Touring Brussels Architecture

#lisboaarchitecturewalksandtrips was touring in Brussels (Bruxelles). In the Belgian capital the spoken language is French but when you cross the borders of the city people speak Dutch, Brussels is surrounded by Flanders.

Belgium is a multicultural country full of contrasts, and so is Brussels – a very bustling city, driven by flows of people of around 170 nationalities, thriving businesses, powerful institutions and ongoing construction.

The architecture is as rich as varied. The many architectural styles coexist, side by side, in permanent negotiation.

Compared to Lisbon (city), Brussels (capital region) is not much bigger in size (100 km2 to 161 km2). Brussels is nonetheless more densely populated, richer, and engaged in continuous activity and development.

Brussels capital region comprises of 19 semi-autonomous municipalities, linked together by a complex public transportation network (which is constantly being improved). The EU quarters are located in the centre, occupying a large area along the 19th century avenue Rue de la Loi.

Since the 1960’s, with the establishment of the EU administration in Brussels, this area is constantly metamorphosing – the construction of the EU quarters has implied the demolition of entire neighbourhoods, and it seems like normal that the survival of the surrounding constructions is threatened.

The grandiosity of EU quarters is controversial among the people of Brussels, and many others worldwide are very critical about this non-stop development where un-original and megalomaniac architecture stands out.

But to get to know Brussels you have to travel outside the administrative axe, and the historic centre – beautiful but overwhelmed by superficial tourism frills, just like Lisbon and many other cities (tourism is not the problem but bad local administration…).

We have explored parts of Brussels, looking into the parallels and contrasts of its architecture and urban landscape. Beyond the regularity of the traditional Brussels urban fabric - built up throughout the 19th century, the city and the architects were always engaged in the exploration of new styles: Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Modernism, Brutalism, Post-modernism, High-Tech…contemporary. Brussels is also known by its many green parks where people meet, talk, sing, flirt, drink…, some of them are framed by great “city views” where all these styles confine.

The city of Brussels is also experiencing infill development (and redevelopment), the architects are engaged in working out alternatives to demolition, space-consuming, and sprawl, optimizing existing built property and improving the livability in “critical” areas.

There are remarkable interventions spread around the city – small scale (such as house extensions); apartment and office blocks arranged around open courtyards with gardens, public space and playgrounds; industrial buildings turned into offices and cultural centres, new remarkable construction next to viaducts and railways…

We will get back to Brussels!

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Post and photo credits: Lisboa Architecture Walks & Trips

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