The imposing architecture and monumental scale of Brussels’ landscape are some of the characteristics that establish the personality of the city. A distinctive example of the aesthetic architecture that orients and at the same time governs the area of its presence is the Law Court. This proposal for the future formation of the Law Court of Brussels, Belgium by Europe Studio Architects moves in parallel to the existing frame and function of the building and proposes the re-establishment of the internal system that made this court a public social space in addition to its political and judicial functions. The monumental and programmatic aspects of the building will be preserved, with additions of cultural functions such as gallery and exhibition spaces. More on this project after the break.
The proposed exhibition and art spaces are intended as the finale to the composition of the building by unifying the aesthetic richness of the monumental scale of the existing building with a minimalist modernity of the exhibits in habiting the proposed spaces. Throughout the integration of a new program – the one of spectacle, those courtyards stop to react as the symmetrical element of a grid, using them as the relief areas of the much frequented corridors and various levels of the building. These spaces will obtain a new function, where the exhibits oriented by this space react as the display, just like the defendant, the opposing parties and the judges offer their own spectacle to an audience unable to interlink and react with them, as if they were the protagonists in their own play, having as a background the monument itself.
The approach to the main idea can be achieved by extruding the outline of the internal courtyards as a mass, exceeding the building levels, connected with a system of ramps and staircases that run throughout the entire building, where the visitor can observe the spectacle, without being able to interact with it directly. The visitor is considered to be the moving element in a scenery where the monument plays the role of the spectacle – from the perspective of the articulated courtyards and the circulation prototype, and in reverse for the user of the courthouse, where the spectacle plays the role of the monument. An activity where none of them can interact with the double nature of the building at once, and the only connection is visual.
It is evident to the architects that in order to negotiate the fore mentioned notions, the typology/figure ground of the building is developed based on a strict axis of symmetry, like most buildings of its time. Arguably, the strict balance imposed by that axis displays elegantly the idea of justice as one of equilibrium, a higher point of harmony, of order and stability. What happens when the harmony, stability and order is disturbed? This ordered system and the ordered wholeness makes the space look and feel grand – powerful but static. Justice is characterized also by dynamic qualities such as intensity, speed, and direction. A principal design operation of the project is to introduce the “nexus”- a collection of connected urban spaces to stretch out (into the building) in juxtaposition of its spatial system – a “prototype”, the result of a different ordering system and of different scale. This project attempts to break the ordered whole – of the spatial organization of Palais de Justice – and turn it into an architectural episode, a spectacle against its monumentality.
The project proposes a new independent circulation system through the building, which links all of the external courtyards. The system, manifested by ramps and staircases, invades the spaces of the courthouse (linking the courtyards). The interplay between the new system and the courthouse spaces emphasizes the spaces volume and captures the spontaneity of a new architectural presence. The courtyards will be covered and will programmatically serve as contemporary exhibition spaces. Linking the program inside the building, the new circulation prototype attempts to challenge the geometry (symmetries) of the building layout and also attempt a portrayal of the human “figure” both thematically and in terms of scale within the Courthouse. The courtyards are stripped down from their current function and a new program is proposed, that of an art gallery space. The circulation prototype becomes part of the art installations. Architects: Europe Studio Architects Project location: Brussels, Belgium Project: Brussels CourtHouse, Imagine the Future, International Ideas Contest Issued: The Belgian Building Agency Year of study: 2010/11 Team: Constantine Cosmas, Stefanos Gkougkoustamos