New year resolutions


As a new year begins and another one piles up in our used bucket, we search once more for new resolutions. Who are we kidding? These resolutions are rarely new, and even less lasting. Excited about a new beginning we promise to be wise and good. We plan a million fresh projects we will achieve in this young dynamic year. Let’s be honest, we’ll realise a week into this newborn 2016 that we’ll just be our old selves and that we already have our hands full. At least I know I will, so I’ll start by not making any new resolutions. Continua a leggere


There are eyes following my every move so I feel the pressure to quickly find a seat. But there’s a maze of seats in front of me, where should I sit? Not too far, or I’ll give the impression that I’m afraid. Not too close to the light, because I want my face to be in the shadows. Once I find a good spot someone says a word, but I can’t say who it was or what it said. It was too quick for me to follow. My mind is still frantically trying to come to terms with the fact that I don’t know what I’m supposed to do, or am I expected to do something? The word is repeated, again and again by the people that are around me and look at me, calling upon me.

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Ricordando Franko

Guardo il riflesso metallico del binario davanti a me, non più oggetto di vita quotidiana, ma fantasma di un male che sfioro senza capire. Abbandonata dalle stesse parole che mi hanno in così tante occasioni consolata, mi sento impotente. Sono solita trovare conforto nel suono di una frase ben costruita, tremante d’emozione. Non stavolta. Vana è la mia ricerca, continuo ad ottenere la stessa risposta: silenzio. Qualsiasi cosa possa dire è sbagliata, banale, proforma, insensibile.

S’insinua allora il desiderio di un contatto fisico, del calore rassicurante dell’abbraccio di un altro essere umano colpito dalla stessa tragedia. Qualcuno che capisca e condivida il peso di questo vuoto.

Vedo sfilare davanti a me quel gruppo di giovani monelli, facce che ogni volta mi strappano un sorriso perché sempre calorose e accoglienti, generose e genuine, malgrado la loro fama di piantagrane. Giovani pieni di creatività e di progetti. Giovani che hanno intrapreso strade diverse, eppure ritornano nel paese insignificante che li ha visti crescere e quando si ritrovano sembrano non essersi mai persi di vista. Lontana, posso solo immaginare i loro volti tormentati. Abbraccio ognuno di loro sperando che il mio pensiero li raggiunga portando con se un po’ di vicinanza e calore.

Era il più quieto, timido e riservato. Aveva una voce profonda che usava raramente. Ma tutto ciò che non diceva lo dipingeva.

Nell’ombra danzante dei pini della via Maremmana si staglia la sua figura snella. Concentrato sul nodo di braccia intrecciate che sta dipingendo asciuga il pennello e lo immerge nuovamente nella mistura di acquarello. Frank! Con una battuta appaiono gli amici, si fermano per fare quattro chiacchiere, organizzare la serata, ammirare l’opera. Un giorno d’estate, caldo e piacevolmente rinfrescato dalla brezza marina. Un pomeriggio sereno.

Con quell’aria di chi è perennemente perso nei suoi pensieri, aveva un modo tutto suo di creare opere di una bellezza viscerale. Immagini così vivide da diventare indimeticabili. Era un animo puro. Troppo sensibile per questa società. Uno spirito lontano mille miglia, a caccia di qualcosa che questa vita non ha saputo dargli.

Stiamo sbagliando tutto, se nella nostra disperata corsa verso il futuro sono queste le persone che calpestiamo e abbandoniamo. Stiamo sbagliando tutto.

Two days to gobble up Brussels’ heritage beauty

Dimanche du patrimoine 2014

The interior of the Aegidium

Two years ago I participated to my first ‘Journées du patrimoine’ where I discovered some amazing hidden places, like the Aegidium. Ever since, this annual event is one of my favorites and automatically enters my agenda. It is an occasion to enter buildings that aren’t usually accessible to the public and have a historical and/or an architectural value. It also allows to visit places that are regularly open to the public (like theatres and museums) and to see them under a different light: through activities and special exhibitions or simply by accessing staff areas.

Although I love this initiative I always feel a little frustrated at the end. The offer is so rich and the time so little that I’m forced to make a choice, but I’m such an undecided person that choosing between so many things I’m curious about ends up being a painful process. This year was particularly hard since the theme was one I’m especially passionate about: ‘Workshops, factories and offices’.

From a practical point of view, two days are nowhere near enough to be able to visit all these wonderful places. I do understand this has a cost and that it isn’t easy to organise, but it would be great if we could have a ‘Semaine du patrimoine’! Especially since many sites are open a few hours a day, are accessible only with a guide and therefore at certain hours only. Don’t get me wrong, I actually like the guided visits since they add information about the history of the building as well as its current use and future plans, but this system limits your options even further. In addition, some visits of neighbouring buildings take place at the same time and group sizes are logically limited to 20/30 people.

Regardless of my personal indecision, I enjoyed this years’ discoveries and would like to share them with those who haven’t had the chance to see them.

Imprimerie NIMIFI (or IMIFI)

rue du Houblon 47

Entrance imprimerie

The entrance of the ‘Imprimerie’

As the name suggests it is an old print house located in the centre of Brussels and surrounded by a number of industrial buildings. The building itself is not impressive and I was underwhelmed by the architecture: very plain except for some metal work and some marble stairs. I was also expecting to see some old machinery, but that wasn’t the case either.


View from the roof of the ‘Imprimerie’

What was interesting though was the story of its reclamation and what’s become its current use. In 1999 the building was up for sale. A handful of citizens were interested in buying the property and creating a community. Little by little the group became big enough (about 20 people) to acquire the property. The rules they established are quite simple: each owner gets a loft space which is private and all expenses related to its furnishing are individual; each owner also has access to the common spaces, for example the meeting room, and shares their management and costs.

The primary rule though is that the building must be kept as it was since it’s listed in the Brussels Heritage catalogue. This is understandable seen the history of the building but isn’t always an advantage for the inhabitants. For example, the original structure isn’t well insulated and changes can’t be done without destroying part of it. However, the owners manage to balance these disadvantages with a sustainable way of life: they use solar panels, they have a system that collects rainwater and they agree not to heat the common areas.

The best part of the visit was the rooftop garden. The soil helps the insulation of the roof and part of it is used as a vegetable garden. Not to mention the nice 360° view on downtown Brussels.

Garage Citroën

place de l’Yser 7


The central corridor connecting the showroom and the workshops

I really wanted to visit this site for a number of reasons and have sacrificed other visits for it, but I don’t regret my choice. For those who aren’t familiar with this building it is one of the symbols of Brussels, no one that has lived in Brussels for a while doesn’t know where it is and what it looks like.

Recently it has become front page material due to the Region’s decision to buy the building to create a Contemporary Art Museum. There are positive and negative aspects to the proposal: it would allow to preserve the building (a rival proposal was to build housing units, but this would entail the demolition of the original building) and to find a place for the contemporary art collection (stored in a humid and dark archive at the moment). But it might not be the best space for an art museum (notably it’s too bright) and could serve other cultural projects better. So you can probably understand my curiosity.


The poster of the ULB exhibition

The guide was a good narrator and started from the beginning of André Citroën in France and she explained how the building has changed in the 50s due to a larger production. We visited the showroom building first which is less impressive than it used to be, now that is separated by multiple floors.

The most interesting part was the descending corridor that links the showroom space to the workshops. The iron structure is fascinating. Nowadays there are few workshops left, but in the 50s the two floors were occupied and each workshop had its specificity and its team.

Another interesting aspect of the visit was the temporary exhibition of the projects from the students of the University of Architecture (ULB) who, after having studied the specificities of the building, proposed different approaches to rehabilitate it for culture. It was exciting to see so many ideas (some really linked to the social structure of the canal area) inspired by a building who’s fate is still being discussed.

BSF 2015 – The day after assessment

The day after the Brussels Summer Festival 2015 I’m wondering if I should evaluate my experience. The overall event has left me tepid. Although the size of the organisation is that of any other festival, the atmosphere was lacking. Usually, when you go to a festival, you live as if the rest of humanity didn’t exist. There’s only you and a whole bunch of other music lovers fully immersed in a world made of beautiful tunes. You’re usually exhausted by sleeping in an uncomfortable tent, yet you feel relaxed and peaceful (not only because of several joints you happened to smoke). That fenced ground becomes your little piece of paradise for a few intense days. And this was missing from the BSF. Continua a leggere