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Restoration of Justice Palace facade finally begins

09:11 10/08/2023

The facelift for the front facade of Brussels’ Justice Palace has begun, with works expected to take around two years to complete.

The renovation comes at a cost of €31.7 million, according to Mathieu Michel, secretary of state for the federal buildings agency, the Régie des Bâtiments.

Visitors and lawyers will still have access to the building via the frontage in the coming months, while staff will use the entrance on Rue aux Laines.

The project to restore the front facade on the Place Poelaert side of the Justice Palace formally kicked off in March 2021, when the scaffolding that had been securing the facade since 2000 was reinforced and adapted to current standards.

“Starting the work that should have been done 40 years ago is the only way to remove the scaffolding,” said Michel.

“This achievement is the fruit of daily monitoring, in-depth work and a search for solutions with the Régie des Bâtiments.”

The adaptation of the scaffolding made it possible to carry out a study of what a restoration would entail – an investigation that was only completed in spring of this year, after which a contractor had to be appointed.

Built from 1866 to 1883, the courthouse facade suffers from wear and tear due to age and damage caused by moisture infiltration.

The restoration work involves restoring the facade itself, as well as the peristyle and exterior joinery. The main courtyard will also be redeveloped and a gate will be installed in line with the historic model. Finally, a lighting plan will be drawn up for the building.

The restoration includes cleaning, checking and repairing the stones. A small part of the stones will be completely replaced but to preserve the original appearance, custom-made stones from the original quarries - mainly the Comblanchien quarries in France's Burgundy region and the Blue Stone quarries in Soignies - will be used.

To avoid future water infiltrations after restoration, all the grouting will be renewed.

Windows, doors, railings and overhead lights will also be restored and repainted. Some of the windows will receive new glazing and depending on the rooms, it will be done with security or anti-burglary glass or insulating glazing, which will also make the courthouse more energy efficient.

The forecourt, or cour d'honneur, will be redesigned and the basement structure under the stairs, which suffers from concrete rot and water seepage, will be repaired.

The lining of the honour courtyard, which consists of cobblestones, will also be repaired. New fencing will be installed that will respect the historical aesthetics of the original fence.

As part of the lighting plan approved by the Brussels government in 2017, a scenographic lighting will be developed for the courthouse. This will highlight the aesthetic and architectural aspects of the building and will also be adapted to the time of evening or night.

All this means that the scaffolding on the front facade is due to be removed in summer 2024.

In the next phase of the overall renovation, the base of the dome of the Justice Palace will be restored again, having already been restored in 2003.

A restoration study will start in early 2024 and the works themselves are scheduled to take place between 2026 and 2027.

The facades on the other sides of the building, as well as the courtyards and ramps, will be tackled in subsequent phases whose schedule will depend on the progress of the first phase.

The aim is to make the Justice Palace completely scaffold-free by 2030.

“When, at the end of 2020, I expressed the ambition to restore the Brussels courthouse and rid it of its scaffolding after 40 years, I saw doubt and disbelief everywhere,” Michel told Bruzz.

“And yet, today everyone can see that the works on the facade of the Justice Palace, this symbolic building, are effectively beginning.”

Written by Helen Lyons