Since the Second World War, numerous supra-national political institutions have established their headquarters in Brussels. The European Union and NATO concentrate their principal premises in the capital of Belgium, along with many other international organizations. However, Brussels, home of some of the world’s most powerful institutions, doesn’t present an architectural landscape with evocative aura. The buildings that accommodate these political bodies are ordinary; in most cases they seem corporate-like buildings camouflaged between banks, offices and hangars; as examples, the recently build NATO headquarters by SOM or Justus Lipsius building, house of the European Commission. In consequence, these architectures are vaguely present in the collective imagery. Their capacity to build a space that effectively represents the organizations that govern us is undermined.
10 years ago the Berlage Institute presented “Brussels. A Manifesto”. This investigation project addressed the problematic of Brussels becoming a European capital without a clear architectural response. Their proposal was that the lack of architectural quality of the European institutions should be solved by replacing the existing architectures. The construction of more readable buildings and public spaces would make evident where power structures reside. Despite the quality of the buildings and public space would probably be strongly improved, the proposal dismisses the potentiality of the already existing structures. An already existing structure accumulates, by the sole fact of being present and used, an energy that cannot be dismissed. Years later, if we look at Brussels again, can we release this contained energy and thus unveil the hidden poetics of this existing structures?
Supra-national political institutions are increasingly necessary in a globalized world, where the systems of production, consumption and affection are not contained within the nation-states. Nevertheless, a translation of the new political scenario into the spatial expression of its institutions has still not been addressed; an appealing narrative linking the institution and its architecture is missing. The scale, the program or the rhythm of activity of these institutions, already present interesting conditions that have been overlooked in the design of their headquarters. Also, an increasing need to be present in the new media channels reverses the traditional relationship of these spaces with the citizens.
The role of film in our investigation will be two folded. On one hand, is the appropriate tool to capture both the spaces and the activities. Thus, it facilitates an immediate analysis of the discordance between the architecture and the expression of its use. On the other hand, film is the medium used in official and social media to communicate. In most of the occasions, it is only through the screen that the citizens get to know these institutions. Thus, it becomes an instrument of mediation between the institutions and the citizens. In consequence, film will be used both to inquire on the existing architectures and to test its possibilities as an extension field for the visual expression of architecture.