Sunday, 24 March – The city of Brussels is melting pot of cultures and people from all over the world. The city is an appealing mix of historic flair, modern architecture and street art. As a typical scenario of big cities of the world, in Brussels you experience the coming together of residents and tourists for a wide range of activities like leisure, sports, meet-ups, demonstrations or simply a game of chess. This makes it important that the city is equipped with the right infrastructure to enable its citizens to enjoy a quality standard of living.
On this sunny Spring day, we took a stroll around the city and parks and came across an interesting observation. The street furniture in the City of Brussels is not only inadequate but is also purely functional, soulless and kinda boring. We took the opportunity to speak to some local residents and found that we are not alone in our observation. They revealed that more street furniture is needed and incorporating colorful and attractive elements would be appreciated and a sight for sore eyes. It is interesting to note that modern art was mentioned several times. An example would be art installations where modern and colorful furniture is displayed and accessible to the public.
There are currently several large players (e.g. Urbanstyle, WolternsMabeg) supplying street furniture in the local market. However, most of their products are run-of-the-mill. The city council also encourages art elements by mandating that up to 2% of public and private construction cost for are used for this purpose (for the latter, only those with subsidies apply). Till date, the focus of such projects is often confined to sculptures and impressive mural paints. There is thus a potential to tap upon this construction budget to integrate art and culture into public furniture. Furthermore, the local government supports projects which are in cooperation with the local art institutions as the MAD.
However, a problem exists and that is the longevity of such installations in terms of keeping them off vandalism.
It lies in the material where specialized knowledge is required. This is where the Swiss expertise comes into picture. After providing an appealing overall design in a material that is sustainable and provide a stylish surface, the local adaption is the next step. As Brussels has a strong local art community, a local event such as the Brussels Art Week could be used as a platform. Local artists can paint the furniture which then are coated to make them resistant. Nevertheless, there are 19 Communes in the city which are ordering their furniture independently. To get access to them and receive large contracts might however be very challenging for a Swiss company. Therefore, we highly recommend that Swiss companies enter the market with a local collaboration with the communes. This way the city of Brussels gets not only durable street furniture but one that adds to its artistic appeal.