Brussels has unfortunately provided the architectural jargon with a specific noun “brusselization”, referring to the “indiscriminate and careless introduction of modern high-rise buildings into gentrified neighbourhoods”. The phenomenon is not exclusive to Brussels (in Paris a brutal transformation was systematically applied during the nineteenth century with the demolition of whole medieval districts in order to transform them into a bourgeois or Haussmannian set of neighbourhoods) but it was carried out so recklessly here in Brussels during the 60s and 70s that it has become an example of what should not be done again.
Brussels lost during those insensitive years many exceptional buildings, most notably, one of Victor Horta’s masterpieces, “La Maison du People”(“The people’s house”), the headquarters of the Belgian Workers’ party in 1965. Vain promises were uttered, like that it would be rebuilt again somewhere else, but never honoured.
History is repeating itself, despite Horta being considered the greatest Belgian architect of all times (to have a more dramatic approach to the artist’s personality read the play “The human passions”), and another building by his genius, the Féron villa, has obtained the municipal licence to be knocked down. This villa is a singular example of the transition between Art Nouveau and Art Deco, a testament to the connection between the floral style of the beginning of Horta’s career and the predominating geometrical lines of his mature production. It is true that a deep transformation was executed during 2000 but key elements of the original design remain in the hall, the living room, the dining room and the stairs. The district of Rhode-Saint-Genèse stays impassive to the claims for respect of the architectural heritage by the architect Jos Vandenbreeden who has demanded the intervention of the President of the region of Flanders, Geert Bourgeois, who could deliver an order to stop the demolition.
Still Villa Féron.
More than 40% of the works by Victor Horta have already been destroyed. If we stay inactive another building will be gone and, perhaps, we could also apply the definition of Brusselization to the destruction of historical villas in green suburbs.