Ieper, perhaps better known outside of Belgium as Ypres (though most people there don’t say it the French way, seeing as it’s in West Flanders), is a curious place, drawing many World War I tourists (including me, this past spring) to a central hub of many of the decisive battles from that horrific epoch 100 years ago.
Like many medieval towns in Europe, Ieper was damaged during one of the great 20th century continental slaughters, but—as emphasized repeatedly by our guide—it, in particular, was more or less completely destroyed during WWI. Meaning all the “old” buildings you see are in fact clever reproductions, patched up and smoothed over less than a century ago. This is also often the case with temples in Japan, as hinted at in one of our previous posts.
Walking around the town today, you will also see demolition and renovation, modern construction forms of course, alongside the reconstructed—illusionary, really—medieval elements. (A future post will showcase some Deco and more modern elements that have been sneaked into the town.)
History aside, an anachronistic and surprisingly delightful part of the town is the modest train station (compare it to the majesty—as apotheosized by W.G. Sebald—of Antwerp Station): the platform itself is nothing to speak of, though the Crusader icon swabbed onto rectilinear granite panels and gentle multicolour mosaic apertures (Mondrian meets stained glass?) on its exterior walls divulge its modernist renovations (apparently, the station was opened in 1854, though no doubt few of those original elements remain).
It is the gentle obtuse angles of the roof over the waiting area and elevator, located directly northeast of the platform—clearly mid-century in influence, if not construction (a perfunctory search turned up little on the station’s architecture, though this element is likely a very recent addition)—that spark the most delight, purposefully 20th century—as opposed to the rest of the town, which could be accused (faultlessly, of course) of trying to be from another, much more ancient, era.
Of course, one can always choose to ignore this aesthetic clash of ages and retreat to the mind-numbing white-bread Belgian pleasures of frites and Jupiler, as this correspondent—against his better instincts—ultimately may have done: