Chez [PIAS]

On a quiet street in the middle of the bustling city of Brussels sits a building with a history for making waves and a company with a philosophy to match. The old 1930s socialist newspaper building is the new home of the [PIAS] Group, a Brussels based international music company passionate about independent labels and artists. The name “PIAS” is a reference to the famous misquote from Casablanca, “Play it again, Sam.” Fitting for a music company, don’t you think?  

The famous father and son architecture duo Fernand and Maxime Brunfaut designed the building with socialist ideals in mind. From the 1930s to the 70s, the socialist paper, “Le Peuple,” meaning “The People,” thrived here with the three-story glass facade displayed printing presses hard at work. La Presse Socialiste (the socialist press) wanted to encourage transparency and the large glass windows served as a reminder and example.

This modern, glass facade remains today and, standing across from the newly re-inhabited Chez [PIAS] building, you can watch the [PIAS] Belgium employees twisting on their swivel chairs, hard at work, furiously typing on Macbooks and chatting with one another. And no wonder they look so busy, it is in these top two floors that their musical projects are conceived and created, produced and distributed. Some of the artists they support include Nick Cave, Oscar and the Wolf, Editors, alt-J, New Order, Girls in Hawaii and Bloc Party

At night, the Le Peuple building glowed golden with the bay windows and building’s sign lit-up like a beacon of socialism. The modernist, post-art-nouveau style symbolizing just that- modernity and progress.

For forty years, the building churned out over 100,000 socialist newspapers a day. However, in 1977 it stopped it’s presses forever. The building was left abandoned until the 21st century when the Principality of Asturias from Northern Spain decided to house their regional representation to the EU there. The Spaniards began extensive renovation to the building’s interior, but luckily left the facade largely untouched other than replacing the “le Peuple” sign with “Casa de Asturias.”   

Now the “Casa de Asturias” sign lays on the roof of the building, face toward the sky, as a reminder of what used to be, but is no longer. In 2012, the Spanish left the building and it was once again overrun with squatters until 2015 when the [PIAS] group decided it was the perfect fit and called it home, or, to be precise, Chez [PIAS].  

The building’s legacy of pushing boundaries and supporting the free flow of ideas lives on as PIAS continues to support independent artists not only in music but also in food. Renowned chef, Yannick Van Aeken, former sous-chef at NOMA, has opened a restaurant named “Humphrey” in the building and Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. The restaurant is located on the ground floor of the building next to PIAS’s small independent record store where you can peruse through their hand-picked selection of artists. 

In the basement of the building, the PIAS group has created a place for intimate concerts, book signings, and interviews. The space also hosts local artist exhibitions such as the current photo exhibition by Olivier Donnet, named oneminuteafterproject, featuring portraits of musicians as they step off the stage at the end of the night.  However, two abandoned printing presses remain there as well, a reminder of the building’s history.    

So, Chez [PIAS], here’s looking at you kid. We're excited to see the building's legacy continue. 

you may also love...

  • City Centre Revitalization

  • love, belgian, design, architecture, la fabrika, mad, fashion, centre, design, brussels, rotor, vplus, v+

    Make Me Mad

  • Labyrinth by Gijs Van Vaerenbergh

  • Mid-century Brussels