As you may already know, MAI was included in the Brussels Biennale of modern architecture
). The building by René Aerts and Paul Ramon dates from 1954. For such an early example of post-war architecture the use of space and light and the façade with its different materials, varying depths fitting in well with older buildings are striking features. It is a rare example of modern architecture
which largely preserves not just its structure, but many original fittings and furnishings. The building reflects a period of optimism, progress and internationalism in the run-up to EXPO 58, which we would do well to recapture at a time when globalization is under attack.
At a public meeting on 4 October at the MAI and two follow-up visits for the general public, an interesting narrative was presented in a booklet in English, French and Dutch entitled “Modernisms are shaping/shaking the city
”. According to this narrative a reappraisal is occurring of a style of architecture associated with whole scale demolition of older buildings and property speculation. It was also a period of belief in technocrats and experts leaving little room for citizen participation in the drive to modernize. As stated in the booklet, all this “explains the vehement reactions against Modernism in the 1970s.
Now, half a century later, it is time for a more objective evaluation and appraisal” and “we are still talking about worthwhile architectural heritage that has great potential for the future”.
The MAI is not a classified building but its value and heritage are recognized. Hopefully for us the Biennale will not just be a one-off event. It has been followed by visits and discussions with academic and practicing architects
with expertise in the period, representatives of the Royal Commission on Monuments and Sites and organisers of cultural events and exhibitions.
From left to right, examples of modern architecture at 40 Rue Washington: Commission 3 and façade of the building in the nineties.