Опасная зона

Опасная зона

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Impressions, Brussels

This post is a bit difficult for me, since I am not really sure what I want to say here. Guess it purports to write down a few recent impressions I had.

So, after I finished this years antiproton run at CERN, and a short visit at GSI, I had an opportunity to visit a friend who stayed in Brussels for a few weeks.

Brussels. Right.

What came to my mind is
  1. the European Union, 
  2. Frensh, sorry, Belgian fries 
  3. and Hercule Poirot.

    Oh, yes, and 
  4. the Atomium.
It turned out to be a visit which connected a lot of mental loose ends I had in my head.

What really impressed me was the extensive use of Art Deco like architecture throughout the city. In terms of style, one may think of a Hercule Poirot BBC TV-series featuring David Suchet, which is full of Art Deco like scenograpghy. Housing seems to be arranged in "Residences" where apartments can be rented out furnished or unfurnished, and those residences would be given fancy names.

Now, I still have only a poor mobile phone camera with me, nonetheless: here are a few random examples from the southern part of the city:
"Palais de la Folle Chanson" (Palace of the silly song)
Entrance of the same building.

Another random building near the ULB university.
However, some buildings were extensively decorated with organic cast ion forms:
From http://brusselsphotos.blogspot.com/
Clearly different than Art Deco. It reminded me of the Metro station entrances in Paris:
A Metro station entrance in Paris
and indeed, this architectural style is known as Art Nouveau, or "Jugendstil". It is a predecessor to Art Deco.

The influence still prevails, take a look a the Kusmi Tea label design, and I think I sometimes see elements hereof in the steam punk genre. Computer games too, most noteworthy BioShock where the entire utopian underwater city "Rapture" was kept in Art Deco style mixed with plenty of steam punk.

In an earlier post, where I mentioned Bucarest, lots of Art Deco architecture should be found (such as the "Cinema Scala" building, shown in the same post, with its characteristic curved surface.)

So, I started to reflect, why do I find this architecture fascinating?
A part of the answer might be that this style of the inter-war period conveys some sort of jovial limitless belief in development of technology. Protagonists of industrial tychoons naively extrapolated this idea into megalomaniac dimensions, and it surely had its downfall, the sinking of the Titanic probably one of the first evidence hereof.

Visiting a comic book shop, a colleague recommended me the book "Brüsel" by the famous Belgian comic artists François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters.

(Now I got another reason to improve my French.) This book generally portraits the same idea. Inspired by the actual destruction of a real world part of Brussels to give room for new buildings , "Brüsel" describe a very similar scenery.  Corporate oligarchs push new ideas beyond limits, leaving a wasteland behind as they fail since the human aspect was ignored.

Hm, this post has now become an eclectic mix of thoughts. Anyway, this way too short, yet overwhelming, visit in Brussels more or less puts the city into my top 5 list of cities I would like to live in.

Thanks Linda and Nico :-)
And I am now going to buy a decent camera.