The EU quarter, an urban-planning catastrophe

In the city that gave the world the term Brusselization, locals have witnessed some of the 20th century’s most haphazard and destructive urban development. Whole communities in different parts of Brussels were decimated in the 1960s and 1970s as city authorities, in collaboration with developers, made way for five-lane motorways, high-rise office blocks and large-scale development projects.

Across the Quartier Leopold, a formerly prestigious mid-19th century residential area for well-heeled Bruxellois, corporate lobby offices, institutional buildings and office spaces have replaced many of the old town houses, overshadowing what is left of the original neighbourhood.

With no long-term planning, the EU institutions and the Belgian state facilitated this decline of the area into a mostly soulless administrative district, which has brought with it all the resulting mobility, housing and environmental problems the area suffers from today. Within the roughly four square kilometres between the Avenue des Arts and Parc du Cinquantenaire, change, destruction and reconstruction is constant.

The speculative construction boom that brought the first big office buildings in the 1960s drove out many locals as thousands of officials, national diplomats, politicians and lobbyists set up shop in the millions of square metres of office space that once were homes. After the working day ends, the majority of these streets are deserted and the area turns into a ghost town.



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