FoncolinIn 2001, I was working in the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Education and Culture, my part of which was housed in the rue Belliard (n° 7). One day our offices, which were at the top of the building, started to wobble alarmingly. We feared an earth tremor, but nobody else in the neighbourhood had felt anything. The tremors and the wobbling continued to such an extent that my Director-General, Klaus van der Pas, authorised me to evacuate the building if I felt it necessary. In the end, we discovered that the tremors were caused by the demolition of a 1950s building on the corner of rue Montoyer and rue du Commerce. When they could get away with it, the demolishers were allowing huge blocks of concrete to fall to the the ground. Sadly, today I learned that those blocks were revolutionary prefabricated concrete facade elements developed by Belgian engineer Robert Degroodt to the design of architect André Jacquemain and his close associate Jules Wabbes and that the building in question was the Foncolin (Fonds Colonial des Invalidités). Arguably, Wabbes was to Jacquemain and the Foncolin what Philip Johnson was to Mies van der Rohe and his Seagram Building: everything – down to furniture and doorknobs – was an integral part of the overall design. The sorry tale as to how such desecration could be authorised – and with the complicity of the original architect – is summarised here. If you can, get to the Bozar before 13 January and visit the retrospective exhibition of the work of Belgian furniture designer Jules Wabbes. Wabbes died young (54) and never became particularly well known, but the influence he had on his contemporaries is immediately apparent from the works on display in this exhibition. It’s well worth a visit.