- The earliest architectural style to appear in Brussels of which remnants survive is that of Romanesque, which arrived in Brabant in the 11th century through links with the Holy Roman Empire. Three churches exhibit characteristics of this style — Saint-Lambert in Woluwe-Saint-Lambert, the Chapelle Sainte-Anne in Auderghem, and the crypt beneath the chancel in Saints-Pierre-et-Guidon in Anderlecht, all dating from approximately the 12th century.In the early to mid-13th century, Romanesque-Ogival architecture evolved, a transitional style characterized by pointed columns and semicircular arches. The chancel and transept of Notre-Dame de la Chapelle is a surviving example.Early Gothic style, characterized by vertical lines in design and decorative balustrades and pinnacles, appeared in the mid-13th century to the early 14th century. Traces are found in the Brussels area, notably in the church of Saint-Denis in Forest.The arrival of Flamboyant Gothic in the early 15th century marks a high point in architectural design. Many of the city's well-known churches are constructed in this style, including Notre-Dame du Sablon; the tower, north aisle, nave, and transept of the Cathédrale des Saints-Michel-et-Gudule; the nave, aisles, and tower of Notre-Dame de la Chapelle; and the church of Saints-Pierre-et-Guidon. Distinctive features common to Brabant include cylindrical pillars decorated with crochets in which statues of the saints were often placed, side chapels with triangular gables that resemble terraced houses, and an abundance of pinnacles. Churches were built to a smaller height than those found in the great French cathedrals.Gothic architecture remained dominant in Brussels until the 17th century, when, combined with new design elements from Italy, a new style in building construction appeared. Drawing on elements of Italian baroque brought to the southern Netherlands in the early 1600s, Italianate-Flemish baroque architecture featured a central, or basilica-type layout, semicircular arches, and an abundance of ornamentation, including statues, scroll work, and cartridges. The style predominated until the mid-18th century and is seen in Notre-Dame de Bon Secours, Saint-Jean-Baptiste au Béguinage, and Notre-Dame des Riches-Claires, among churches, and in the Maison de la Bellone. It is most famously exhibited in the guild houses around the Grand' Place, rebuilt in this style following the devastation of 1695.A reaction against the exaggerated ornamentation characteristic of Italianate-Flemish intensified in the mid-18th century, and, parallel to the enthusiasm for classical antiquity then in vogue, a turn toward neoclassical architecture would prove to be profound and long-lasting. With its classic colonnades, barrel vaulting, linearity, and austere ornamentation, neoclassicism was the characteristic style of architecture under Governor Charles of Lorraine. It is abundantly in evidence in the Royal district, notably the place Royale, Palais de la Nation, and Saint-Jacques-sur-Coudenberg. The style would continue to dominant during the French and Dutch regimes (Théâtre royal de la Monnaie) and the early years of independence (Galeries Saint-Hubert, pavilions in the Jardin Botanique, Hospice Pacheco). Place des Martyrs remains the outstanding neoclassical square in the city.Buildings designed in the neoclassical style waned during the second half of the 19th century, but no new style came to predominate. Rather, style strove not so much to adapt to formulas as to meet the favor of the reigning sovereign— Leopold II—whose ambitious plans to build and rebuild the city stressed the grand and the grandiose. Gédéon Bordiau's Cinquantenaire and Joseph Poe-laert's Palais de Justice exemplify the massive monumentalism preferred by the monarch.The late 19th century witnessed a revival of older styles ranging from neo-Gothic (Maison du Roi) to Flemish neo-Renaissance (Théâtre Flamand), but it was the creative endeavors of young intellectuals that produced a radical new style in the 1890s in the form of art nouveau. Architects such as Victor Horta, Paul Hankar, Jules Brunfaut, Henri van de Velde, and Gustave Saintenoy devised innovative building designs with richly ornamental and asymmetrical decoration using both traditional and new building materials.Art nouveau endured until World War I, following which innovative architecture centered on construction of new housing projects such as the garden cities "Le Logis" and "Floréal" in Watermael-Boitsfort, designed by architects J. J. Eggerick and L. M. van derSwalman using wooden frames and brick masonry in trend-setting combinations. Much confusion reigned in the interwar years. Horta's switching from his trademark style back to forms of classicism exemplified the scene. Building became a means to express ideology with Liberals, Socialists, and freethinkers opting for art nouveau-style constructions while Catholics preferred Flemish Renaissance or Gothic revival.Art deco made an appearance in the 1920s and 1930s, and its geometric patterning and curving surfaces can be seen in the Palais des Beaux-Arts (1920-1928), the Résidence Palace (1923-1926), and the church of Saint-Augustin (1936) in Forest.Following World War II, modern architectural forms have proliferated throughout Brussels in conjunction with widespread urban renewal. Office buildings, shopping centers, and high-rise apartments spread widely. Completion of the junction linking the Gare du Midi and the Gare du Nord allowed the area around the new Gare Centrale to be developed. High-rise buildings were erected along the inner ring road, along avenue Louise, and in the area around the place Rogier, including the Centre Rogier, built following a design of Jacques Cuisinier in 1957, and the World Trade Center. Notable towers include Prévoyance Sociale (1956), Martini (1958-1961), Midi (1962-1967), Lotto (1963), Madou (1965), Stevens (1965-1966), Monnaie (1967-1969), Philips (19671969), Astro (1976), and IBM (1978).Construction consequent to the establishment of the European Union institutions has seen considerable demolition of older buildings and creation of modern dwellings and office complexes, notably in the European district near the Berlaymont. Featuring an array of eclectic structures, architecture in the period 1960-1990 entailed a haphazard process of urban renewal labeled brusselization by critics who castigated the loss of refined districts and architectural landmarks.Much in vogue beginning in the late 1980s has been the concept of façadisme. A creative backlash during the years of high-rise dominance is now in evidence with architecturally creative restoration of work undertaken, notably in the Royal district. Emphasis has been placed on conversion of older buildings. Warehouses, factories, and covered markets, including the Halles de Schaerbeek, have been turned into cultural centers. Plans call for the conversion of the dockside Tour & Taxis complex into an entertainment center.The Centre international pour la Ville, l'Architecture et le Paysage (International Center for Urbanism, Architecture and Landscape), created on the initiative of the French Community in 2000, houses a library, archives center, exhibit halls, and meeting rooms. The center (rue de l'Ermitage 55) includes Les Archives d'Architecture moderne, La Fondation Philippe Rotthier pour l'Architecture, La Fondation pour l'Architecture, Le Centre Paul Duvigneaud, La Bibliothèque René Pechère, and Le Fonds Victor Martiny.
Historical Dictionary of Brussels. Paul F. State.