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Brussels to get its own 'quiet room' from May

Illustration picture shows people enjoying the sunny weather conditions in Le Bois de la Cambre - Ter Kamerenbos park in Brussels. Escaping the bustle of modern life is an important part of maintaining good mental health. (BELGA PHOTO PAUL-HENRI VERLOOY)
09:42 24/03/2021

Due to the measures brought in to combat the coronavirus pandemic last year, many inhabitants of Brussels got the opportunity to experience more peace and quiet than they usually do, with fewer people on the streets, and less traffic.

The absence of crowds and the constant buzz of modern life can be refreshing for some of us. It was that feeling of calm that has inspired Brussels residents Lilith Geeraerts and Anna Van Hoof to open the first ‘quiet room’ in Brussels at the beginning of May.

The idea to create a quiet space is based on those reserved in old libraries, such as the one where journalist Lilith Geeraerts used to go as a child. "That was a place I really liked to go because it was just quiet there," Geeraerts says. "As a child I always loved going to libraries and that space in Ghent was a very nice and calm place. You could run away from the world."

"I felt that was missing in my own city," Geeraerts continues. "If no one else does it, then I have to take the initiative myself."

Her friend Anna, a writer, also felt the need for such a space. "It's an urban problem,” Van Hoof says. “During the lockdown, we noticed that the cessation of daily life in Brussels had been breath of fresh air. It literally became quieter, and the realisation grew that we really need that rest."

The quiet space will be the first place in Brussels designed specifically for people to consciously step away from the digital society; a place for undisturbed reflection and tranquillity. Digital devices are not welcome and must be left outside the room.

"We don't want it to accidentally become a coworking space, Brussels already has enough of those," Geeraerts stresses. In concrete terms, the space will be made up of a few cosy seats, in which people can completely relax or read a book. Workshops will also take place where people can, for example learn how to meditate.

As part of her previous philosophy course, Van Hoof has already researched loneliness. "The effect of too many stimuli and the situation of hyper-communication makes it increasingly difficult for people to be alone in a comfortable way," she notes. "It is important to come and be with yourself, and not to be overwhelmed by the rush of daily life every day."

Lilith and Anna also spoke to Elke Van Hoof, a psychologist and professor at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. "She said that during quiet moments, there is more blood flow to the brain, causing negative energy and thoughts to move away,” says Geeraerts. “Therefore, silence and tranquillity do have a function."

The quiet room will be open one day a week from the start of May. It will be located at Le Tri Postal, the former postal sorting centre at the Brussels-Midi train station which currently serves as a community centre. This location, they say, will be temporary. "In the long term, we will look for a location in the centre of Brussels, where the need is greatest," says Geeraerts.

The space is being financed through a crowdfunding campaign via the Growfunding platform. "The fundraising is necessary because we want to open with the lowest possible financial threshold for people,” says Van Hoof. “Silence is for everyone."

Almost €5,000 has already been raised for the space. In cooperation with the Flemish Community Commission, each donation is increased by 33%.

Written by Nick Amies