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Brussels launches call for tender to occupy Bois de la Cambre pavilions

14:36 25/02/2024

Brussels is looking for a new use for the two elegant, white neo-classical-style pavilions on the edge of the Bois de la Cambre.

Built in 1835 by Belgian architect Auguste Payen, they mark the entrance to the wood from Avenue Louise, but now are not only unoccupied, but are also used by squatters and the city is anxious to change this.

These twin, almost symmetrical, landmarks at the top of the Avenue Louise near the Clos du Bois, otherwise known as the Clos des Milliardaires, once collected taxes from anyone transporting goods into the city.

“They were first located at Porte de Namur, like those at Porte de Flandre and Porte de Ninove which are still there today,” Brussels historian Roel Jacobs explained.

In 1860, when the merchant tax was abolished, the so-called toll pavilions were moved to their current spot to house police offices.

The pavilions – which evoke the Italian Renaissance style with their columns, arcades, arched windows and stone steps – were considered elegant enough to welcome visitors to the, then brand new, Bois de la Cambre.

At the time, the wood, transformed into a public park between 1862 and 1871 by the garden architect Edouard Keilig, was being developed as a place for walks, particularly on Sundays.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the pavilions have housed cafes, upmarket estate agents, clothes boutiques and even a toy shop.

But since then they have remained empty and the city wants to find new owners who will have a concession - the right to occupy the buildings for a set amount of time and to carry out specific activities in them - for 27 years.

Brussels housing minister Lydia Mutyebele Ngoi said she is hoping to receive many proposals as the site is very symbolic for people living in Brussels.

“The pavilions are very beautiful seen from the outside. It is important for Brussels residents that they are maintained,” the socialist minister also responsible for public heritage and equal opportunities added.

Anyone is welcome to send their proposals – non-profit organisations, businesses and the general public – to the city offices. All ideas must be submitted electronically before 4 March.

Written by Liz Newmark