Walk and Know: How Can Urbanism Affect Culture and Alleviate Poverty? #Brussels

If walking around a city can be considered a hobby, then it would be my first on the list. Just walk and think not of where you end up. The other day while walking in Brussels I saw a bus bound to a place called “Wiener” – I got curious as to what Wiener is like, or why would you call a place Wiener, so I jumped on the bus, and after about 40 minutes on, I ended up in an area full of green and beautiful lakes. The weather was great so I walked and explored the place further. I also did a lot of walking in Kuala Lumpur the Malaysian capital, and one day I uncovered a small hidden jungle with concrete leftovers and backdoor train tracks that seemed to be forgotten in the backyard of all the skyscrapers in Bangsar. There was nothing ‘concretely’ special about that spot other than probably useful for shooting an action/suspense, but just like that in the middle of the stressful noise pollution, there was a relaxing silence. I walked in New York and got lost in the subway, just like all new-yorkers, I walked in Boston, I walked in Berlin, I walked in Madrid, I walked in Granada, I walked in Khartoum, I walked in New Delhi, in Vienna, in Paris and in Barcelona. I walked in quiet villages in the south of Belgium. And after all the walking I have done I can confirm that the designs of urban spaces truly and largely impact the psychology of its inhabitants.

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La Bourse, Brussels City Center



Now that Brussels is home to me, I have more reason to walk and know. So I walk, almost on a daily basis. It’s a small city, and I get excited by discovering new corners and hidden gems. Could be a park, a bar, a restaurant or a swimming pool facility. Whatever new road connection, or a metro line junction discovered is a valuable insight into the psychology of the city. One thing about Brussels that stands out for me is what comes in this study right here. Something about a relationship between poor neighbourhoods and green spaces seems to be at work here. In Molenbeek or certain parts of Schaerbeek for example, you could look across the length of any street and never see a green zone. Sometimes not a single tree in sight. All spaces are used up to house more people with low income. They are also usually people who don’t care much about vegetation because it is more important to earn a sufficient living and have a roof over their heads, and because they don’t expect better.

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Porte de Hal, Brussels


The question is, if the city makes more effort in allocating green spaces in these grey zones, would it actually improve the income of anyone? Well not in that direct manner, but what it will really achieve in the long term, is slowly switch the mentality of poverty from a struggle-based attitude to one that begins to understand the value of nature and relaxation. Yes, relaxation! It does so much to the attitude of abundance and seriously harms levels of fear and stress in the human mind. It inspires creativity and an appreciation of growing into the better because that’s what green nature promotes; growth, attention, health, survival, strength, evolution, positivity, etc. After all, it’s a cycle. We create our spaces but our spaces also influence our perceived reality. Hence, we need our spaces to inspire our progress.

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Parvis St. Gilles, Brussels


Wiener is not an English word, so let’s not get the wrong ideas. But I strongly recommend you to follow Wieners and buses unknown destinations bound in your city, if you have that time and curiosity, or even just to alter your mood and take your mind off things. Besides being a great physical exercise, only walking through the uncommon streets of a city can make you more familiar with its people and its culture. Depending on how big a city or a town is, and how friendly the streets are to pedestrians, one can learn a lot about a place.


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