Constructed from 1866 to 1883, this was the largest construction project of its time: a volume of 665,000 cubic metres was built on a surface area of 26,000m².
This building is the chief work of the architect Joseph Poelaert. His ambition to encompass an eclectic synthesis of the history of humanity in the architecture of a single building cost him dear.
He died in a deranged state of mind four years before the end of the work. Unfairly, the law courts building, which literally crushed the working-class district of the Marolles, became the ultimate symbol of the town-planning lunacies of the 19th century and of their social cost in terms of expropriations, expulsions and uprootings.
Other projects such as the vaulting of the Senne had much more serious social repercussions.