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‘Brusselisation’: synonym for a dearth of urban planning

Demolition of historic buildings and neighborhoods and an overemphasis on motorways and tunnels has spurred criticism of Brussels’ approach to urban design. (Charles Sayer/flickr/cc)

There are abysmally planned cities, and then there’s Brussels. Frances Robinson reports for CityMetric that the term ‘Brusselisation’ is used pejoratively to describe everything wrong with the urban design of the Belgian capital and headquarters of the European Union.

Quaint, historic buildings are replaced with uglier structures. Leafy boulevards get transformed into stale, bi-directional roadways. Neighborhoods full of 19th century villas end up flattened. There’s an abundance of motorways and tunnels, purportedly to facilitate suburban commutes. The result: more traffic queues, exhaust fumes and collisions.

“The worst excesses of Brusselisation took place in the 1960s and 70s, with a special push for the 1958 World Fair,” Robinson writes. But even where there are signs of renewal, Brusselisaton persists in the form of “a lot of concrete, orange signage and roadworks,” the article says.

“The whole city is kind of taped together,” David Helbich, creator of Belgian Solutions, a photo gallery that highlights Brussels’ peccadilloes, is quoted telling a radio network. Not everyone views Brussels negatively. Robinson notes that photographer Anne Billson finds beauty in this urban tapestry.


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