If you walk in the streets of Brussels, you might not immediately see it. But once you start paying attention, you will notice the decorated balconies and the colorful glass details in the facades of many houses. Art Nouveau is very present in the city. Not just in the city center, but also in other parts of the Brussels capital region: Ixelles, Uccle, Jette, Etterbeek, Forest, Saint-Gilles, Schaerbeek and so on. It’s a main attraction for tourists and there are some guided tours that show you the most important buildings, but it’s not for free. Prices go up to €200! I think it’s a lot more fun to discover the houses just by taking a walk in the neighbourhood. It’s not that easy to find a good map of Art Nouveau walking tours online, so we created or own walking tour on Google Maps, based on an Art Nouveau guide we found on VisitBrussels (see attachment below). It takes about 60 minutes walking and for now we just did a part of Ixelles and Saint-Gilles. We still have a lot more te discover.
But before we start, It seems important to tell you something about Art Nouveau. It’s an architecture movement that started around 1890 in Europe, also called Jugendstil. In that period, new technology was being introduced in the daily modern life, like in the field of traffic and industry. Life was moving a lot faster than before, and some architects wanted to make this fast way of living a bit more pleasant. They wanted to make useful things (like buildings, lights, chairs and staircases) a lot more visually attractive. In Brussels, architects like Victor Horta, Henry van de Velde and Paul Hankar had a lot of influence, until today. Unfortunately, a lot of the buildings constructed in that period have not been maintained as they should have been and some of them became even squats. There are some typical elements in Art Nouveau that you’ll see coming back in the different pictures here below: elements of nature, movement, ornaments and the use of iron or wood in the balconies and doors.
We started or tour in the Saint Boniface area in Ixelles. This is an example of a door with elements from nature.
These two houses are right next to each other and yet they are so different.
Detail of the balcony.
This is the Tassel House, created by Victor Horta in 1893. It’s not the most impressive building, but they say that it’s really spectacular on the inside. I’m not sure that you can visit it, but if you do, it will probably be reservation only and it will cost you. Too bad that there were cars in front of the building.
This one is called the Otlet House and is designed by Octave van Rysselberghe. It looks a bit different, but it’s also Art Nouveau. The furniture on the inside is created by Henry van de Velde.
Detail of the entrance.
A house with advanced facade and some ornaments, also typical for Art Nouveau.
This is a detail I’ve spotted inside a building. It’s hard to see it from the street, but if you look closely you can see the word ‘café’.
This is the Ciamberlani house, designed by Paul Hankar in 1897. It’s the most impressive building I saw during our walk. Albert Ciamberlani was an artist that gave the order to Hankar to built this house and he made the drawings on the facade himself.
Details of the drawings.
This is the signature of Paul Hankar on one of his buildings.
And this was his private house in Saint-Gilles, of course designed by himself.
A close up of the symbols he used.
Noticed the tourists? They are waiting at the entrance of the Horta Museum in the Rue Americaine in Saint-Gilles. It used to be his private house and studio. We didn’t go in because we didn’t want to spent money, but it’s high on my wish list of things to see!
The admission fee is €8, but remember that it’s forbidden to take any pictures. For more info, check http://www.hortamuseum.be.
If you would like to see the inside without going to the museum, there are some pictures on the website, or in the book ‘Jugendstil’ that you can buy in the Taschen store close to the Central Station in Brussels.
Our last stop is the Solvay House designed by Victor Horta in 1894.
The Solvay House is located in the Avenue Louise 224. As you can see in the next picture, Art Nouveau is all about details. Horta even thought about designing the house number.
I hope you feel inspired, because there is a lot more Art Nouveau to discover in Brussels! If you don’t want to search by yourself or book a tourist guide, you can always buy the Art Nouveau map at the Brussels Info Point for €5 (Rue Royale 2). Feel free to leave a comment if you have a question. See you next time!
Art Nouveau Guide (found on visitbrussels.be)
* The first picture is the house of Saint Cyr at the Ambiorix square (Schuman area), made by the architect Gustave Strauven in 1900.