The Joy Of Rust

Clad in a coarse carapace of rusted steel, this housing block is a startling urban presence.

Ever since John Winter audaciously clad his seminal Highgate house in a skin of weathering steel back in 1969, Cor-ten's quasi industrial aesthetic of shipyard and factory floor has become globally ubiquitous. According to Neil Jackson, in his entertaining study of the genre in The Modern Steel House, it took seven years forWinter's little building to slowly acquire the coveted purplish-brown patina of worn-out boiler plating. Now pre-weathered Cor-ten clads the world, from police stations and parking lots to OMA's Las Vegas Guggenheim (June 2002). Yet it never quite loses its quality of otherness, as demonstrated by its use in this recent Brussels apartment block. Here the 'instant' patina of age and distress still provides a bracing shock of the new and unusual amid wedding cake historicism.

The building lies in Schaerbeek, to the north-east of Brussels city centre, a district populated by many Turkish immigrant families. It occupies a compact, chunky wedge that turns a corner between Avenue de la Reine and Place Liedts. Cars and trams surge past the prow-like site which is anchored between a couple of existing muscular apartment blocks.To the spirit, if not the letter, architect Mario Garzaniti follows the familiar template of the continental walk-up tenement, though the proportions and internal arrangements are more generous and imaginative than might normally be expected.Two duplex apartments are stacked above a shop at ground level, the floors linked by a narrow housing, brussels, belgium architect MARIO GARZANITI

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