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Brussels Courthouse

FORA + Vasilis Oikonomopoulos
Competition - Brussels - 2010

Justice and Punishment
As architecture today can no longer pretend to embody an 'ideal', the sum of modifications in this proposal reflect the never-ending evolution of penal and disciplinarian systems, and aims at creating a new architectural environment that would integrate two distinct but also very connected apparatuses, justice and punishment. Further to that, a major objective aims at injecting these two systems to the public domain, offering a degree of interaction and involvement beyond the authority it represents.

Public
Main court functions will be maintained within the building. In addition, a public route will be introduced, that will traverse core spaces, corridors, hallways, as well as court rooms with the insertion of viewing platforms, boxes and balconies. A spiral gallery, open to the public, will be receiving the public all the way to the level of the cupola, allowing for panoramic views of the city and a close examination of the architectural details of the building itself. 


Prison
The most radical element of the proposal is the addition of a prison building, on a plate hung above the existing Palace of Justice. This addition will be separated but also connected to the existing building, dismantling the hierarchy of function in a visionary scheme that does not obliterate the existing but utilises it in a mode of interconnection and in anticipation of the future.

Based on this triple axis; juridical (court axis), penal (prison axis), social (public axis) the vision for Brussels Courthouse is to challenge preconceived ideas about co-existence of functions and integration of systems. The hypermonumental approach is based on a deterministic appropriation of form and program, creating a 'machine' for justice, based on the diptych of decision and its performance.

 

Team: João Prates Ruivo, Raquel Maria Oliveira, Vasilis Oikonomopoulos. Client: Belgian Buildings Agency and the Federal Public Service Justice.