Salvage and reuse of construction materials in Brussels from 1900 to 1960
: Tracing materials sourced from demolition works for the North-South Junction

Scriptie/Masterproef: Master's Thesis


The Brussels Capital Region currently aims to take part in a shift towards a circular construction sector. However, the situation in twentieth-century Brussels offers a mostly undiscovered perspective on the topic. The construction of the North-South Junction (1903-1958) was one of the major urban renewal projects in the heart of the city. The construction demanded large-scale demolition works but also indicated a period with great potential for the reuse sector. By means of eight cases the flow of materials salvaged from demolished buildings is explored in this research, revealing a sophisticated reuse sector.
Different overlapping actors took part in the reuse process of construction materials or whole building parts. Until far into the twentieth century, the city of Brussels sold buildings to be demolished to demolition contractors, who paid for the old materials. Contractors precisely dismantled constructions and sold the second-hand materials at the demolition site or at their depots. Occasionally, the city of Brussels took possession of old materials, stored, and sold these from the city depot. Other involved actors were antiquarians, architects, second-hand traders, bailiffs, and the Comité d’Etudes du Vieux Bruxelles. However, evolutions throughout the twentieth century, such as a changing mindset and the appearance of new demolition techniques, gradually ended the reuse practices in Brussels.
This research concludes that the reuse of construction materials could be self-evident in the twentieth century because different actors with their own place and infrastructure in the city collaborated. Highly important in this process was the group of demolition contractors that arose at the end of the nineteenth century in Brussels. However, their profession was forced to change by evolutions during the twentieth century.
Datum prijsjun 2021
Originele taalEnglish
BegeleiderIne Wouters (Promotor) & Jelena Dobbels (Promotor)

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