Art Nouveau, which in French means ‘new art’, is a style architecture which dates back to the 19the century. The style is distinguished by the use of curved lines. Brussels has been hailed by many as the world’s capital city for Art Nouveau.
Significant characters in this movement all flocked to Brussels during this time for a meeting of the minds which created some of the most incredible examples of Art Nouveau on the planet. UNESCO have now noted some of these on their World Heritage Site list, making the Art Nouveau architecture in Brussels more important than ever.
Victor Horta is the most famous name you’ll come across when diving into the world of Art Nouveau in Brussels. He has been hailed as the key European Art Nouveau architect by many people in the field, and is said to be responsible for the movement of Art Nouveau from decorative arts to architecture. Many examples of his work can be found all over the city, but his first creation was Hôtel Tassel, the one building that is claimed to be the very first true example of Art Nouveau architecture. This building is one example of a UNESCO World Heritage site in Brussels; it was added to the list back in 2000 along with three other town houses that Horta designed.
There is also a Horta museum dedicated to the architect, which is based in his house and studio that he himself designed. Very few other spaces in Brussels will show you Art Nouveau in such a way when it was at its height in history. The interior of the building has been preserved to the greatest possible extent, showcasing perfectly what exactly Art Nouveau is and all the beauty that it signifies.
Hannon House is also another great example of Art Nouveau architecture in the city, and it’s currently home to the Contretype Photography Museum. This is your chance to get inside one of the fine examples of Art Nouveau buildings, and enjoy some photography at the same time. Keep an eye out for the lavish stairwells and stunning stained glass windows, classic elements in the Art Nouveau scene.
Considered to be one of the most beautiful examples of Art Nouveau in Brussels, The Cauchie House is also probably the most eccentric of them all. The building has a decorative painting across the top of the front façade, and like many buildings in Brussels it’s good to keep your eyes open and on the upper parts of these buildings in order to not miss these things. After the architects death the house went under a phase of neglect and by the mid-20th century it was found dilapidated and in disrepair. However, a couple of Art Nouveau enthusiasts came along and decided to rescue the building, and after 15 years of restoration it was finally opened to the public once more in 1994.
If you’d like to gain a deeper insight into the Art Nouveau culture in Brussels, there are numerous tours you can go on which will lead you to buildings and sites in the city that are integral to its Art Nouveau scene. You can find walking or biking tours, with a guide or self-guided, and tours which will take you exclusively to Horta hotspots or simply give you a mix of all kinds of examples from different architects. Visit www.visitbrussels.be to find a tour that’s right for you.
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