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Brussels region buys Art Nouveau treasure, the Horta-designed office of van Eetvelde

17:18 05/09/2022

The Brussels Region has bought an Art Nouveau house designed by Victor Horta thanks to a €3.5 million financial package by the federal Beliris fund, reports VRT.

Brussels state secretary for heritage Pascal Smet (Vooruit) says the acquisition ensures the iconic Unesco world heritage building will reopen to visitors (pictured above left). 

The flamboyant yet refined property on the corner of Palmerston Avenue neighbours the Hôtel van Eetvelde (pictured above right). It was built as an extension to house the office of Baron Edmond van Eetvelde, although the two buildings are now separate entities.

Pascal Smet (Vooruit) says the acquisition by the region was good news for the public. Guided tours of the Art Nouveau property will start from early 2023. Brussels also hopes to bring the house and the mansion together again, even though it does not own the latter. 

"Our dream is to connect the two buildings. It will still take some time. But when you can dream, you can do it," he said.

Art Nouveau jewel

van Eetvelde office - Pascal Smet

Baron van Eetvelde, a diplomat and former advisor to King Leopold II, commissioned Victor Horta to design the house at the end of the 19th century, when the Art Nouveau movement was in its infancy. 

It became one of the architect's most beautiful works, in terms of the layout of the interior, the distribution of light and the use of coloured materials.

In 1885, van Eetvelde was appointed an administrator of the Congo Free State. He negotiated the demarcation of the territory's borders with France, Great Britain and Portugal and later oversaw the colonial exhibition in Tervuren.

There are references to the Congo in the interior of the house, with Horta using materials and motifs from the former colony. In the hall, a mosaic has vines running through it and stained glass windows depict stylised leaves and flower stems. The dining room retains its waffled wall coverings in ochre, green and brown, depicting plants, elephants and starfish.

Art Nouveau interpretation centre planned

Office Van Eetvelde

The federal minister Karine Lalieux (PS), responsible for Beliris, the fund that supplied the money for the purchase, said: "This will bring new life to the building. It will provide an interpretation centre for Art Nouveau." 

"Its planned opening to the public will undoubtedly also provide us with an additional asset to attract tourists and visitors," said Brussels Minister-President Rudi Vervoort (pictured above centre).

With 2023 designated the Year of Art Nouveau, the opening of the van Eetvelde office will be a cornerstone of Brussels’ heritage offer. It joins other architectural jewels open to the public, Hotel Solvay, Maison Cauchie and Hotel Hannon.

Smet (pictured above right) added: “Brussels is the worldwide capital of Art Nouveau. This purchase is in line with our strategy and ambition to strengthen our position and give Brussels an even more international appearance.”

Photos: courtesy office of Pascal Smet

Written by Sarah Crew