In less than 70 years, the nature of Saint-Gilles was replaced by an urban landscape still well preserved. This neighborhood isn’t known for its size but its people: 2.5 km2 for 45,000 inhabitants!
Obbrussel, the center of the town
The small village called once Obbrussel and placed around an old church (dedicated to Saint Gilles), was replaced in the nineteenth century to a lively and popular suburb.
At the end of the nineteenth century and after the industrial revolution, the neighborhood is embellished by new streets and collective spaces (Maison du Peuple). The population density has remained remarkable, as we can see in the high buildings.
Chausées and boulevards de ceinture
For centuries, the roads of Waterloo, Forest and Alsemberg have traversed through Saint-Gilles. These old roads have determined the structure of the neighborhoods settled thereafter, and the boulevards indicate the old frontier with Brussels, which the Hal Gate is the only remnant.
The Midi neighborhood
Close to the Midi Station, this is a regular neighborhood –strongly modified in recent years to accommodate the high speed train terminal– with ancient neoclassical houses. Today, le quartier du Midi is starting to transform to a business district.
Denominate it in honor of their queen Louise-Marie, this avenue has become the elegant promenade of Brussels, part of which is located in Saint-Gilles. This long avenue connects the center to La Cambre forest.
The royal park
Around 1875, King Leopold II wants equip the Forest and Saint Gilles districts with a large public park, which fortunately still remaines. It is in this area that the town leads in 1925 cheap housing, chaussée de Forest, Gisbert Combaz and Bosnia streets. The architects all worked in the same spirit, playing on the complementarity or contrast of materials and delivering an interesting social housing area.
The Schools district
Rhétorique, Lycée and des Étudiants streets… This neighborhood, called so because of the presence of many schools, is designed with bourgeois houses, and eclectic Art Nouveau on the facades. All the irregular shape streets (located to the northeast) and the classic pattern ones take us to Louis Morichar Place, which serves as children’s playground.
Le quartier Sud
Located south of the district, this bourgeois residential area was one of the last of Saint-Gilles to emerge. Designed by the town planner Victor Besme since 1892, its most visited places are the “fortress” of the ancient prison and the Hôtel de Ville.
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Source: Classes du patrimoine (© Ministère de la Région de Bruxelles-Capitale).