Belgium Architecture and Literature

Architecture. – Thanks to its geopolitical centrality, the Belgium as a whole and, in particular, Brussels have attracted architects from all over the world, influenced by a cosmopolitan atmosphere and the coexistence of different cultures. If art cities such as Gent and Bruges have kept their medieval charm almost unchanged, Brussels has been a victim of the so-called bruxellisation, the disorderly real estate development brought about by unprecedented growth, mostly occurring in the absence of any effective form of planning. Hence the need for a radical redevelopment of the entire metropolitan area. Among the examples of recovery is the Tour Madou, built in a questionable way in the sixties on a design by Robert Goffaux, which, after being acquired in 2001 by the European Commission, underwent a substantial renovation (2002-03), winning the MIPIM Award (Marché International des Professionnels de l’IMmobilier) in Cannes in 2006. The same happened for the Tour des Finances (2005-08), which is part of the Cité administrative de l’État, designed in the 1960s by Hugo van Kuyck, Marcel Lambrichs and Léon Stynen and radically renovated (2005 -08) by Michel Jaspers. The Quartier Nord, one of the capital’s financial centers, has been almost completely rebuilt since the 1980s: among the many creations of the last ten years, we recall the Covent Garden complex (2005-07), built in Place Charles Rogier by the studios Art & Build and Montois & Partners; of the same studies, another interesting example is the Ellipse Building (2007) in Schaerbeek, also in Brussels, which houses, among other things, the Flemish community.

Convention Center

According to listofusnewspapers, among the most interesting architects are Xaveer de Geyter who, after a period at the Dutch studio OMA (Office for Metropolitan Architecture), founded the studio XDGA (Xaveer de Geyter Architects) creating, among other things, the headquarters of the School of economics of the University of Ghent (2006), and Hans Verstuyft, author of the Imelda psychiatric hospital (2007) in Bonheiden, characterized by an effective cruciform planimetric layout.

Santiago Calatrava designed the Gare des Guillemins (2000-09) in Liège, a railway station covered by a bold wave of steel, glass and white concrete, largely transparent. The work of Ron Arad la Médiacité (200609) in Liège itself, instead, is a 350 m transparent snake dotted with red that constitutes the new, main commercial center of the city.

Finally, among the other creations, we mention the unusual seat of the Charleroi police station, the so-called Tour Bleue, a small tower entirely covered with dark blue tiles designed by Atelier Jean Nouvel and MDW Archi tecture (2012-14), and the spectacular Congress Center inaugurated in 2015 in the medieval town of Mons, the European capital of culture in the same year, the work of Daniel Libeskind, marked by two colliding volumes, respectively covered in wood and in gilded metal slats.

Literature. – The question of the definition of a ‘Belgian literature’ has always been an open question. Theoretically, the country is divided into two linguistic communities: the Flemish, Dutch-speaking community, and the Walloon, French-speaking one. However, from the Middle Ages onwards, the supremacy of the French language has been overwhelming and literary production is confused, especially in the perception of European readers, with the French one. Many Belgian writers, who consider their national literature to be ‘minor’, have either ‘exiled’ to Paris or have otherwise chosen French publishers. Even at the institutional level, the Walloon identity, capable of even harshly opposing the Flemish one, does not react, on the basis of the common language, to the hegemony of French culture in France. Just think that in 2012, on the death of Jacqueline Harpman (b. 1929), one of the most notable Belgian writers of the French language, the moving comment of the official of the Letters and Book Service at the Ministry of Culture of the French Community was: “She was a woman in love with French language. He judged a writer on the basis of the language. That’s why he didn’t believe in Belgian literature. For her, language counted and therefore there was only one literature, French “(” Le Soir “, 24 May 2012). That’s why he didn’t believe in Belgian literature. For her, language counted and therefore there was only one literature, French “(” Le Soir “, 24 May 2012). That’s why he didn’t believe in Belgian literature. For her, language counted and therefore there was only one literature, French “(” Le Soir “, 24 May 2012).

In the last century at least two great Belgian authors, Georges Simenon and Marguerite Yourcenar, had ‘exiled’ to France, while François Weyergans (b.1941), without leaving his country, obtained the Goncourt prize in 2005, the highest recognition in field of French literature, for his novel Trois jours chez mamère (trans. it. 2007).

In recent years, however, a new generation of writers is emerging, born in the seventies and eighties, a period in which the population of Belgium has become increasingly multicultural and multiethnic. Even if, at least from the point of view of literature, the Belgian culture appears to be ‘colonized’ by the French one, it should not be forgotten that Belgium was itself a colonial power and in the last two decades it was the destination of migration from the former colonies. If Amélie Nothomb (b.1967) of Belgian has only a passport and Jean-Philippe Toussaint (b.1957), despite being born and living in Brussels, is a leading author of the Parisian Éditions de Minuit, two writers have made people talk about himself in recent years: Nicolas Ancion (b. 1971), performer as well as a writer who has numerous titles of novels and collections of short stories to his credit, he was noted for his novel Une très petite surface (2010), a detective story that has as its background the crisis of the Carrefour supermarkets in Belgium and was written in twenty-four hours by the author locked up in a glass case at the Book Fair; Thomas Gunzig (b. 1970) is the author of a vast production of novels, collections of short stories and plays. His black and cruel humor earned him the admiration of a chosen and loyal audience and he rose to headlines for having challenged his publisher to a duel (both practicing oriental martial arts) over a question of rights.

Belgium Architecture and Literature