Hidden Belgium: Sofina

Hidden Belgium: Sofina

The plaque on the building on the Rue du Champ de Mars in Brussels doesn’t give much away. It simply says that this massive and rather forbidding building was occupied from 1907 to 2001 by a company called Sofina.

You need to do a bit of digging to find out more. Founded in 1898, Sofina was an investment company that originally specialised in electricity generation and tramways. It ran tram networks in cities across the world, including Buenos Aeres.

After the First World War, the company installed a high-voltage laboratory in the building. But in 2001 it moved out, and the building was redeveloped. The interior was gutted, leaving just the original façade, and a huge glass atrium was added.

The new building was renamed Mondrian, after the Dutch abstract artist. It is now leased to the European Union. Behind that rather forbidding façade, EU civil servants now work on the union’s research and innovation policy.

Derek Blyth’s hidden secret of the day: Derek Blyth is the author of the bestselling “The 500 Hidden Secrets of Belgium”. He picks out one of his favourite hidden secrets for The Brussels Times every day.

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