Understrand Brussels to better defend it!

ARAU (L’Atelier de Recherche et d’Action Urbaines) was founded in 1969 by a group of Brussels residents who claimed their right to the city and who shared the belief that city air makes us free.

Founded at a time when there was an exodus of residents from central Brussels to the outer suburbs, accompanied by the mass demolition of historic buildings, ARAU opposed the construction of motorways and office buildings instead of housing, and wanted to make the residents’ voices heard. ARAU believes that all the residents of Brussels should be given the ability to analyse and act for the future of their city. ARAU has become a well-known protagonist in urban planning campaigns and a fervent defender of rebuilding the city while preserving its heritage. For more than 50 years, ARAU has ceaselessly advocated more public debate and transparency in town-planning projects. Its original objective is still current: to promote the city as a pleasant place to live and to work towards a top-quality urban environment for all its residents! This vision has led, over the years, to several types of analyses, press releases, seminars and counter-proposals, plus a constantly evolving programme of guided tours that aim to improve residents’ knowledge of the city so that they can more easily participate in urban democracy.


More than 50 years of ideas about the city, for Brussels

As part of the celebrations of its fiftieth anniversary, ARAU though it would be interesting to focus on 50 projects which have marked its history since 1969. This publication will help those fighting urban-planning battles in Brussels to base their arguments on strong foundations in the city’s past.

Download the publication (in french)


The "Inter-environnement Bruxelles" Federation (IEB)

ARAU is a member of “Inter-Environnement Bruxelles” (IEB) an association which brings together the residents of the Brussels-Capital Region to debate urban-planning, environmental and social issues. Most of IEB’s members are groups of residents brought together in district residents’ committees, plus other associations and organisations. IEB’s actions aim to effect social transformation, using the principles of solidarity, social emancipation and democratic urban planning. IEB claims the right for all residents to collectively define and defend their environment (social, environmental, economic, political, cultural, etc.). Based on the principles of permanent education, IEB both analyses and acts as a collective force of thought, information, experimentation, suggestion and argument in an atmosphere that promotes debate and deliberation among its members and with society, and also critical analysis, evaluation, exchanges of know-how, building momentum and networking, and creating alliances with other social stakeholders.

IEB Website

All our activities


Guided tours

Since 1977, ARAU has been a pioneer of urban tourism in Brussels and has offered unconventional guided tours that raise awareness of urban democracy and the role of residents in the development of their city. Over the decades, ARAU has also developed an expert knowledge of the city’s architectural and planning history, which it has passed on through its programme of guided tours that continue to play an essential role in the defence of the heritage buildings of Brussels. To learn more about the city’s best features, while at the same time developing a critical view of past and planned developments, join us!

All our guided tours

Seminars and workshops

For more 50 years, ARAU has organised an annual “Urban Planning School”, a series of seminars on a theme, that aims to lead participants to think about and do their own research on long-term action. ARAU also organises citizens’ workshops, made up of site visits followed by discussions, which, based on a concrete example, allow participants to diagnose an issue and to suggest ideas for improving the situation they have observed.


Analyses and studies

ARAU publishes studies, analyses and press releases which help to demystify, from a critical viewpoint, urban-planning projects or proposals to change public spaces, buildings, public-transport infrastructure, etc. Some of these publications also focus on an in-depth analysis of basic environmental or governmental issues.

  • Financing

    ARAU’s resources are paid for by its members’ subscriptions, donations and profits from the sale of publications and its guided tours.

    ARAU has been recognised by the French Language Community since 1976 and since 1  January 2007 under the renewed Royal Decree of 17 July 2003 on the support of associations involved in permanent education. This recognition provides a five-year grant covering 2017-2021.

    ARAU also receives an annual grant of €5,000 from the “Commission communautaire française” (COCOF) to cover its main permanent education activity, namely the “Urban Planning School”. For more information, please refer to the ARAU 2019 Activity Report.

  • Governance

    The creation of ARAU’s policy positions and ARAU’s activities are governed by its volunteer Board Members and its Annual General Meeting. Their decisions are implemented by the Secretariat and the permanent staff.

    At Board meetings, issues are examined and analysed, policy positions are created and publications and activities are approved and appraised. At Secretariat meetings, attended by representatives of the Board and members of staff, the implementation of Board decisions is discussed and day-to-day management issues are discussed. The members of staff are closely involved in the creation and implementation of activities.