Splendid Grandeur

May 27, 2021
Steven McCormack
1 min
Back To The Future

On a roll with these video posts folks. Yesterday I came across incredible footage of Brussels (Belgium) in 1908. It has been beautifully restored using artificial intelligence, which in itself is worth talking about. But instead I'd like to focus on what we can see. Bustling streets. Splendid grandeur. A gentle interweaving of nature and infrastructure.

Brussels could clearly afford to be lavish at the time; the early 19th century represented the high watermark of European power. But strip back the context and you see a glorious example of human scale development. You can feel the energy in the air. You can probably smell the manure too mind you, but I'll come to that in a second.

What I'm trying to get at is this; we know how to create beautiful environments. We've already done it. And we know, in our hearts, that this is what we prefer. Just look at the engagement with this video. Or look at the popularity (pre-pandemic, at least) of historic European city centres.

Baby With Bathwater

We really missed a trick by discarding centuries of tradition for top down planning and Starchitects. To be fair, the trauma of two world wars provided ample justification for doing so. But after a few decades of building motorways, shopping arcades and suburbia, I believe we are at an inflection point.

That's not to say we ditch software, demolish the glass towers and bring back the horses. But we should certainly take a fresh look at our predecessors. See what they got right. And augment with our technological prowess. We should celebrate a return to gentle iteration. And help restore real life and vigour to our built environment.

So that's enough preaching from me. Take some time to absorb 1908 in all its glory.

Signing out, Steven.

Photo by Stephanie LeBlanc on Unsplash.


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