Published on February 25th, 2021 | by James Drew0
New initiative to save old Brussels elevators
The facades of many old Brussels buildings hide beautiful historic elevators. For a long time, it was feared that this heritage would disappear since there was no structural approach which enabled their protection and preservation. Also, the mandatory modernisation of all Belgian elevators would have irrevocably damaged the historical, aesthetic and technical properties of the old elevators. Today, a new initiative by Brussels Secretary of State Pascal Smet and Minister Pierre-Yves Dermagne aims to secure the future of many beautiful historic elevators in our region.
“When I became in charge of Brussels heritage, I became aware of the problems with old elevators from before 1958. Because of current safety standards they are in danger of disappearing or being damaged. This would be a real shame, because many of them are architectural gems. That is why I have asked, in consultation with Save Our Elevators asbl, Homegrade to make an inventory of these historic elevators. The aim is simple: after having inventoried them, we want to be able to modernise them and at the same time respect their historical value. The current federal regulations made this impossible, which is why we are working with the federal government to revise the legislation. The arrival of Pierre-Yves Dermagne (Federal Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Employment) was important for this. He is aware of the problems and wants to help us revising the regulations in order to ensure that our many beautiful historic elevators can survive,” explained Pascal Smet.
Deputy Prime Minister Pierre-Yves Dermagne emphasized the importance of finding a solution: “My administration and I are looking into the possibility of postponing the renovation deadline for historic elevators. I believe it is essential in order to save this heritage. I have also asked my administration to enter into dialogue with the regions on the delivery of regional certificates proving the elevators’ historical value. This would give us more time to secure the historic elevators in the right way.”
In 2020, Pascal Smet commissioned Homegrade (the consultancy and guidance centre for housing in the Brussels-Capital Region) and urban.brussels (the regional administration in charge of urbanism and heritage) to create an inventory of elevators with heritage value by the end of 2021. This task starts today and is based on the expertise that the non-profit organisation Save Our Elevators has acquired over the years. We are therefore launching a call for all owners of old elevators. They can ask to include their old elevator in the inventory and can obtain a certificate of recognition of its historical value by submitting an online form on the Homegrade website. The latter ensures that modernisation and respect for heritage go hand in hand.
“Homegrade has the privilege to carry out this project, in collaboration with urban.brussels, to reconcile respect for heritage and renovation of buildings. This inventory will be used to establish criteria for determining the historic value of the facilities and elements that need to be preserved. It will also raise citizens’ awareness of an underexposed and endangered heritage. At the same time, we will continue our main task: to advise Brusselers on housing. We are available to inform owners about the modernisation procedures and the registration in the inventory. But we are also inviting all Brusselers to report us the elevators and to contribute to the preservation of this remarkable heritage,” said Christophe Mouzelard, heritage adviser at Homegrade.
“Today is an important day for the old elevators,” said Frédéric Bequet of the non-profit association Save Our Elevators. “We really welcome the historic elevator inventory project launched by the cabinet of Secretary of State for Heritage Pascal Smet and implemented by Homegrade and Urban Brussels. We invite all co-owners of old elevators to contact Homegrade and contribute to the inventory of this wonderful heritage!”