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Plans to classify Ixelles' Tenbosch park

09:48 11/04/2024

Beautiful Tenbosch park in Ixelles, near the Place du Châtelain, is worthy of classification, according to Brussels' heritage organisation, the Royal Commission for Monuments and Sites.

Its opinion on the green hilly area of about two hectares, which also includes a small tennis court, a playground and a sandpit, makes clear that the park should be classified, “because of its historical, scientific and aesthetic importance”.

The ball is now in court of the Brussels government, which in the coming weeks needs to make a decision and issue a decree on the park. Any classification will not however apply to villa Semet (named after its former owner, the dendrologist and tree specialist Jean-Louis Semet) which now houses the Indian Embassy and its grounds.

Tenbosch was formerly a private garden belonging to the Semet-Solvay family. It contains an arboretum with some 70 trees on the region’s "list of remarkable trees". Bought by the Brussels region in 1982, it was opened to the public four years later.

“This green space includes a large part of the arboretum and the botanical collection, created in the 1950s by Jean-Louis Semet and converted into a public park in the 1980s, according to the plans of landscape architect René Pechère,” the opinion said.

In 1885, the one-hectare site between the Chaussée de Vleurgat, rue des Mélèzes and rue Hector Denis was bought by the Semet family to build a chateau with a garage, orchard and vegetable patch.

Grandson Jean-Louis Semet increased the size of the grounds and built a more modern building, which now houses the Indian embassy. In the 1950s, helped by gardener Hector Noyer, Semet transformed the space into a botanical garden with an arboretum.

“Semet wanted to bring rare and interesting tree species to the park, which he often bought from the Hillier nurseries in England,” said Brussels Environment, the organisation responsible for maintaining all green spaces in the capital. “His intention was to create a collection, rather than an aesthetically refined garden.”

In the 1980s however, Semet decided to sell the site and arboretum. At the time, Ixelles commune considered accepting a proposal from real estate promoters to use the area for luxury accommodation. But locals, led by residents including Edouard Houtart, a Socialist party municipal councillor, rebelled against the plan. They called for Brussels politicians to save the site.

Houtart brought the plan to the attention of the then secretary of state, Cécile Goor, also Socialist, and following many discussions the region bought the park.

Almost 40 years later, welcoming the Royal Commission’s plan to classify the site, Houtart said that such a recognition would also bring additional security and a spotlight to Parc Tenbosch.

“The park is well maintained and respected by walkers,” he said. “If any more visitors come to the park following this classification, they will be respectful.”

Written by Liz Newmark