A Co-creative Beginning for Bruges’ Kaai District

The Mayor of Bruges is speaking to a group of students

Image by Bart Goethals

No less than 131 students took centre-stage as they converged in Bruges to address the challenge of making the Kaaidistrict (Quay District) climate neutral  in co-creation with residents, companies and other organisations, and to initiate their role of supporting the city as a 'Think Tank’

The advantage for these young fifth-year students from various disciplines in Bruges schools lies in their ability to blend local knowledge with a diverse educational background. They come from different educational institutions, including welfare sciences from MAST, technological sciences and engineering from VTI, architectural education from Maricolen , economics and other transfer directions from SFX and human sciences from Sint-Lodewijkscollege .

The event, the first of the Innovation Camps series in Bruges called “Concept Building LAB”, was organised by Vlajo, the Flemish affiliation of JA Europe, and hosted by the City of Bruges. In his welcome, Dirk De Fauw, the Mayor of Bruges, emphasised the importance of co-creation and inclusion of the voices from the youth, in the context of the challenge at hand.

Addressing the overall challenge of examining how urban planning and design can contribute to climate-neutral and climate-robust urban development, he highlighted the Bruges climate plan BruggeNaarMorgen and Bruges as a circular city and the unique changes of working with the Kaaidistrict as a pilot area:

We are at a pivotal moment full of opportunities and challenges. In order not to simply undergo the developments and to manage the transformation, the city of Bruges felt the need to take on the role of director in the transformation of the Kaaidistrict,” Mayor De Fauw said and continued

“Several developers are currently working in the quay district. That is also why we present this area and the associated challenges in the Concept Building LAB so that you can rack your brains on this and inspire us with future-oriented and climate-robust solutions . We want these developments to fit into that new story, in that new city, in that high ambition that we propose for the quay district.”

Inspiration and Brainstorming

After the welcome from the Mayor, the young people from the five participating schools travelled by bicycle to five locations for specific explanations, recognising that if you want to come up with ideas, you have to know what you are talking about. The exploration ended with the classical Belgian fries, ensuring that the afternoon program could be started with full energy.

Then, the students were divided into teams and a total of 16 smaller think tanks were created, each working to take on a different challenge. In a hands-on workshop, the young people first recorded what they learned in the morning. Then they brainstormed: what exists worldwide? What do we think is cool? What attracts us? How would we like to experience the Kaaidistrict as a place to live, work and shop?  

With the help also of numerous experts from the City of Bruges, the first ideas were able to grow, with room for more. The challenge now is to prepare to pitch their first ideas during the next step of Concept Building LAB - this will take place on March 14, 2024!

This article was heavily inspired by the original Flemish article on the Concept Building LAB from Vlajo. Find it here.

A group of students gathered in a venue

Image by Bart Goethals

A representive of Bruges is speaking in front of a group of students

Image by Bart Goethals

A grouop of students gathered around a table discussing something.

Image by Bart Goethals

A full of group of more than 100 students having a group picture

Image by Bart Goethals

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