Large Landholdings in Brabant: Unravelling Urbanization Processes in the City-Territory

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-7635

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Large Landholdings in Brabant: Unravelling Urbanization Processes in the City-Territory

  • Guillaume Vanneste Faculty of Architecture, Architectural Engineering and Urban Planning (LOCI), UCLouvain, Belgium

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Abstract:  Through the observation of land property (le foncier) and, specifically, large landholdings, this research aims to take a fresh look at urbanization and urban planning in the Belgian Walloon Brabant Province. In contrast with most Belgian urban studies that tackle the issue of sprawling urbanization through small-scale parcels, fragmentation processes and individual initiatives, this investigation complements recent research on estate urbanization by examining large-scale properties and how they played a role in the city-territory’s urbanization during the second half of the 20th century. Large landholdings in Walloon Brabant are remnants of 18th century territorial dominions inherited from nobility and clergy, progressively dismantled, reorganized or maintained as result of the urbanization dynamics integral to the reproduction of modern and contemporary society. The village of Rixensart is the subject of a series of these transformations. By mapping the de Merode family’s large landholdings in the south of the commune and analyzing the allotments permit, we retrace urban transformations and the reordering of social and ecological relations through changing land structure. The palimpsest notion is used as a tool to unravel the set of actors involved in urbanization dynamics and to highlight the socio-spatial transformations and construction of recent urbanization. The profound transformations taking place in Walloon Brabant today present an opportunity to reflect on its future, and questions regarding landed estates suggest potential for tackling the city-territory’s greater systemic challenges.

Keywords:  Brabant; de Merode; dispersion; foncier; land; land ownership; landholdings; metropolization; property

Published:   30 June 2020


© Guillaume Vanneste. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.