Studio An Fonteyne

John Kevin Chandra

The notion of an "European identity“  has been perceived and presented to people through the direct association to the image of the European Union and its Successes/Failures. However, that is not the true reflection of what the essence of "Europe" is. It cannot simply be defined; like any collective identity, it can only be understood through studying the actions of the individuals` interactions and discourses brought up in the community.

The existing tower - the Tour Sablon, the cause of the promethean destruction of Victor Horta`s "Maison du Peuple" is the subject to much criticism. Akin to the butchered reputation of the "Identity of Europe" its reputation has been termed an "eye sore". These embed prejudices towards the tower have overshadowed the image of what the tower could be; a symbol - a spectacle that presents itself as the "European" Identity itself, as part of the society, and as a means of unification.

Capitalizing upon its nature as an architectural "spectacle" we can challenge the pre-existing notions of both the identity of "Europe" and the overshadowed "spectacle" of the Tour Sablon. Offering an elevated view of Brussels, it views the city as an abstracted map - like from a surveillance tower akin to the "Panopticon", reading the communities in terms of their relationships. The idea is no longer to show the people Europe, but to "show the people to Europe". However, the opacity of the interior is akin to the "Panopticon" as well, which in the same way is one of the issues that tarnish the ideology of the "Identity of Europe". Thus, what I propose would be the "Inverse Panopticon" or what I would term the "Synopticon" - A building for the people to interact and observe one another, through a journey between very public atrium, to intimate corridors to double height spaces of programs.

 

An elliptical void is carved out of the pre-existing structure resulting in a central atrium with overlapping balconies. The atrium does not only grant visual connectivity between different floors but presents itself as the main axis of interaction between people in a surreal experience between interior and exterior, a playful encounter inviting everyone into the building presenting a dynamic and fluid circulation to the various programs within the building.

 

It is not only a "Spectacle", a mere image of the "Identity of Europe", it becomes the part of society which cultivates and proliferates the ideologies of "Europe", it elucidates the interactions of individuals and facilitates the discussion of discourses within the community. Despite the inherent multiplicity and socio-cultural distinctions between people of Europe, the "Spectacle" acts as the means of unification, challenging the notions which distort our interpretations and understandings of the essence of "Europe". It strips away pre-existing prejudices and allows us to "show the people of Europe". In turn, it forges an inconceivable dreamlike collage where seemingly unfitting puzzle pieces come together seamlessly clearly defining this identity called - "Europe".

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