More great news for Art Nouveau aficionados in Brussels – Hôtel Van Eetvelde in the European district has opened its doors to the public! Built in 1895, Hôtel van Eetvelde is one of Victor Horta’s most important designs. Listed as a Brussels Art Nouveau monument, like three other Horta properties (the Horta House, Hôtel Tassel and the Solvay House), it has been part of the Unesco World Heritage List since 2000.
On Monday 15 May 2023, at the initiative of Brussels State Secretary for Heritage Pascal Smet and with the full support of federal Minister in charge of Beliris Karine Lalieux, Minister-President Rudi Vervoort and Brussels Minister for the Image of Brussels Sven Gatz, another important step has been taken in this Art Nouveau Year. Indeed, Hôtel van Eetvelde will be exceptionally opened to the public. Moreover, the glass dome restoration and the new Art Nouveau promotion and interpretation centre, “LAB·AN” have been unveiled. The opening and restoration of Hôtel van Eetvelde fits perfectly with Art Nouveau Year 2023.
Brusselers and visitors from around the world will now have access to this unique world heritage
“By opening not only the Horta House, the Solvay House, the Cauchie House and soon Hôtel Hannon, but also Hôtel van Eetvelde, we add another showpiece in the strategy to enhance the image of Brussels through our Art Nouveau masterpieces. Thanks to the coordinated efforts of the region and Beliris and the fruitful cooperation with the owners of the main building, visitors from all over the world will have the chance to discover this Brussels heritage. The extraordinary restored glass dome will be unveiled and will be the unique setting of the new Art Nouveau interpretation centre LAB·AN. Brussels is the capital of the Art Nouveau, of which it has some of the finest treasures. We are now making this extraordinary heritage accessible to all. It will become a priceless promotional tool for our region and the Brusselers can be proud of it!”, explained Pascal Smet, Brussels State Secretary for Heritage.
“Brussels breathes Art Nouveau. This art movement has helped shape the image of our city since 1890. At the end of the nineteenth century, Victor Horta and other brilliant architects and artists lit a fire of renewal in architecture and the arts. Today, more than 250 Art Nouveau buildings are partially or completely protected in our region. Many buildings of this unique and unparalleled heritage are open to the public. Today, in this special Art Nouveau year, we do the same with Hôtel van Eetvelde, of which the magnificent glass roof has now been restored.” says Sven Gatz, Brussels Minister responsible for the Image of Brussels.
“Brussels breathes Art Nouveau. This art movement has helped shape the image of our city since 1890. At the end of the nineteenth century, Victor Horta and other brilliant architects and artists lit a fire of renewal in architecture and the arts.Sven Gatz, Brussels Minister responsible for the Image of Brussels
New tourist and museum offer
As part of Art Nouveau Year 2023, the Brussels Region continues to open up its heritage and introduce this architectural movement to the general public. Art Nouveau is a tourist asset and should remain so. After the opening of the Solvay House and the Cauchie House, Hôtel van Eetvelde is yet another private building to reveal its treasures. Soon the same will happen with Hôtel Hannon.
Discussions between the Brussels Region and Synergrid, the building’s owner, revealed that they both wanted to enhance this remarkable heritage. This led to an agreement to open it to the public and to host events such as seminars, workshops and exhibitions throughout the theme year. By supporting various restoration and revaluation works of this unique heritage in the coming months and years, the Brussels Region hopes to continue working successfully with the owner, preserve this reunited heritage site and ensure its opening to the public.
From now, the public can discover the building every Saturday, Sunday and Monday through free visits or guided tours. Tickets can be bought online (via visit.brussels) or on site.
The restoration of a symbol, the glass dome:
Hôtel van Eetvelde is one of the most emblematic examples of Victor Horta’s architectural marvels. Edmond van Eetvelde wanted a place where he could receive clients and also live with his family. Not only the facade is typically Art Nouveau, but the highlight is the winter garden’s monumental glass dome.
As part of this theme year and the building’s opening, a five-month restoration has been completed. It was carried out by architect Barbara Van der Wee and her team, specialists in the work of Victor Horta, while Ghent-based workshop Mestdagh conducted the work on the glass dome.
The complex works included the restoration of the reception room, the complete cleaning and restoration of the stained glass windows, the repair of damaged structural elements, the interior ventilation of the main floor and an optimisation of the mechanisms used to maintain the glass dome. Other works, such as the dining room restoration, are included in the grant file and have yet to be carried out.
Because it is a listed building, which will soon open as a museum, the Brussels Region has contributed 1,362,587.82 euros to the restoration works.
Art Nouveau interpretation centre in the van Eetvelde office
Hôtel van Eetvelde has a perfect strategic location to suit as the Art Nouveau Year information point. This mansion is split into two parts. The Brussels Capital Region recently bought the right part to develop an art nouveau interpretation centre called LAB·AN, which will also offer various activities such as conferences and workshops. It will also host an exhibition where visitors can discover the main features of this movement and its links to colonisation. Moreover, this centre should serve both as a space for dialogue with contemporary creation and one for research and debate by questioning, among other things, its links to colonisation.
LAB·AN is operated by the non-profit association Culture et Patrimoine, which also manages the Halles Saint-Géry. Finally, the former van Eetvelde office now houses the headquarters of the general secretariat of the Réseau Art Nouveau Network (RANN). Brussels houses the international secretariat of this network, which unites the world’s major Art Nouveau cities: Vienna, Barcelona, Nancy, Budapest, Riga, etc.
Through this inauguration and opening to the general public, Hôtel van Eetvelde is starting a new chapter in its history. During 2023, the first studies for a heritage management plan will be launched to plan the various future renovations of the building. The facade renovation of the van Eetvelde office, recently purchased by the region, is being planned and studies for the facade lighting will soon be completed.
Victor Horta started the works on this mansion in 1895, when Art Nouveau was still in its early days. It would become one of the architect’s finest achievements. His genius is reflected in the layout of the volumes, the distribution of light and the incorporation of the latest techniques and materials for the time, especially for the ventilation of the rooms.
Edmond van Eetvelde, diplomat and adviser to King Leopold II, commissioned the building. In 1885, he was appointed General-Administrator for Foreign Affairs of the Congo Free State. He negotiated the demarcation of the territory’s borders with France, Britain and Portugal. In 1897, he supervised the colonial exhibition in Tervuren and was offered the title of baron by Leopold II.
For the interior, Victor Horta used materials from Congo and several motifs referring to the colony, while visitors were welcomed in the hall by mosaics with vines. Like plant stems, elegant colonets support the veined dome of which the stained glass windows depict stylised leaves and flowering stems that colour the incident daylight. The dining room, decorated with ornate shrubs, still has its embossed tapestry in ochre, green and brown tones, featuring plants, elephants and stars.
After the death of his wife in 1919, Edmond van Eetvelde himself divided the property into two separate properties, and the office, previously attached to the Hôtel, was separated from the main part.
Put up for sale in 2020, the van Eetvelde office was bought by the Brussels Region thanks to the financial resources of Beliris (+/- 2 million euros). Since mid-July 2022, the Region (through its Régie Foncière) has been the official owner.