April, always: A portrait of Brussels in parts


Sunlight ebbs up the walls while I walk along Avenue de la Couronne. There is sand covering the cobblestones, the beach coming through cracks on the pavement, and the thought that only the rain washes it away. What the situationists once found in Paris, how the streets you walk through affect you, works in wondrous ways in Brussels.

The plants growing in a doorway suggest that while whoever lives there was on holiday, someone rang the bell and the garden grew through the house to see who was there.

Brussels doesn’t belong to anyone. If it did, surely there wouldn’t be any dog poo on the ground. Or it belongs to those who make it their own, like the little green parrots who travelled from Ixelles to every other park and tree in the city.

Not only is there no dominant picture of Brussel-Bruxelles, but it holds locations for all kinds of movies in close proximity. While pink love hearts shoot out from the walls of the ING center at Trone on Valentine‘s Day, the little round garden that the building hugs seems to be the entry to Narnia. High facades hide wholly different buildings behind them, as if they were part of a Truman show, questioning that what we see is what we know.



Some houses pose as casually dressed castles. Every one of them is so peculiar that their specialness becomes ordinary. Around one balcony all kinds of architectural flavors are mixed: pillars that change appearance midway, a Tympanum, and rounded balustrades – as if there was a vote of all the people living in the building to say that yes, everyone had a right to their taste, and the compromise was to only do it to the outside of your own room. Towers reach into the air like feelers, windows stick out of big roofs like heads wearing hats, and gardens cover the uneven skin of the city.

Junya Ishigami, a Japanese artist and architect, said that to children furniture was architecture. I think of that when opening a big door whose handle is at the level of my nose. The door belongs to the house of my doctor and behind it stands a big dog. The waiting room has a chimney and armchairs with big upholstery. When I come out of his office near Parc Tenbosch the sky is bright blue.

Half an hour later, in Matonge, rain turns to hail giving the street goosebumps and the trees in Parc Royal are dark scribbles on grey sky. There is already what looks like a Japanese cherry tree in bloom and statues expose, almost wiggle, white marbled-toes.