, Volume 51, Issue 1–2, pp 99–112 | Cite as

Brussels: Five capitals in search of a place. The citizens, the planners and the functions

  • Evert Lagrou


The paper describes the different capital city functions that are accomodated in Brussels. There are in fact five different capitals in Brussels in search of a place. Their locations are conditioned by Brussels' eventful history. The analysis subsequently focuses on the rather negative relation between the local public intellectuals and the city's European capital functions. The location of the European headquarters within the existing urban fabric – unlike Luxemburg and Strasbourg – has caused residential expulsion and further confrontations with the local community during all expansions.

Brussels has the most politically decisive institutions. The competition with Luxemburg and Strasbourg has in the past given rise to dubious building processes and hidden agendas regarding the further construction of the necessary space for Europe.

Unlike most other capitals Brussels has a low degree of esteem from its citizens. The After-May 68- Movement reacting initially against the CIAM-realisations during the 1970s, continues its activities up until today against two highly symbolic projects: the North Station area called ‘the Manhattan Quarter’ and the European Headquarters. The movement launched the term ‘Brusselization’ on the international forum and continues to promote the negative image of its city – notwithstanding the complete change of the official urban planning.

The article is a plea for the integration of the actual one-sided advocacy planning within a more comprehensive urban planning approach where strong and soft functions are more in balance. This can also improve the quality of the new European campus now under consideration to accomodate the entry of the East European states in the Union.

action groups advocacy planning Brussels European institutions urban planning 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Evert Lagrou
    • 1
  1. 1.Departement Architectuur Sint-LucasHogeschool Wetenschap & KunstBrusselsBelgium

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