Flanders to turn Brussels’ American Theatre into new temple of culture

The Flemish government has reached a leasehold agreement with the city of Brussels for the American Theatre. This puts an end to a long deadlock over the building at the Heysel. Flanders wants to breathe new life into the place and transform it into a new temple of culture.

The American Theatre, located at the Heysel in the shadow of the Atomium, was one of the buildings constructed for the American pavilion at the World Fair held in Brussels in 1958. It was designed by the American architect Edward Durell Stone, who also co-designed the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York.

For many decades, it served as a television studio for the Flemish public broadcaster VRT. But due to the poor condition of the building, the VRT left in 2012. The city of Brussels used some of the offices until 2016. Since 2016, the building has mostly remained unused, although it has been occupied by artists and other creatives.

Both the city of Brussels and the Flemish government have been pushing for a solution for some time. After the federal government had sold the building to the city of Brussels, the city of Brussels is now transferring the building to the Flemish Community through a 99-year-long lease agreement. The Flemish government approved that agreement on Friday and it will be discussed next Monday at the Brussels city council.

Flanders wants to turn the site into a "cultural and community-building hub". It should amongst others attract larger music, dance and theatre productions to the capital. It should also become a "breeding ground for (young) artistic talent".

According to Flemish minister-president and minister of culture Jan Jambon, the American Theatre should once again become a "cultural hotspot". Flemish minister for Brussels Benjamin Dalle welcomes the breakthrough. "For more than a decade, I have been fighting to restore the American Theatre to its former glory and make it a real cultural temple for Brussels,” he declared. “I am delighted that it has finally succeeded."

By the end of the year, a study should identify the investments needed to give the building a new purpose. "That study should make clear what interventions are needed in terms of sustainability and safety, among other things,” said Jambon. “Afterwards, we can see what investment we are facing and what the best destination will be." The timing of the concrete implementation of the new destination will also depend on the cost estimate.

#FlandersNewsService | The American Theatre in Brussels © BELGA PHOTO ERIC LALMAND


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