The Bourse in Brussels has just reopened its doors, exchanging its status as an urban fortress for that of a genuine public building, given back to the citizen. In doing so, it envisions a highly accessible, vibrant, and diversified future.
The initial request from the international competition was for an ambitious redevelopment of the monument – to improve its accessibility with respect to the pedestrian zone and the Grand Place – integrating a Belgian beer experience centre and renovating the adjacent archaeological site. The architects responded to this request with a thorough investigation of the natural urban flows around the Bourse, so that the existing architecture – with its central hall located 3.5 meters above street level – could be fluidly connected to the surrounding urban fabric and life around the Bourse. In a similar move, this central hall was transformed into an impressive, covered square where temporary stalls and kiosks are set up, depending on the programming of events by the managers of the building. Valérie Mannaerts put her artistic stamp on the floor of this public gallery, lending a noble character to the new public space.
Three new entrances were created, carved into the austere bluestone plinth beneath the richly sculpted French stone facades; two in the side facades, a third facing St. Nicholas Church. The new public circulation along the axes of the building now allows one to move through the Bourse, from the medieval quarter to the boulevards on the one hand, and from Cirio to Falstaff on the other. The new recessed entrances are built in architectural concrete in a colour similar to the building’s French stone and are closed at night by elegant copper grilles. They allow passers-by to enter the building at the same level as the new stairs and take them on an architectural promenade. This begins on the second floor of the hall and climbs further in an upward spiral to the upper floors, where Belgian Beer World’s bold, interactive exhibition is located. The grand finale of this promenade is on the roof terrace where a panoramic bar, characterized by an elegant lattice metal canopy, allows breathtaking views of Brussels. Brussels has a great, historical tradition of steel and glass architecture to which the Bourse discreetly refers with this new addition.
The central hall becomes a new meeting place in the centre of Brussels. Its identity is marked by Valérie Mannaerts' artwork that covers the entire floor, uniting the monumentality of the space with a human touch and scale through the analog and the handmade. The floor includes four organic elements, executed in mosaic, which refer to the presence of vegetal ornaments in the stucco of the ceiling. The three-dimensional nature of the drawings in mosaic acts as a trompe l'oeil, which one discovers only gradually by moving through the course of the building. The design of the floor was conceived to be viewed from different viewpoints and heights.
Besides opening up the building, the new public circulation and the special interventions such as Valérie Mannaerts' artwork, various functions are also breathing new life into the Bourse. These include the archaeological site Bruxella 1238, whose ruins lie under rue de la Bourse, which from now on will be directly accessible from the Bourse's cellars. The site remains visible from the rue de la Bourse through glass oculi that highlight the main elements of the ruins and are shielded by a brass filigree. The latter find their inspiration in the typical old ‘baskets’ of the Bourse that symbolized trading. Like a public gallery, the central space of the hall provides access to a café, a restaurant, ticketing, temporary exhibitions, and meeting rooms. The ticketing area in turn leads to the 2nd and 3rd floors, which house a permanent exhibition on Belgian beers.
The restoration of the building highlights both the original parts by Suys from 1873, and the later renovations by Jules Brunfaut in 1893 and by François Malfait in 1930. The emblematic lions at the entrance were restored after being badly damaged. The friezes, woodwork, stone, and various polychrome decorations were restored to their original state. The restoration of the large 19th-century stained-glass windows allows natural light to fall generously into the hall and enhance the qualities of the monument. The chandeliers are an addition to the project, which owe their appearance to the anthropomorphic nature of vases, as well as the baskets typical of the original Bourse building. They mark spots and intersections in the Bourse’s internal plaza and street structure.
City of Brussels
Robbrecht en Daem architecten, Bureau d'Etudes en Architectures Urbaines, Popoff architectes
Sheltered public space, brasserie, restaurant, ticket office, covered market hall with stalls/kiosks, exhibition and seminar spaces, beer experience centre (Belgian Beer World),panoramic bar and archaeological site
Paul Robbrecht, Hilde Daem, Johannes Robbrecht, Tom De Moor, Frédéric De Vylder, Thomas Hick, Lorenzo Stroobant, Colm mac Aoidh, Frédéric Timmermans, Brecht Casier, Joris Van Huychem, Magdalena Jendras, César Watterlot, Nathan Van den Bossche, Luc Beckstedde, Elena Gutiérrez, Jolien Naeyaert, Lara Kinds, Nikolas Debrauwer
Atelier d'architecture CAZ
Denys NV (reallocation and restoration),Tripel (scenography),Renotec (dismantling and demolition)
Agence Clémence Farell, Mather & Co