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Plans to Demolish Architectural Heritage in Brussels, Belgium

Plans to Demolish Architectural Heritage in Brussels, Belgium

A project not adapted to existing buildings could potentially have its building permit request denied. In March 2013, ARAU was alerted by a group of locals that the HUB (Hogeschool-Universiteit Brussel) was planning to “renovate” a group of buildings located at the corner of Marais and Sables streets, which were acquired in December 2012. This

An art deco influenced building in downtown Brussels, BelgiumA project not adapted to existing buildings could potentially have its building permit request denied. In March 2013, ARAU was alerted by a group of locals that the HUB (Hogeschool-Universiteit Brussel) was planning to “renovate” a group of buildings located at the corner of Marais and Sables streets, which were acquired in December 2012. This “renovation” project, under the name of Campus Meyboom instead resembled a demolition and reconstruction project.

As part of the project, a large part of late 19th century and art déco buildings, possessing great cultural value and in very good condition, were condemned to disappearance. The ARAU was therefore opposed to the project and published a press release in April 2013 declaring “The Hogeschool-Universiteit Brussel’s project for a new campus: help, the iconoclasts are returning!”

Together with the environmental permit delivered in April 2013, we should have been able to expect public inquiry to be organized regarding the HUB’s application for planning permission. But nothing came of it; until now. Nearly a year and a half later, the HUB’s application is now subject to public opinion. The ARAU is astonished that neither the city nor the regional government gave the red light in order to stop this example of Brusselization. Did the applicant review their plans and did they propose a project that respected the existing buildings and their features? Unfortunately, no. The project kept the same “philosophy,” namely that of destroying Brussels’ architectural heritage.

Historic façades in Brussles, BelgiumThe authorities ought to refuse to grant a permit to this project which is destructive to Brussels' heritage, and which, due to the waste of energy it would entail, would go against the principles of sustainable development to which the HUB seems to adhere.

It is through maintaining and improving the living environment that cities satisfy their residents. It is not through putting them under the pressure of Brusselization, which belongs to another time. Sustainable cities must recycle buildings, even more so when they are large, high-quality, and in good condition.

If a building or group of buildings is not officially protected, should citizens become involved in deciding the fate of a building? What are some valid arguments for preserving non-iconic, but still historically important architecture?

Original article, originally published in French, here.

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

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Marcus Khoury is a recent graduate of the University of California Los Angeles, where he obtained a B.A. in French & Francophone Studies. Aside from his native Michigan, Marcus has lived in several states, in addition to France and Chile. Owing...

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