Gijs Van Vaerenbergh

108 Grotto Photo 01 Photo Lukas Claessens
108 Grotto Photo 02 Photo Lukas Claessens
108 Grotto Photo 03 Photo Lukas Claessens
108 Grotto Photo 04 Photo Lukas Claessens
108 Grotto Photo 05 Photo Lukas Claessens


Grotto is a sculptural work that involves both construction and demolishing. In the public garden of the Palace of the Academies in Brussels, the work proudly stands in front of the palace. It was created in response to a call by the Brussels-Captial Region to design an ‘urban folly’ within the public space.

First, a rectangular volume (2,4 x 2,4 x 4,8m) was built in brick. A typical Flemish lightweight and large format construction brick was chosen, mostly used for structural purposes and hidden behind stucco, a facade brick or any other cladding. Subsequently, this pristine masonry volume underwent selective demolition with sledgehammers, leaving only three columns intact. Through this sculptural act of subtraction, the columns seamlessly blend with the plinth and top in an organic shape. This process unveils the internal structure of the construction brick, which adds to the dialectics of neat and rough, constructed and carved.

As a romantic ‘grotto’, the work presents a fully artificial but organic structure that takes up a prominent position in the garden. Its formal qualities remind us of stalactites in naturally formed caves, or the concrete drips in their artificial counterparts. Similarly (and partly because its origin as a pristine volume), the sculpture takes on the appearance of a structure with a roof held up by columns. These tensions exist in Grotto, making it perhaps a quintessential folly to contemplate in the garden.

Urban Brussels


Palace of the Academies, Brussels (BE)

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