Don’t let Ugly Belgian Houses fool you. While the tiny country loves to take the mickey out of itself, Belgium’s architectural accomplishments aren’t nearly as minuscule as some of its natives would have you believe. Here are ten mind-boggling structures to prove it.
The Belgian engineering studio Close to Bone made the stuff dreams are made of come true when they decided to plop a rust-colored staircase in the middle of a plot of Flemish farmland. The wondrous structure, over 40 feet tall and floating in the air unsupported, replaced a wooden lookout post amid the rolling hills of Tielt-Winge that was set on fire by vandals. No such risk for the new surreal delight since the Vlooyberg Tower is made out of weathering (pre-rusted) steel.
Neutelings and Riedijk aren’t the only ones drawing inspiration from Antwerp’s intimate relationship with the Schelde. When Richard Rogers of Centre Pompidou fame set about designing a new palace of justice for the city, he found himself looking at the sailing boats going up and down the river for inspiration. The giant spiked roof would end up becoming the building’s most distinctive – and most divisive – feature, while an aerial shot reveals the shape of a butterfly fanning out its wings. Hence its charming nickname, ‘Butterfly Palace.’
Nothing says ‘contemporary home designed by a contemporary architecture firm’ like a see-through box in the middle of a gorgeous plot of nature. A great Belgian example of the glazed trend is Villa Roces in Bruges, by Govaert & Vanhoutte. White and sleek inside with floating stairs and adhering to a strict, minimal aesthetic, Villa Roces and its horizontal qualities contrast nicely with the forest trees rising above.
UNStudio, the Dutch masterminds behind Rotterdam’s Erasmus Bridge, had only just completed their first Brussels project in January of 2016, and already, Le Toison d’Or was a landmark. Named after the prestigious promenade it is now part of, the multi-purpose development draws attention to itself in more ways than one. Particularly eye-catching amidst a texturally fragmented façade are the balcony rows made out of golden aluminum.