The Maison des Associations Internationales (MAI) covering over 3,500 square meters of space is one of the largest resource centres in Europe for the non-profit sector, able to host up to 250 people in its conference facilities and over 80 staff of international and European associations in its permanent offices. In addition there are possibilities for international associations to make use of a flex office and an incubator for start-ups and to have an address at MAI.
The whole complex is a well-preserved and iconic example of modernistic architecture. The original building by Aerts and Ramon dates from 1954 and it is here at no. 40 Rue Washington that the office space is included on 4 floors behind an attractive façade. For such an early example of post-war architecture the use of space and light and the façade with its different materials, varying depths fitting in well with older buildings are striking features. It is a rare example of modern architecture which largely preserves not just its structure, but many original fittings.
In 1962, the entrance to the building underwent transformation and a one-storey conference centre was added which is well shown by the map of the ground floor: a large conference hall and a medium-sized room both equipped for interpretation and six working group meeting rooms. A “bar” for meals and refreshments and a “club” for informal gatherings are available for conference delegates. All rooms are lit by daylight and on one side of the building there is access to a walled garden and behind the conference centre to a green parking area.
and furnishings. The building reflects a period of optimism, progress and internationalism in the run-up to EXPO 58.
The façade of the building reflects a period of post-war optimism and reconstruction in the run-up to Expo 58 with its range of materials: reinforced concrete pillars, glass, slate, aluminium and glass and differing depths which is both ahead of its time and fits in well with the surrounding buildings. The building has contrary to most buildings of the modernistic period, preserved most of its original features, fittings and even furnishings. The MAI building is owned by the Régie des Bâtiments and is not a classified but its value and heritage are recognized.
In 2016, MAI was included in the Brussels Biennale of Modern Architecture. At a public meeting on 4 October 2016 at the MAI and two follow-up visits for the general public, an interesting narrative was presented in a booklet in English, French and Dutch entitled “Modernisms are shaping/ shaking the city”. According to this narrative a reappraisal is occurring of a style of architecture associated with whole scale demolition of older buildings and property speculation. It was also a period of belief in technocrats and experts leaving little room for citizen participation in the drive to modernize. As stated in the booklet, all this explains the vehement reactions against Modernism in the 1970s.
“Now, half a century later, it is time for a more objective evaluation and appraisal” and “we are still talking about worthwhile architectural heritage that has great potential for the future”.