Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Art Nouveau in Belgium

Starting around 1890, and for the next two decades, Belgium was the European centre for the development of Art Nouveau. I spend many days traveling around different neighbourhoods in Brussels and Antwerp in search of good examples.

In Brussels I went to the home of Victor Horta, generally considered to be the countries premier architect working in this style. Sadly, some of his greatest works have been demolished, but his home has been retained and turned into a museum.In Antwerp, I was directed to Zunenberg, a district of very well preserved townhouses built in revival, eclectic and Art Nouveau styles. While I was impressed with a number of the streets…I was particularly intrigued by four houses built on the four corners of an intersection, each decorated with a different scene representing THE FOUR SEASONS!

Further down the street I came across this house with decorations illustrating DAY and NIGHT. I could not help but wonder about the discussion between the architects and builders that led to these projects!Looking at this housing, with its wonderful integration of architecture and art, I was motivated to come back and try and do a bit more with my future developments, especially those built with brick. With a little effort, and yes, a bit more money, one can really do something very special. In fact, I think it is more a question of ATTITUDE, rather than just MONEY. We in Canada do not think about the integration of art and architecture as much as the Europeans. Pity.


d.lemon said...

A rich tour of another unfamiliar place. Thank you! No wonder Hercule Poirot insists on being recognized as Belgian, not French. Struck, as in other such places, by the contrast between the sense of human scale in the older parts and that of the new. The glass towers could be anywhere and have that anonymous efficiency that can't be easily gainsaid but is entirely charmless. (Seen Jacques Tati's Playtime recently? It's just come out on Blu-ray. Superb.) But even big can be fantastic; New York's gothic and baroque, the Tudor towers and monumental churches. The desire today to preserve such places as these tiny perfect towns is so strong because there is no play or joy in the snazzy canyons.

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