Brussels has decided to rename a street in honor one of artist René Magritte’s most well-known paintings, Ceci n’est pas une rue (This is not a street), based on his 1929 work, Ceci n’est pas une pipe (This is not a pipe).
The suggestion came from the nearly 1,400 submissions received from the public in response to an initiative to regenerate a former industrial district in the north of the city. Rather than simply name new streets after famous Belgians of the past, many of the winning submissions are intended to be quirky.
In one park, visitors can follow Better World Path, Happiness Way, or Dreams Drive, named Drèves des rêves or Dromendreef since Brussels is a bilingual city, speaking French and Dutch.
The competition is the result of a movement to rename many city streets across Europe after women, since few bear females names. Earlier this month, activists unofficially renamed many Dutch streets after women, after discovering that only 12% had female names in large cities.
Belgian citizens have been tasked with naming 28 streets, alleys, squares and walkways that comprise the former industrial zone of Tour & Taxis. The final names were selected by a jury of city officials, local heritage experts and property developer Extensa, which purchased the abandoned site from the government in 1999.
The former railway station and inland port district housed storage facilities, customs buildings, and post offices. By the early 1990s, the area had become obsolete after freight lines were abandoned for truck transport, and European customs standards reduced imported goods.
Kris Verhellen, chief executive of Extensa, said, “For me, it was quite a surprise that there were quite a lot of soft values in the street names that were proposed. I thought it was very moving because we are so used to being so negative about this city.”
Two Belgian women have been chosen among the numerous name suggestions: legendary filmmaker Chantal Akerman, who died in 2015, and Belgium’s first female doctor, Isala Van Diest, who fought against sexism in the medical establishment.
Verhellen said not all choices were well-received by those advocating for more female representation. Place des grands hommes, which was translated as “great people” rather than “great men,” was actually proposed by a woman, who said, “We are all des grand hommes”.
Though most streets will be private, the larger ones that lead to the site, which is expected to be completed in 2020, will be public. Not all suggestions were successful. The jury rejected Rue du gentrification, arguing that nearly 25% of the newly-built apartments were affordable housing.
Foreign celebrity names were also rejected, though a number of Belgian staples made the cut. Alleys in the railway station will be named after Belgian foods, such as kriek (cherry beer), endives, pralines, and frites.