwellings;
    • local facilities and services (a nursery, a school, shops etc.) to meet the needs of local people;
    • sites for innovative new businesses that will create jobs;
    • colleges and public facilities linked with the media sector;
    • an excellent urban park at the heart of this new district, used as a venue for events but also for walking and recreation;
    • measures to reduce the impact of road traffic.