Focusing on the Brussels urban environment, this paper investigates spatial mutations produced by key critical transitions to accommodate new social and living conditions for collective purposes. Using CAD re-drawings, a systematic comparison of residential schemes identifies the evolutionary mechanism that connects manifold changes in the city and domestic spaces. This analysis defines a genealogical framework to observe how specific residential archetypes have shaped Brussels’ sociocultural identity and distinguishes contemporary housing initiatives dealing with current and future challenges. While during the 19th century, interwar, and postwar periods, spatial features evolved from individual, single-family houses to residential schemes bearing collective, egalitarian dwellings, contemporary initiatives are relevant for their experimental solutions, translating into housing design new collective ways of living. This trajectory demonstrates that collective housing provides new insights for designing future types of urban housing. Brussels contemporary housing can shed light on the fact that current crises generated by urban issues, such as demographic growth, migratory and gentrification dynamics, affordability and the COVID-19 pandemic, are accelerating the transition towards the 21st-century city. Eventually, the Belgian capital now has the opportunity to combine two crucial questions, such as typological innovation and sustainability, to successfully approach the coming transition period from social and environmental perspectives.
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