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Brussels approves limited opening of Palais Stoclet

09:13 28/03/2024

Brussels heritage lovers will rejoice that Austrian architect Josef Hoffman’s Viennese Secession masterpiece the Palais Stoclet, which stands proud at the top of the Avenue de Tervuren topped by gleaming copper statues, is set to open to the public for up to 15 days a year.

The Brussels government has given the final go-ahead to a draft ordinance aimed at regulating the public opening of Unesco world heritage sites.

The legislation was drawn up in the context of the dispute between the Stoclet family and Brussels secretary of state for urban planning and heritage, Ans Persoons, over the currently inaccessible heritage site.

After unsuccessful reconciliation attempts, Persoons tabled a preliminary draft decree aimed at allowing a controlled opening of this type of building a few days a year. The Council of State broadly welcomed the text.

Following this approval, Persoons emphasised her wish to “meet the Stoclet family in a spirit of constructive collaboration. I am convinced that open dialogue and cooperation between the stakeholders are essential to enhance and preserve the Palais Stoclet,” she said.

Built between 1905 and 1911, the Palais Stoclet, uninhabited since 2002, was added to Unesco's world heritage list in 2009. This list contains buildings judged by Unesco’s world heritage committee as having "outstanding universal value".

Unesco said the stunning building commissioned for banker and art collector Joseph Stoclet was a “masterpiece of the creative genius of the Viennese Secession”, an Austrian adaptation of Art Nouveau.

Not only a jewel of Art Nouveau in Brussels, this “symbol of constructive and aesthetic modernity” also had “considerable influence on the birth of Art Deco”. But despite Unesco’s accolades, no one, bar family members, has managed to go through its doors.

The family has long argued that the building – entirely clad in white marble – is fragile and its interior with marble floors and priceless artworks and furniture would deteriorate if opened to the public.

Last year it also opposed, without success, the 3D reconstruction of the complex for Brussels Art and History museum’s Hoffman exhibition, which, unlike the palace, is open until 14 April.

Written by Liz Newmark