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Places in Brussels of symbolic significance for Europe

Solidarność Esplanade
European Union / EP

This publication is available in DutchEnglish, French, German and Italian.

Written by Philippe Perchoc, with the support of the European Parliament Historical Archives,

Although Brussels is often referred to as the de facto ‘capital of Europe’, the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas has argued that the city suffers from an ‘iconographic deficit’, because the way the space is organised, together with the architecture of EU buildings is insufficiently distinctive to be particularly memorable.

In fact, there are quite a number of places of symbolic significance for Europe to be found in Brussels and which reflect three main themes: pre-EU culture involving European myths and medieval imagery of Charlemagne; the EU founding fathers, notably Robert Schuman, Altiero Spinelli and Paul-Henri Spaak; and the Cold War and dissidence against authoritarian regimes.

Over the past decade, a number of ambitious urban projects have been launched to raise the European profile of Brussels and give the European quarter more of the architectural distinctiveness it lacks. For example, a competition was launched in 2009 by the Belgian authorities and the European Commission for a complete transformation of the Rue de la Loi/Wetstraat.

Read the complete briefing on ‘Places in Brussels of symbolic significance for Europe‘.

European lieux de mémoires and building names


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