April 20, 2004
Let us begin with the Halles Saint-Gery, the marvelous centerpiece of this gentrifying area. This charming red brick building with its glass roof, by architect A. Vanderheggen Elles, was inaugurated as the local meat market in 1882. On the brink of demolition in 1982, it was renovated first as a shopping gallery and then recast in 1999 as a cultural center and as a regional center for the promotion of estate heritage. There are interesting exhibits ranging from architecture to a Tintin comic retrospective. The ground level houses offices with an environmental bent for conscientious locals to visit. An historic obelisk from 1802 sits in the middle of the ground level, and patrons can enjoy drinks at tables beside the monument. The lofty skylit space, supported by attractive steel trusses, has a very lively atmosphere.
Just north of the Halles Saint-Gery is the Beursschouwburg, a promising new arts center in a renovated complex with red and white interiors that will be "open to the artists and thinkers of tomorrow". Art, music, dance, theater, film and video will be the focus here, with a cafe that will feature free concerts on Thursday evenings. Just south of the Halles Saint-Gery is a wharf reconstruction of the Senne River, which in the past was unfortunately filled in and is now basically just an underground river. This small canal runs behind the Eglise Notre-Dame des Riches Claires (Church of Our Lady of Riches Claires), a heavily renovated church of red brick with an interesting Italian-Flemish Baroque style. The Riches Claires Auditorium across the street is a performance stage for a variety of concerts, plays and dance.
There are some very hip stores, restaurants and bars in this area, along with a few buildings that barely can be called Chinatown. The Halles Saint-Gery is just west of the Bourse and not far from the Grand Place. Try and check out this area while it is hot.
From journal Bill in Belgium - BRUSSELS