Brussels Courthouse Design Competition : Architecture Information
page updated 27 Aug 2016
Brussels Courthouse Competition
16 Nov 2010 2pm local time – submission deadline
PREFACE The Brussels Courthouse was built between 1866 and 1883 by architect Poelaert and is the most largest building erected in the West in the 19th century.
The Brussels Courthouse has a total developed section of 26,006 square metres (compared to 22,000 square metres for St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome) and was designed to be an impressive symbol of the power of justice in Belgium.
Inspired by the classical Greek Roman style, it includes 27 major courtrooms, 245 smaller ones and one magnificent Hall of Lost Steps overhung by an imposing dome culminating at 142 metres above ground-level.
This building, which towers above the lower part of the city and the Marolles district, is regarded in most aspects as a symbol in Brussels, in part due to the impression it left in the collective memory of citizens who were displaced as a result of its construction on the one hand and to the legends which arose from the gigantic size of this place and from the extraordinary mass of this building on the other hand.
As one of the key elements of Brussels’ urban landscape, which can be seen from almost everywhere, this building is, however, hard to secure and complex to modernize.
In this context, the Federal Government adopted a set of decisions on March 25th 2010, aimed at adapting the building to increase short- and medium-term security on the one hand, and at starting a wide reflexion, a realm of possibility on the other hand, by arousing exchanges of ideas about the future of this building, which is an emblematic illustration of justice in our country, besides being a testimony to the past.
As every building dating back to a certain age, the Courthouse of Brussels is now suffering from a poor energy profile, some stability issues, a lack of security regarding fire protection, issues related to evacuation and to other specific technical aspects (electronic communication network, heating, ventilation, air conditioning, lifts, etc.). All these issues are particularly harder to solve because we wish to respect the authenticity of this building.
Indeed, this building is listed by the City of Brussels and receives particular attention from the Royal Commission for Monuments and Sites of the Brussels Capital Region. A particularly strong view is thus necessary for the Courthouse so that its modernization as well as the preservation of its listed features can be handled at one time.
This is the framework in which the Belgian Federal government has decided to examine scenarios describing the consequences of a partial or total removal of some services which require a higher level of security,from the Brussels Courthouse.
Lastly, taking its initiative to its logical conclusion, the Belgian Federal Government decided to launch an international ideas contest during Belgium’s Presidency of the European Union designed to examine possible future uses of the Brussels Courthouse and the surroundings of Place Poelaert. A free rein will be given to creativity and imagination.
Article 1: Organizer
The Belgian Buildings Agency, a Federal administration that manages Federal public buildings, located Avenue de la Toison d’Or 87 boîte 2, 1060 Bruxelles, Belgium, together with public service of Justice have organized an international ideas contest entitled “Brussels Courthouse, imagine the future!”(hereinafter referred to as “the contest”). Contact person: Jean-Marc Helson e-mail: JeanMarc.Helson@buildingsagency.be
Article 2: Objectives of the contest
The contest « Brussels Courthouse, imagine the future! » aims at developing a view of the future of the Courthouse in the form of one or more ideas, including the broad lines of an architectural and urban planning project for the Courthouse and the surroundings of Place Poelaert. This is an open and creative international contest. The concepts submitted shall treat the building as a monument and consider the meaning of this place within a contemporary context. The organizers wish to keep this line of approach as broad as possible.
The purpose of this contest is not to submit a finalized urban planning or architectural project to the Belgian Buildings Agency and the FPS Justice but to imagine the future allocation – whether judicial or not – of the Brussels Courthouse and of the surroundings of Place Poelaert.
It is suggested that the participants work on one or on both of the following scenarios:
1. Either a scenario based on a Courthouse (partially) keeping its judicial functions, e.g. the court of appeal (civil section), the Court of Cassation, the Public Prosecutor’s office of the Court of Cassation, the court of assize and the bars.
2. or a scenario based on a Courthouse totally cleared of its judicial functions.
and to imagine (objective of the contest):
• What appearance would the Courthouse have after an architectural intervention, which must however not damage the heritage it represents?
• How does the above-mentioned proposal integrate into the surroundings of Place
Poelaert, for which other development possibilities may also be submitted?
• What would be the Courthouse’s new functions?
• How would citizens and Legal professionals perceive this building once it is modernized?
• What would be the new urban juncture of this building between the upper and lower
part of the City of Brussels?
Article 3: Participants
The contest is meant for professionals from all countries, either active in the field of architecture, urban planning and Justice or engineers, market development engineers, artists, … as well as schools active in these fields.
Applications for the contest will be filed either individually or in teams, provided that, in the latter case, the team will be represented by an individual appointed by the other co-participants in the project.
Each project submitted shall include the application form mentioning the last name, first name and address of each participant in the contest (and of their co-participants if need be).
Organizers of the contest, observers or jury members are not entitled to participate in the contest, nor anybody who:
– Is committed to or has a current professional activity with the persons in charge of the
development/design of the Internet website, at whatever level;
– Belongs to the families of the contest organizers or the jury members.
Article 4: Registration
Applications can be filed from 20th July 2010 until 15th October 2010.
All projects must be sent by the participants and received by the organizer before 16th November 2010 at 02:00 PM (GMT+1).
All application files have to be written either in English, French or Dutch.
The winners will be selected by a jury among accepted projects in the course of December 2010, according to the provisions of Articles 6 and 7 of these rules.
Article 5: Registration procedure and application conditions
Applicants must register for the contest on the website http://www.brusselscourthousecontest.be
by filling in the online application form, which will be available as of 20th July 2010.
Material at the participants’ disposal
After registering, the applicants will gain access to a secured page from which they can download
after paying 5 € (5 euros) more detailed information about the Brussels Courthouse.
Submission of the projects
Projects must be submitted before 16th November 2010 at 02:00 PM (GMT+1) to the following address:
Mr. Jean-Marc Helson
Avenue de la Toison d’Or 87 boîte 2
The application must include at least:
• A Word document (or another text format) A4 summary document (max 5 pages) including:
– the title;
– the description of your idea;
– your emblematic image of the project;
• A document in landscape format illustrating the project (one or more images).
• A creative document of your own choosing (drawing, short stories, cartoon, video, plan, Internet website, slide show, real or virtual model, …) presenting this idea.
These various documents should be sent to the organizer both on a electronic device and on apaper edition.
List of the accepted electronic formats
Regarding virtual models
• pdf format 1920×1080 pixels by preference
• landscape format 1920×1080 pixels, by preference in Acrobat format (pdf)
• landscape format 1920×1080 pixels by preference
• in Acrobat format (pdf), Jpeg or png
• format 16/9 minimum resolution 960×640
• format .mov, avi, mpeg
• format .txt, .doc or .odt
• maximum 5 pages – size 12
All applicants must respect these formats. The Belgian Buildings Agency accepts no responsibility if it is not able to read or print the documents sent for technical reasons.
Visit the Courthouse
A visit to the Courthouse is not planned. However the section of the building accessible to the public can be visited every working day, from 8:00 am – 4:00 pm.
Article 6: Rules for selecting the prize-winners
The selection of the prize-winners will include 2 stages.
Only the projects complying with the rules will be accepted.
2. Selection of the prize-winners
Prize-winners will be selected by a jury.
Projects will be assessed according to the following criteria:
1. Relevance of the answers developed in the project to the problem raised by the contest
regarding the building and its surroundings – 20 points;
2. Feasibility of the idea – 20 points;
3. Novelty of the idea – 20 points;
4. Quality of the project presentation – 20 points;
5. Quality of integration in the environment of the Poelaert site, either by contrast or by
The jury will assess each criterion according to the following ordinal scale:
Assessment Description Result
Excellent According to the objective of the contest, the applicant gets an excellent result for this criterion.
Good According to the objective of the contest, the applicant gets a good result for this criterion.
Satisfactory According to the objective of the contest, the applicant gets a satisfactory result for this criterion.
Less than satisfactory
According to the objective of the contest, the applicant gets a less than satisfactory result for this criterion.
Very poor According to the objective of the contest, the applicant gets a very poor result for this criterion.
Article 7: Jury
A jury, composed of members from various backgrounds, will elect the winners in the different categories.
The jury’s vote is final and incontestable.
It will be composed of:
1. one representative of the Belgian Buildings Agency;
2. one representative of the FPS Justice;
3. one representative of the Magistracy;
4. one representative of the King Baudouin Foundation;
5. one representative of the Royal Commission on Monuments and Sites of the Brussels Capital Region;
6. one representative of the academic corps;
7. Brussels Bouwmeester (Master Architect);
8. one representative of the European Union;
9. one representative of the City of Brussels;
10. one representative of the Brussels Capital Region;
11. one architect.
The jury members shall elect a chairman among themselves.
Article 8: Prizes
Prizes will be the following:
A lump sum of 60,000 Euros, granted by the Belgian Buildings Agency, will be divided up among the two scenarios within the framework of which the first 3 prize-winners will be remunerated as follows:
– 15.000 Euros for the first prize-winner;
– 10.000 Euros for the second prize-winner;
– 5.000 Euros for the third prize-winner.
The Belgian Buildings Agency reserves the right to use all types of communication supports to enhance the projects submitted to its contest (exhibitions, books, video, Internet websites,…). It also reserves the right to organize an exhibition of the prize-winners’ projects and possibly of other significant projects.
The jury reserves the right not to automatically grant the totality of the prize amount if the level of the participants does not reach a minimum of 50% for all criteria.
Article 9: Expenses
Participation in this contest is free.
The Belgian Buildings Agency will support travelling expenses and accommodation expenses of the prize-winners invited on the day of the award ceremony and residing outside a radius of 200 km around Brussels (two hotel nights in Brussels). This applies only to the official representative of the team (individual appointed by the team).
Article 10: Intellectual property
The projects submitted may constitute intellectual works protected by the Belgian legislation on copyright and/or on works, drawings and plans.
Participants undertake to take part in the contest fairly and in a personal capacity. They notably guarantee that their project is original and results from their own reflexion without borrowing from former protected works. Thus, participants guarantee the organizer that:
o they have either full ownership of their project and of the related exploitation rights;
o either these creations, presented in various forms such as audiovisual or multimedia
material, plans, 3D models, pictorial, graphic, acoustic or visual works etc., are
copyright free and do not affect the rights of third parties.
If need be and as a consequence of their mere application and participation in the contest, participants irrevocably vouch for the organizer in the event of a complaint, protest or remedy notably related to the originality and/or authorship of the aforesaid project, without prejudice to damages if the need arises.
The Belgian Buildings Agency accepts no responsibility in the event of damages resulting from a participant’s mistake or negligence.
With regard to commercial use of these creations, candidates participating in the contest, surrender without compensation and irrevocably the rights necessary to the Belgian Building Agency, including, but not exclusively, the right to reproduce, represent, duplicate, edit, distribute, transfer, and distribute to or without consideration, in any form and in any existing media, the works concerned.
The Belgian Buildings Agency notably reserves the right to make use of these projects and of the identity of the participant(s) for communication or advertising purpose, such as it will freely determine.
The Belgian Buildings Agency also reserves the right to make use of these projects and of the identity of the participant(s) for communication or advertising purpose, such as it will freely determine.
The Agency reserves the right to mention the projects in press articles, advertising documents or booklets and to exhibit them in public manifestations of its own choosing and without time limitation. For these purposes, it is entitled to make all copies, to diffuse and distribute all graphic or photographic representations of the prize-winning and selected projects on condition that the name of their authors is mentioned.
Participants also accept not to make use, disclose, edit or exploit their creations outside the framework of the contest, in any way and for whatever reason, during the contest period, from 20th July 2010 until the date of the prize-winners’ selection without prior written consent of the Belgian Buildings Agency.
By taking part in this ideas contest, participants undertake to explicitly transfer to the Belgian Buildings Agency the right to make a royalty-free use of and to further develop their ideas and their creations within the framework of a new competitive tendering through public contract.
Each prize-winner also undertakes to hand the source files containing their creation over upon simple request to the Buildings Agency (format .eps, .dwg, .skp).
In any event, applicants retain the moral rights on their creations.
Article 11: Liability of the organizer
The organizer reserves the right to modify or cancel the contest with no justification and without its liability being involved.
Furthermore, the organizer may not be held liable in any possible way for any difficulties encountered by the participants in accessing or consulting the website
http://www.brusselscourthousecontest.be or if this website could not be accessed or consulted.
Article 12: Acceptance of the rules
Participation in this contest implies full acceptance of the above rules.
The rules are subject to Belgian law.
They may be obtained free of charge from the Buildings Agency.
The original text of the rules has been drawn up in French. Should any discrepancy occur between the original French version and its translation into Dutch/English, the French version shall prevail.
Brussels Courthouse Design Competition image / information from Federal Building Agency of Belgium