Published on May 19, 2023

"My vision is to add another layer!"

By Shana Devleschoudere
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Francis Metzger is the driving force behind an award-winning architectural practice (MA2) he founded in the early 80s, which commands respect both at home and abroad. and beyond our borders.

Francis Metzger is the driving force behind an award-winning architectural practice (MA2) he founded in the early 80s, which commands respect both at home and abroad. and beyond our borders.

This week, we continue to bring you the next LOBBY Spécial Immo magazine, with excerpts from an interview that will be of interest to many. And not just a little!
The new issue of LOBBY will be out on Tuesday June 6. It's an issue devoted to a very fashionable theme: "Innovations and Revolutions in the Real Estate Sector". New techniques, new regulations, original achievements, innovative projects... you'll find out all about this fast-changing profession.
Of course, experts will be on hand to shed light on the subject. Among them, Francis Metzger. He is the driving force behind a firm of architects he founded in the early 80s (MA²) that commands respect both at home and abroad.
This pure product of Brussels (he was born in the Marolles area), with numerous award-winning projects to his credit, is an enthusiast whose expertise and creativity are equally at home in the restoration of architectural heritage and in contemporary projects with a strong identity. So it was only natural to give him the floor. The full interview with Francis will be published in LOBBY, but here are a few extracts to whet your appetite.
One of the original features of Francis Metzger's thinking is his vision of the city, which is, to say the least, out of step with many of his colleagues: "I wrote a book with Luc Deleuze over 20 years ago. It was called 'The Recycled City' and went against the philosophy of the modernists of the last century, a philosophy that proposed a vision of the city in opposition to its history. Their wish was to destroy the city and build a different one. At the time, their approach also had a social content, which was to enable everyone to benefit from what had long been the lot of the privileged. But when you think like that, there's no longer any urban coherence. A city is a bit like a timeworn mille-feuille, with layers that have been added up over time to form its identity. With streets, squares and parks that are all living spaces. My vision is to add another layer, even if it means incorporating the mistakes of the past, rather than removing all the layers and rebuilding. I see this as an urban, ecological and responsible attitude. The vision of the city I propose is in keeping with the idea of time.
Metzger's achievements are countless. These include the Villa Empain, the Bibliothèque Solvay, the Autrique and Saint-Cyr houses, the Aegidium in Saint-Gilles, the Gare Centrale, the Galeries Louise, the new Théâtre Le Public in Uccle, the Royale Belge, the Serres Royales in Laeken, the Hotel Astoria and the Fontainebleau stables. And the list goes on...
So, the question inevitably arises: what is not his favorite project, but the most important in his eyes? "I'd have to say the Hotel Astoria, which in 2024 will provide our capital with the palace worthy of the great Parisian or Anglo-Saxon establishments it lacks. Built in 1910 for the Universal Exhibition, it has welcomed crowned heads for almost a century, without interruption. For a variety of reasons, it has been closed for the past seventeen years. It's a project of rare scale and complexity, encompassing five buildings around the original hotel, with different levels. The new Astoria will be much larger and more luxurious, with only slightly more rooms, bathrooms, wellness facilities, swimming pool, spa, 350 m² royal and presidential suites on the upper floors, and large terraces. As you can imagine, this involves considerable sums of money. However, it's not the size of the budget that makes the project difficult, but the coherent symbiosis we're aiming for between historic, refurbished and new parts. One of the feats of this renovation is the immense glass roof that overhangs the reception hall by more than two storeys, and which had disappeared in the post-war years. Its convex and concave glasses were no longer watertight. It weighed tons, so we researched and reconstructed it from old photos. We recovered the 1910 glass roof and brought the building into the 21st century. Let's be honest, that description alone makes us want to visit the new Astoria.
If we've managed to whet your appetite, catch up with the fascinating Francis Metzger in the next LOBBY and at our LOBBY Forum on Tuesday evening, June 6, at the CBR Building (register at
In the meantime, you should know that its MA2 office is also working on the highly complicated Palais de Justice de Bruxelles project. Which, in view of what's been said before, is rather reassuring. No ?