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The Elzenhof community centre is located at numbers 12, 14 and 16 of what was originally called the Rue du Trône Prolongée, a new street that began at the Place de la Couronne (now Blyckaertsplein) and ended in the fields. The three houses were built in 1880. The city grew rapidly in the 19th century and soon swallowed up these fields. The bourgeoisie, and even the nobility, settled in the new avenues. One day a tramway came to the beautiful avenue lined with tall trees. Tram 33, which Jacques Brel hoped would bring “his” Madeleine to him, connected Anderlecht with the Ixelles cemetery. And then, the tram disappeared. In 1880, the streets stank not of exhaust fumes but of horse manure. On the other hand, the coaches didn’t foul the facades.


Permanente intervention GC Elznehof, Brussels (BE)

Concept: Edurne Rubio

Realisation: Helga Duchamps & Edurne Rubio 

Together witth: Raphael Vanhoestenberghe, Christine Bertrand, Linda Van Dijck and Anne Sophie Augustyiak

Tijd Gaten is an artistic project commissioned by the Vlaamse Gemeenschapscommissie and realised in the context of the renovation works in the Elzenhof community centre in 2020/2021. Edurne Rubio immerses visitors in the history of three houses built to accommodate three families. Today they make up a single building, having become a cultural, social and educational space open to an entire neighbourhood.

Interview Sam Steverlinck & Edurne Rubio











































































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In the 1980s, it was decided to cover the floors of many public places with brown carpeting. According to Stefan, here in Elzenhof, the carpeting stayed clean for only the first 6 months. It has been dirty ever since, however hard they tried to clean it. During a party, as a result of pots and pans being carried to and fro, an oil stain appeared in the middle of the hall. To hide it, blue and white plastic mats were bought, probably on Malibran street, or maybe from Ikea.

The main entrance to Elzenhof is at number 12 Kroonlaan, where it is said that a notary once lived and worked. The notary in question travelled by horse and carriage, which is why the entrance hall is not on the street, but instead faces the original passageway between the street and the stables.

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When visiting a bourgeois house from the second half of the nineteenth-century in Brussels, it is quite easy to recognise the original living room and dining room. The former was always at the front of the house, so as to be visible from the street. This is where visitors were received. These front rooms were richly decorated (with carpets, paintings, plants, a piano...) and always painted in light colours: shades of green, off-white, pale pink... The marble of the fireplace was white or light grey. The dining room, on the other hand, was usually very dark with imitation wood on the walls and a dark marble fireplace.

In the living room, the central part of the ceiling, the “mirror”, was usually covered with a painted canvas, often depicting a blue sky with clouds, and sometimes birds or little angels... Over time, these canvases went out of fashion and were removed, revealing the cracks in the ceiling.

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The Ixelles town hall holds plans for number 14 Kroonlaan. In 1923, Mr Mouvet requested authorisation to carry out works there. According to the plans, there were two spaces in what is now the kitchen: a small dining room (for daily use) and the pantry, where dishes and table linen were stored. The kitchen was in the basement and was connected to the pantry by a dumbwaiter. The floor in this part of the house was probably entirely covered with cement tiles. The neighbouring room, on the garden side, was the veranda. On the plans, there is a note concerning the veranda which says: “tiles to be replaced with parquet”.In the 1970s, the Vlaamse Gemeenschapscommissie (Flemish Community Commission) acquired the three houses on the Kroonlaan and created, among other things, a kindergarten and a nursery school. The former dining room and pantry were converted into a kitchen. It seems that the children’s food was of excellent quality.

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According to the 19th-century Trade and Industry Almanac, which lists the professions of the inhabitants of Brussels, a certain Mr Kimpe, J., painter by profession, lived at number 16 Kroonlaan. Since the 2010s, Elzenhof has been collaborating with the Etterbeek Atheneum. Every year, a group of 14- to 17-year-old pupils works on an art project under the guidance of the non-profit association Piazza dell’arte. For a week, they “occupy” the building and transform it into an art workshop and exhibition space. According to  Piazza, art is a means for young people to develop a critical view of the world. In 2017, the theme was “time”. Three teenagers, Célia, Lisa and Virginie, decided to paint a mural. On the old cream-coloured wall paint, they painted lines running along the staircase from the ground floor to the third floor, representing a week in their lives. Each colour represents a different activity. Yellow is for mealtimes and fuchsia for school hours. Celia does not remember the meaning of the other colours.

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In 1880, a house of this standing could have between 5 and 8 servants: the butler, the maid, the cook and her assistant, the governess, the coachman... They all slept here, in the attic, which was divided into small cells, each furnished with a bed, a night table and a coat hanger. This was the situation until the First World War. At that time, the “poor” started to work in factories and almost all of them left service, preferring to be paid a pittance but remain free rather than living locked up like slaves in a grand house.

In the 1990s the attic was used as a studio by artists. Because of the cold, which the servants had also endured before, they decided to add a plywood panel over the old cow-hair ceiling. In 2020-2021, major renovation works were carried out. Architects and engineers spared no effort to resolve the insulation problem of this roof once and for all.

Pictures: Miles Fischler

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