Hiatus within an Inverted Social Monument

25/06/2020Ioana Butiri
W TC small
NOW small
THEN small

Hiatus within an Inverted Social Monument

- resort for immigrants, asylum seekers & refugees -

The journey was anxious, yet comfortable. I was still on the run. A young architecture graduate, stepping away from its native context. Looking for a different set-up to discover a different self. Brussels was the ideal mid era. It embodied the human scale city of extensive opportunities. The train was crowded, every station collecting more fugitives. A frenzy of oral expressions. Every person was a character on its own, so distinctive in the light of their eyes, yet so collectively oppressed. From hearsay, for many was the final destination. For a small percent of the others, it was an indefinite layover.

The sonorously trilingual exhibit of the destination froze the passengers unanimously. That was it. Brussels. North Station. The transformation began. Fugitives became seekers.

Architectonics of semantic change

Terra Continuum (former WTC site) was visible from the exit point of the station. The street axis launched from the station towards the building, emphasized the grandeur of its existence. So overwhelming and so welcoming. On the parade among the axis, I am exhausted yet calm.

The ground floor space was democratically accessible to aliens and natives alike. No spatial screenings to exclude elites. Three arrays of columns, organized as a fluid grid, covered by a continuous platform that could only shelter future bases for the seekers, openly invited us to deepen the search for the reception area. Reached the first set of stairs. Only then it was visible themonumentality. A new world was prevailed in front of everyone’s eyes. Two rectangular walls stacked with homes and activities. The larger one, three stories above ground floor was the one greeting the people approaching from North Station. Mesmerized, I continued exploring. Going down the first set of stairs, arriving on the roof of the second wall, the glimpse of the character’s placestarted to flicker. From here, the garden situated at the lowest level was visible at its maximum potential.

The three towers elevated from the deeper beds of the underground seemed peaceful, in an antagonistic manner from the skyscrapers across the streets and along the axis. I immediately knew that the friendliness came from their purpose. Dashing towards the garden, I perceived the reception area as an altar for redemption. Another transformation will take place and everyone was ecstatic. Into what sort of category will this translation proceed, no one knew, yet everyone was imminently about to face it.

Arriving within, the seekers are received in the underground garden with an atmosphere of festive tranquility. They are finally safe, surrounded by bliss and acceptance while devastated with delight. On the recycled concrete floor, a long wide table, covered with an immaculate white linen, bordered by chairs dressed accordingly, was setting the stage for the porcelain plates, shiny silverware, crystal glasses and sculpted candle holders. Exotic foods and exquisite liquors were on display for everyone to enjoy. Here and there, emerald trees were rising from a harsh mat, alignedalong the Senne’s lagoon. The shy wind animated the artificial wilderness into an organic musicality, occasionally emphasized by the presence of a white upright piano, playing Lento e Largo – Tranquillissimo, from Górecki’s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs.

Approaching the table, on each chair there is a Margiela Mask, with a note attached to it that

“In case one needs it.”

Voices come from everywhere with same intensity and tonality, inviting us to join the table. Everyone is finally seated and willingly camouflaged. The ceremony begins. Yet another moment of the pilgrimage had taken place, everyone has reached the status of a resident alien.


Next morning there was a competence screening. All passed. The various skills included, craftsmanship, multi lingual proficiency, medical assistance, technical expertise, legal expertise, nurturing instincts and many more. From there on, everyone was engaged in an activity during thelayover. Therefore, time was flashed in front of one’s eyes. Succeeding this, a civil filter was enacted in order to disperse the inhabitants in homes proportionate to their needs.

Singulars were given a single room in one of the three towers. It was small, but cozy. I was home. Elderly couples and parents with children until the age of ten were given a one bedroom respectively a two-bedroom unit within the smaller wall, below the ground floor, in order to facilitate easy access to the garden and activities. Also, this association aided both categories to exchange benefits. Young couples and parents with children over the age of ten received a one bedroom, respectively a two-bedroom unit in the larger wall above ground.

Everyone went into their designated homes, unpacked and prepared for yet another dinner at the long white table. That night though, the piano ditched the sweet sadness of the former night’smusical act. Five evenings after, the piano stopped playing. The player left the building. Found himself a job at a theater in Paris. A bunch ran to their rooms. After a couple of minutes, they came back with a laptop, speakers and there was a piano playing again. The following night, we listened to the music of a local artist.

It was formidable.
Habitude was simple and joyful.

There was nothing we desired anymore nor needed. There were no ambitions, no yesterdays, no tomorrows. Today was enough. Today was such a perfect day.

Ending #2

Then one day, today stopped. I have found a tomorrow. Anxious and thrilled by the rush, hiatus ended for me. Stepping out of the setting, the building started to fade away until it disappeared from my memory. It ceded to exist in the moment I have found a tomorrow and became a civilian. Knew that others will keep on coming there and find purity in living, the same way I did. But they will also have to leave at some point.

Following my ambitious feet, I looked uncertainty in the face with nostalgic eyes from forgotten memories.

Text & Images by Ioana Butiri / Architect