August 17, 2017 - Comments Off on BELGIAN ARCHITECTURE: A RETURN TO NATURE
BELGIAN ARCHITECTURE: A RETURN TO NATURE
August 17, 2017
Written by: Laura Jaye
Photographed by: Laura Jaye
The cobbled streets of Brussels are lined with centuries of buildings full of individual character that lends to its past architectural styles. In particular, Belgium’s Art Nouveau period—characterized by its organic motifs and spiraling natural forms—has influenced many architectural movements around the world, and more importantly, brought natural elements as a form of wealth to the forefront of everyday life.
The influence of nature is still inspiring architects to see the environment as an influence on how to reuse, recycle and refurbish building materials to create an eco-friendly world.
While exploring Brussels’ garden of Monts des Arts, I immediately noticed a thin wall of imposing greenery sitting just outside the park. A small sign read “BXL LOVES FRESH AIR”. After reading the information sign posted to the side of the wall, I realized this was more than just a green wall, but a sort of self-sustaining, tree-replacing, city air purifier. This stand-alone CityTree (its official name) consolidates air-cooling moss, perfectly positioned solar panels, and a self-supporting irrigation system to create a ‘cleaning’ solution to Brussels’ air pollution. While the moss improves the air-quality, the solar panels power the water irrigation system. The whole structure not only replaces the environmental advantages of a single tree but “A whole forest on a surface area of 3.5m2”
Today, the influence of nature is still inspiring architects to see the environment as an influence on how to reuse, recycle and refurbish building materials to create an eco-friendly world. Modern architects such as Vincent Callebaut Architects are not only drawing their ideas from the forms of nature but on the fundamental aspects of how the surrounding landscape works as an efficient and self-sustaining ecosystem.
From the Art Nouveau forms of the last century, Brussels has continued to place natural elements at the forefront of its architectural concerns. The United Nation’s recently completed Europa Building has drawn a lot of attention not only for its unique structure but for its devotion to sustainable architecture. While the main focus of the Europa Building is the multi-story interior glowing ‘lantern’, the most intriguing feature is seen better in the daytime - its understated complex facade made up of reclaimed window casings from worldwide EU construction projects. These recycled materials not only promote the idea of green design but also makes a symbolic gesture to support its global community.
Many of the most striking buildings I walked passed were distinguished, innovative sustainable buildings, but showed no outward sign of their qualified achievements towards the environment. In my opinion, this is one of the most noteworthy aspects of Belgian architecture. They were simply great examples of beautiful, modern architecture.
Unlike Art Nouveau’s outwardly extravagant focus, striving to show of its elegance and wealth, modern Belgian architecture tackles the eco-friendly movement in a discreet and understated way. It has now become a standard, rather than an accomplishment, to construct innovative sustainable buildings while focusing on the functionality and aesthetics architects always strive to achieve.