It’s been about two months since I left Belgium, and it truly feels like an eternity. It’s amazing how in a couple of weeks you can be leading an entirely different life in a place you never thought you’d end up. Luckily, I landed in a city with an unbelievable mix of vistas and architecture, the perfect place to continue on with my Instagram account dedicated to the beauty of stand-out or quirky buildings from around the world, @BeautyInBuildings. However, if you’ve been following from the beginning, you’ll know I started out as @BrusselsBuildings, solely dedicated to showing off the under-appreciated and lesser-known architectural gems that make up the city of Brussels, Belgium.
I happened to have moved to the Rue Bailli-area of Brussels in Ixelles, also close to St. Gilles, which as I would learn were essentially playgrounds for Art Nouveau architects and artists back at the turn of the last century. Last fall, I started snapping pictures of interesting buildings dotting my neighborhood just on the way to uni or while running errands, and was noticing so many I finally decided to make a special Instagram account for them all. I will admit, most of my photos are of buildings in the neighborhoods of Ixelles and St. Gilles, because this is where I spent most of my time. I’ve been called out for not including more of the other 19 communes (boroughs, if you will) of Brussels, but with lots of work at uni I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to photograph down the entire Brussels Capital Region. But I did try!
Someone recently commented on one of my @BeautyInBuildings Instagram photos featuring a slice of the unreal exquisiteness that is San Francisco and said, “@BrusselsBuildings was better, just to let you know.” Sheesh. While I don’t know if “better” is the best word, @BrusselsBuildings was more niche and shed light on a city with a particularly shabby reputation, and therefore the account was perhaps a bit more special and cozy.
But times they are a’-changing and roll with the times I shall – I’ve now expanded my account to be @BeautyInBuildings and I’m posting photos of San Francisco buildings as well as buildings and houses from the other towns and cities I visit while living my life out West. I’ve also started combing through photos from my last five years of travels to include pictures from those cities, and it’s been interesting to realize that even at 21 I always took photos of buildings I liked. Not to share them on Instagram, because I think I still had a flip phone at that age, but just because they stood out to me and I wanted to remember them.
So today I thought I would pay homage to the city where it all started, and talk a little about my favorite shots from @BrusselsBuildings – How I ended up taking the shot, what I like about the photo, and the memories I have of the moment I pressed that little white button on my iPhone camera.
When the sun comes out and the temperature heats up, Brussels really comes alive. The days are very long, and everyone sits to soak up the sun’s rays til it the sleeping of the sun (this is how they say ‘sunset’ in French, so cute) sometimes around 11pm. I used to live a block from the Etangs d’Ixelles (a series of pretty ponds in Ixelles) and Café Belga, and I remember taking this one evening during July as I was walking down the lane by the church, and loving how the sun lit up the most popular Art Deco place on the “plahce”.
My favorite stretch in all of Brussels (it’s the cover photo for this blog!). The very Flemish architecture, the brightly colored facades, and the criss-crossing of the many streetcar lines at Général Jacques complete a very beautiful Brussels major thoroughfare, which is a hard word to spell.
This vista of the Eglise Sainte Marie in Schaerbeek (as seen from Rue Royal) is particularly stunning, even on the cloudiest of days. I took this picture last summer late in the afternoon on a bike ride to Waterloo and back. I like the haziness of the sun on a gray and shadowy street.
This is a very atypical building for Brussels, especially Ixelles! This is on a little street off of the Chaussée d’Ixelles, and directly on the other side of the street there is a building that looks straight out of Rome. I like the random modernity in a city of Art Nouveau, and the contrasting sharp edges of the house itself with the curvaceous iron gate. The bright red leaves of the tree add a little heat to a colder scene.
I’d been trying for a while to get a great shot of the red building. It really sticks out on this street in particular because the rest of the street has a very drab back-alley feel. It’s on one of the winding side streets that goes up from Avenue Louise to finally land at the Chaussée d’Ixelles. None of the other photos I’d taken on sunny or gloomy days had quite captured the intensity of the red and the quirkiness it casts upon the street. But this day I believe was dark and stormy, so the rain blackened the road and cast a nice little gleam upon it. The man in black to the left and the zig-zagging white lines and red street sign on the right give the twisting street a funky feel.
This was not a fan favorite, I suppose there’s not enough building in it, but come on, day-time half-moon and shooting airplane?? I also like the hues of blue, green, and purple that came out in the sky. I love seeing the moon during the day, and something felt very “Peter Pan” about the moon and the window tops, like Wendy would fling open the windows and wait for a Lost Boy to come hurtling through after flying off from Never Land. Très mignon.
What a weird home! It’s like a houseboat in the middle of the city, and totally out of place on Rue Souveraine. However, it’s super fun and looks like it has great terrace space. You just do you building, you do you!
This brown building with the columns and open shutter was around the corner from my apartment on Rue Faider. It’s a very imposing building on a street with lots of more gentle maisons de maitres (townhouses), and is rather grand. The shutter was always open and would catch my eye as I walked home down the street from Rue Bailli.
I don’t play around with the filters so much anymore, I try to keep the photos a bit more natural, but I like the orange highlights here. They really bring out the brick house to the right, which of course is sidelined due to the grandiose maison on the bords of one of the Ixelles ponds. It wasn’t a super warm day when I took this, but I like that the orange gives it a dog-days-of-summer-feel, which is a sentiment not often felt in Brussels. I feel like here, we can pretend 🙂
I used walked by this restaurant in Le Sablon everyday on the way to uni and just loved the pops of bright colors they decorated the downstairs restaurant with! The top part of the building is impeccably white with two matching statues overlooking the front, contrasting with the bold black of the ground floor facade. The bursts of color in the shape of little hanging balls and a pretty painting in the entrance window of the restaurant really shake things up! This restaurant is still on my bucket list.
What a window. Around the corner from my old apartment as well. The rest of the building is okay, but someone really went to town on this take on a bay window. Kudos, kudos.
Also on a small street leading to the Chaussée d’Ixelles, the golden glint of the small iron-work leaves adorning the ivy-inspired window bars caught my eye on a grim and gloomy day. The bars on the window in the building next door hold their own, and I like the pattern of the cobblestones, especially the different shades that the rain colored them.
It was a terribly rainy and blustery day as I trudged up Rue Lesbroussart. Everyone both in their cars or on the streets just wanted to be somewhere else and not in this déluge of a downpour. But it was October, and the tree in front of the Irish pub and it’s neighbors was bright orange, and I loved the play of the red brick, the red light, the orange leaves, and the sort of watercolor effect made by the rain.
I’m not super into taking photos of churches, I think maybe because they are so obviously beautiful. But Rue d’Assaut has a great view of the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula (Belgium’s national church) in Centreville, it just gives right on to it. I walked out of uni at dusk one night, and looked up the dark, dark street, and just whipped out my phone. I love that this massive cathedral is the only thing lit up and is just basking in the setting winter sun.
One of several buildings by Paul Hankar on Rue Defacqz in Ixelles. There is so much that is awesome about this building – the shapes of the windows, the columns, the brick, and obviously the gilded illustrations of, apparently (suite à a Goole search) the three stages of life and Hercules. The sunset on this area of Rue Defacqz is very intense, and this evening in particular the gold was gleaming. I feel like I can see the sun’s rays casting themselves on this building, just wanting to light it up on fire!
A dear friend from New York came to visit and was very eager to see all the Brussels Buildings! I like the candidness of Allyza looking up at the building and inspecting what’s going on. The mahogany door is very warm, and compliments her bright red cap and gentle brown bag, while her cold blue outfit comes out with the blue highlights of the photo.
There’s something just very delicate about this photo, the way the light is strongest up top and blurs out some of the definition and color of the building and the ivy. The gentle white of the maison de maitre and the soft shapes that the light green ivy makes around it’s windows is refreshing and relaxing to look at. It’s a very different photo from top to bottom.
Because this building gives me intense déjà vu of some sort of Western toy or necklace I had as a kid, or maybe the moccasins my mom used to wear around the house. A call to Native America from Bruxelles Centreville.
I was walking home from the Central Station through St. Gilles, turned a corner, and found myself face to face with this beautiful maison de maitre. I love the warm Mediterranean colors – the marigold, burnt red, and turquoise tiles. The door is deep brown and intricate, and I like that the bold maroon door of the house to the left snuck in the photo as well. The basement windows also throw more turquoise into the shot. It’s a stunning home and really stand-out on a sunny afternoon.
Sugarplum fairies in Les Marolles.
There were several buildings in my neighborhood in Ixelles that were decorated with what appeared to be bathroom tiles. Oddly enough, here, I think it works. I like the icy feel of this photo, especially with the rough, rectangular, tarnished silver door handle, and the missing silver mailbox. Where did it go?
D’awww. I actually took this photo in Antwerp a few years ago while on a little shopping excursion. My feet were tired and I was grumpy, but I glanced up at the street at saw this very sage cat looking out the window, just observing the happenings on the street. He was like a wiseman village elder taking a look from above at his less-knowing peoples. I felt like I wanted him to narrate the story of my life, omniscently. I don’t know if we locked eyes or anything, but I feel like we had a moment.
Ohhhh because I had to include one of myself! First of all, I love me some Frit Flagey, always with sauce andalouse. Second, I have great memories of being with my sister, Emily (she took this photo), and dashing out of Café Belga as soon as the rain let up to be second in line for the fries. I have no patience for lines, and this line is notorious. Third, this is the last time I was successfully able to wear that long purple silk skirt, it’s lost it’s glitz and glamour. What an outfit. Much love!