Meeting around the corner, 24 summer evenings of football

This was one of those special global summers. For at least once a day during a month, millions of humans all over the globe were connected to a single place. Besides the lucky ones able to go to the stadiums and watch the games with their own eyes, in the rest of the world those who enjoy the world cup as a collective experience, rushed to public spaces. The world cup changes the daily urban dynamics and public space layout. This summer we saw stadiums becoming giant leaving rooms and public squares becoming sponsored outdoor cinemas. Monuments and streets recurrently and spontaneously occupied by euphoric triumphant supporters and terraces over crowded with enthusiast costumers.

Due to this world-cup-mood, we were able to experience Brussels in a quite special way. It was surprising to see public spaces overflowing with people wearing proudly the Belgium national colors, just a month after an electoral triumph of a separatist political party. We also enjoyed the monumental stairs of Bourse occupied by laud and happy crowds waving Algerian, Greek and Colombian flags. But we also had the change to discover some neglected and potential public spaces reclaimed in an unexpected way.

A cargo bike pimped with a generator, satellite TV connection and a flat screen, was the urban device that the guys from O CANTO used to activate 19 surprising locations in Brussels by organizing public screenings of the full calendar of the World cup. Fluctuating groups of several tens of people and local residents gathered together during 24 summer evenings in places ironically ignored as the monumental parking terraces of the Justice Palace, forgotten playgrounds in Anderlecht, random parking corners of some Brussels streets , formal XIX century public spaces and mythic polemic sites like Tours and Taxis, the canal and Porte de Ninove. The locations were announced only hours before the game through the Facebook page and blog, just enough in advance to grab a blanket, some chips and beers and join the others to watch the game.

O CANTO (“corner” in Portuguese) is already the third initiative of this kind. The team, a bunch of Belgian and international people from Brussels, already organized KYTKAT during the European Championship in Poland and Ukraine in 2012 (KYT,“corner” in Ukrainian and KAT, “corner” in Polish). The very first one, ECKE (“corner” in German), started during the World cup 2010 when the initiator of the project Paul Steinbrück (a German architect living in Brussels) and his friends decided to occupy the sidewalk in front of his house with a TV and some seats – in a random corner in Brussels- to enjoy the game together.

O CANTO, and similar projects could be interpreted as a spontaneous manifestation of the need of people for common spaces in the contemporary cities. As described by Elise Candry in her paper “Episodes of Urban Activism in Brussels”, it is important to note that O CANTO is an a-political and a-cultural organization. They want to be independent from an underlying agenda. Therefore football is the perfect alibi for a get-together: nobody can be radically against it or see harm in it.

When I asked Paul about the achievements of O CANTO, his answer was quite simple: We watched football with friends and locals at a lot of places with a beer in our hand, a collective happening in the public space of Brussels.

(Text: Diego Luna Quintanilla // photos: Paul Steinbrück )


Photo gallery


O CANTO #21 - Tour & Taxis O CANTO #20 - Music Kiosk O CANTO #18 - Mont des Arts O CANTO #15 - Ping Pong Place O CANTO #11 - Parck Design1 O CANTO #10 - Porte de Hal O CANTO #9 - the Gated Lookout O CANTO #8 - Congress Canopy O CANTO #7 - Palais de Justice 3 O CANTO #6 - Canal Park 1 O CANTO #4 - Bozar Boavista O CANTO #3 - Esplanade Duden