A parking with a view

From the top, the most iconic view over Brussels. On a hill crowned with the imposing  Justice Palace, a place once used for public executions is since the XIX Century a monumental belvedere, looking down to the valley of the Senne. From the bottom, on the lowest point of the valley, another massive building hides spontaneously a striking view of Brussels.

The “Parking 58” (1957) was built as part of the new landscape of a modern capital, in a context of urban euphoria around the Expo 58. For its construction, Brussels sacrificed the emblematic “Halles Centrales” (one of the former most active public spaces of Brussels) to give more space for cars. This building together with the “Tour Philips” (1967-69) and the “Centre administrative de la Ville de Bruxelles”  (1967-71) completely transfigured the Place de Brouckere and erased its surrounding urban tissue.  The “Parking 58” emerged as a functional symbol of the triumph of the car on a city hungry for speed, growth and progress.

On the ground floor, the “Parking 58” offers a sad space of blind facades, blocking any qualities for public urban activity. Surprisingly, ten stories above, the situation is totally different. Is just a matter of taking the elevator, press 10 and all of a sudden an impressive view opens in front of your eyes.

The spectacular urban landscape that surrounds the 10th floor has elevated this place from a functional parking platform to an interesting and qualitative urban space. The “Parking 58” is nowadays not only an urban attraction for tourist and locals, but also the setting of different forms of temporary appropriation, from summer lounge parties (Les Jardins Suspendus animate this location every weekend of summer) to cultural events and creative rallies. Somehow this building made for cars has earned a place in the mental map of Brussels citizens.

Beyond the rumors of demolition and other destructive thoughts, this building inspires creative and innovating ideas. To erase it and replace it with a new alien, would just be repeating the same historical self-destructive mistake. It is perhaps more challenging and interesting to transform rather than to destroy. It is not hard to imagine a former parking building adapted to host multiple uses and users, with permeable ground levels and public gardens on the top, with living, working, cultural, educational and recreational environments, carefully organized on a renovated concrete structure.

Despite its hostile presence, this building is today part of Brussels imaginary and 60 years after its construction, it has the potential to become once again a symbol but this time to celebrate the triumph of the walking citizen over the car, in a city already indigested with speed, growth and progress.

(Text / photos: Diego Luna Quintanilla)

 

Photo gallery

 

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