From 1958 onward, Brussels began to profile itself as an important administrative center: first with the arrival of European institutions and second with the evolution of the Belgian state into a multilayered power structure. As the service sector was expanding, public authorities sought to create a modern business district around the North Station. Following a tabula rasa approach, they planned to expropriate the old residential fabric of the North Quarter and to replace it with a new typology: the high-rise office building.
In this context, Charles De Pauw, a self-made developer, was asked to relocate his project for the Belgian World Trade Center in the North Quarter, as an iconic start for the redevelopment of the 53ha clean site. Built in an era of euphoric confidence in technical progress and unlimited growth, the World Trade Center was meant to host 50.000 white-collar workers and concentrate the most modern communication means in its 4 towers. A real revolution for globalized work. Completed in 1973, the WTC never reached its ambitious goal to attract international institutions and companies and remained largely empty. For more than a decade the WTC was standing alone on the vast vacant site and became the symbol of ill-fated real estate projects. It took another 10 years before the North Quarter was fully developed as a proper business district.
Nowadays the shadow of vacancy is again hovering over the neighbourhood. Several important public administrations are planning to leave the area and no one knows who could replace them. Business as usual is no longer working. We believe the time is ripe, to reconsider the office building typology in Brussels, to speculate about its future and to envision its contemporary form. The summer school will take the WTC as an exemplary building to redevelop, and will explore the potential of architectural interventions to redefine its condition and its relationship with the neighbourhood.