revel and roam, art nouveau art deco biennale, brussels, travel inspiration

The best way to discover Art Nouveau architecture in Brussels

November 20, 2013

On a rainy weekend in October, Howie and I met Saori in Brussels for the Art Nouveau & Art Déco Biennale. We spent the weekend hopping between a range of tours, dodging rain, and searching for the best Belgian waffles.

I hadn’t known that Brussels was such an important center for Art Nouveau. The movement originated there in the 1890s as a response to standardization and industrialization. At the turn of the century, Brussels was experiencing a period of prosperity and many indulged in pursuing the highly decorative style of the time. Today, preserved within the city of Brussels are over 200 places of interest that convey the styles of that era. A few of these sites are open to the public or can be rented for events. Luckily for us, every two years many of these architectural treasures are open to the public for the Art Nouveau and Art Déco Biennale.

During our two days we toured buildings ranging from moderate town house to mansion, apartment building to villa. Despite the excitement of walking through someone else’s house and ogling their antique furniture collection, we were eager to see how modern living was integrated into these historic spaces. The variety of tours gave us an appreciation of how the style was interpreted by different architects. Take for example Blerot, who was part architect and part businessman, developing many lots in the city. His works reflect his intentions, giving rise to more practical spaces and less flare. On the contrary, there was Max Hallet who designed the entire mansion specifically for the owner, only handing him the key once the house had been completed and furnished to his design. No details were spared and every inch of space toiled over.

As for contemporary living that really caught my eyes, it was the Ciamberlani house, by Max Hallet. There was a lovely curated mix of furniture and decorations from all time periods in a sophisticated neutral color palette. We stood staring at the space for quite some time and imagined living in that space. Just plain cool…

The Biennale was a wonderful way to understand more about these artistic and architectural movements, and to see how they took shape and developed in Brussels. Especially as a contrast to Art Nouveau in other places, such as Barcelona. It is great that there is such a community of Art nouveau enthusiasts providing passionate tour guides for this event in order to keep the history alive. As well as the owners of the buildings who have committed to huge restoration projects. The entire community made the experience come alive, rubbing off on us their passion and enthusiasm.

If you are interested to visit some of these buildings outside of the Biennale there are guided tours available at: http://www.voiretdirebruxelles.be/

Max Hallet Mansion, Victor Horta

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Ciamberlani House, Paul Hankar

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Cauchie House, home of Paul Cauchie

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Villa Empain, Michel Polak

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Le Palais de la Folle Chanson, Antoine Courtens

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House, Ernest Blérot

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Solvay Library, Constant Bosmans and Henri van de Veld

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