Palais 12 will rock the capital

  • The capital finally gets its big concert hall.
  • Palais 12 has repositioned Brussels in the music market with its 18,000-seat capacity.
  • The first big concert: Mylène Farmer

Early Friday afternoon workers finished preparations to make everything perfect for the inauguration of the Palais 12 concert hall. After about a year of work the Heysel Exposition Park’s Palais 12 has become Belgium’s largest indoor concert venue, repositioning Brussels in the national and international markets.

Within the capital there are several spaces that can hold 2,000 spectators, such as the Ancienne Belgique or the Cirque Royal. Then there’s Forest National with 8,000 seats, and the King Baudouin stadium with room for 40,000 spectators. International artists such as Lady Gaga or Pink use the Antwerp Sportpaleis with 15,000 seats for their concerts.

“We can’t allow Brussels not to have a large concert hall,” said Brussels minister-president Rudi Vervoort (PS). “Personally, I grew up with Forest National. It gave me some great musical memories, but I think the hall has grown old with me. At least now I won’t have to spend hours looking for a parking place in Antwerp to see a concert.”

A million EUR for acoustics

Palais 12 is the first part of Neo, the redevelopment project for the Heysel plateau. The Brussels Expo company, which belongs to the City of Brussels will manage the hall, Neo and Parking Lot C. It hopes to host 100 events when it reaches cruising speed, but to keep the peace with its neighbors none can be held at the same time as a football match. Obviously, if Anderlecht one day becomes the home team in the new stadium, planning will get complicated. In the meantime 12,000 parking spots are available in Parking Lot C, and an access route has been put in place for spectators. The site is also well served by public transportation and Stib may put in additional subway trains for major events.

The hall can hold up to 18,000 people but is scalable thanks to retractable rows of seats. “We will be available for events of a minimum of 4,000 seats,” explains Denis Delforge, director of Brussels Expo. “Its maximum configuration, allows for 5,700 seats and standing room for 12,000. The demand in the industry is real, and experts seem to love the acoustics. We’ve invested a million euros just for that.” In total the hall has 300 baffles and 2 bass-traps. The 11,500 square meters of rafters have been treated with absorbent foam and over 1,500 square meters of walls have been equipped with specifically treated acoustic material. The results are striking. Even in the back, the sound of a saxophone is clear. It sounds as though the musician is just a few meters away.

“We’ve also emphasized visibility,” adds the City of Brussels’ alderman for Tourism, Philippe Close (PS). “It’s a true concert hall, not a transformed arena. No matter where they are seated, spectators can see the whole stage. And we’ve created a VIP area with separate access.” Palais 12 will cost the City of Brussels 22 million EUR. The city hopes to turn a profit within 10 years if one hundred dates are reserved each year. There will be concerts, but there will also be sporting events (a basketball competition and a boxing match are already scheduled), theatrical productions and events like the Batibouw auto show.

It’s also a positive move for jobs. Ten have already been created and Brussels residents, who will tend bar, provide security in the parking lot, seat the audience, and so forth, will snap up thousands of hours. In addition, spectators will almost certainly visit neighborhood restaurants, providing additional benefits. “If artists who no longer come to Brussels start returning to the capital, we will have won our bet for the prestige of our city,” Philippe Close concludes.

 

VANESSA LHUILLIER

 

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