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Discover Benelux | Feature | Brussels’ Art Deco
then reticent about inhabiting such spaces. Luxurious versions soon arose, as witnessed by the eight-storey Palais de la Folle Chanson, with its very refined communal areas, created by the architect Antoine Courtens in 1928.
Art Deco readily acknowledges its borrowings from other styles and cultures. In Belgium, for example, Africa and the Congo constitute an important source of inspiration for artists and makers. The aesthetics of the ocean liner likewise prove inspirational.
From leisure to functionality Connecting society through architecture
In the city centre numerous leisure facilities were built. Especially since in the early 1920s, after the privations of the Great War, the population was hungry for pleasure. Hotels, cafes, restaurants, cinemas and theatres, shops and department stores, even (in a more functional strain) one of the biggest car showrooms in Europe – the Citroën building – are put up.
In Brussels the style is applied across various project: as much for prestige, like the national basilica Sacré-Coeur de Koekelberg – at the time the second largest religious edifice in the world – or the Administrative Building of the Forest district, as for more modest constructions such as the numerous social housing developments in west Brussels. Important events preceded this profusion. In 1919 the National Society for Affordable Dwellings was created, which stimulated the construction of social housing: garden cities. Straight away Brussels possessed several remarkable examples of these, then consisting of small multiple-occupancy blocks.
Palais de la Folle Chanson, architect Antoine Courtens, 1928.
In parallel, and following the enactment of the 1924 law making co-ownership legal, the idea of living in apartment blocks began to seduce the middle classes, until
Of course at the start of the 1930s the crisis slows economic activity, but it doesn’t stop Brussels from hosting the International Exposition in 1935. That same year major works recommence in the city centre, for example the construction of the Nord-Midi railway junction. These projects only came to full completion with the inauguration of Victor Horta’s last masterpiece, the Central Station in 1952.
MAIN IMAGE OPPOSITE: The mansion of David and Alice van Buuren, architects Léon E. Govaerts and A. Van Vaerenbergh, 1924-1928. OPPOSITE: Koekelberg Basilica, architects Albert Van Huffel and Paul Rome, 1926-1971. ABOVE: Palais de la Folle Chanson, architect Antoine Courtens, 1928. BOTTOM LEFT: Garden city Le Logis in Watermael-Boitsfort, architect Jean-Jules Eggericx, 1921-1927. BOTTOM RIGHT: Piano bar l’Archiduc, rue Antoine Dansaert, architect F. Van Ruyskenvelde, 1937.
Issue 14 | February 2015 | 57
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