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Metro 3: Campaign to add Palais du Midi to endangered monument list

15:01 30/10/2023

Brussels' urban research think-tank Arau is campaigning to include the city's Palais du Midi on a list of endangered European monuments, putting pressure on the regional government to reconsider plans to dismantle it in order to dig a metro tunnel.

Arau launched its procedure with wide support from various stakeholders, Bruzz reports, including Brussels' industry and labour museum La Fonderie and the Europa Nostra Belgium association.

“[Palais du Midi] is a place that has lived and had different functions – the building has only become richer thanks to its history,” said Arau director Marion Alecian.

A place on the list of endangered European monuments helped prevent the disappearance of the authentic theatre machinery in Antwerp's Bourlaschouwburg.

The Palais du Midi was designed by Belgian architect Wynand Janssens and built in 1880. Janssens is the architect behind a number of iconic Brussels buildings, including the library of the National Bank of Belgium.

The Palais was also renovated several times by brothers André et Jean Polak, famous for designing the Atomium.

The building not only has historical value, but the context is also important, according to Pascal Majerus of La Fonderie.

Majerus said the Palais du Midi existed for locals and tourists alike, and has grown over the centuries along with the city's needs - once housing a special watch-making school and an industrial museum.

It also housed the brewers' college and, with Hogeschool Francisco Ferrer, still has an educational institute in it.

The announcement to dismantle the Palais du Midi in early 2025 to dig the tunnel for new metro line 3 has promoted backlash from business owners, local residents and users of the building.

Alecian wants to dispel the “misconception” that there would be nothing of value inside the building, recalling that apart from its history, it has also seen a number of investments over the last 15 years including the Rouppe neighbourhood contract to improve access to the district (€20 million in 2008), new shopfronts (€25 million euros in 2014) and new roofing to better regulate the temperature.

The request to add the Palais du Midi to the list of endangered European monuments was received in early July and is “under consideration”, according to a spokesperson for Ans Persoons, Brussels state secretary for urban planning.

“With the introduction of this bid, we are highlighting the heritage value of the Palais du Midi, which has benefited from a great deal of public investment in recent decades,” said Alecian.

“But beyond the architectural stakes, it is also clear that if it goes ahead, the demolition of the halls and the sports complex that make up the building will have a considerably detrimental impact on the social life of the district.”

Written by Helen Lyons