Banad – Weekend 2

First of all: what’s Banad you may be wondering? Well, Banad is short for Brussels Art Nouveau Art Deco, an event hosted by the non-profit Explore Brussels. It’s a ‘festival’ which takes place over three weekends in March and celebrates the beautiful Art Nouveau and Art Deco buildings in Brussels. Some of these are open to the public all year round, but a lot of them exclusively open their doors for this event. You have the chance to fulfil your nosiness and at the same time learn some interesting facts about the Brussels architecture scene. Sounds interesting? That’s what I thought. So I went and bought my ticket for eight visits spread over three Sundays. Here’s a glimpse of the second batch (find the first one here)!

fullsizeoutput_1df

Ancien atelier et maison du sculpteur Ernest Salu

I’m writing a more in-depth article about this visit later on this week, but I’ll give you a quick summary right here. Ernest Salu – actually there were three generations Ernest Salu – was a sculptor specialised in funeral art. The atelier started in 1872 and was/is located right next to the cemetery of Laeken. For the bourgeoisie, a well-made tomb was a way to establish themselves as important, even after death. That’s why a lot of them ordered their tombs well in advance when they were still alive and breathing. Ernest I, Ernest II and Ernest III obviously made a good living out of it, judging from the decoration of their atelier. In 1984, after the arrival of cheaper alternatives, the last Ernest closed the atelier and that was the end of it.

Not really though. The non-profit organisation Epitaaf made it their mission to take care of the cultural heritage that are the atelier and the remaining tombs by Salu spread all over the cemetery of Laeken and some other ones throughout the country. The volunteers not only organise tours, but they also make an effort of restoring the artworks little by little. The idea of a funeral arts atelier may sound a little distressing, but once you’ve seen it, you’ll be glad you did.

The atelier is not usually open to the public, but they make an exception for the Banad Festival and yearly open their doors as a part of the Belgian national heritage days. So if you want a glimpse – which I definitely recommend – check out the dates and clear your schedules!

(Normally it’s forbidden to take pictures inside, I obtained the right to do so thanks to Epitaaf. So don’t just take a snapshot when you visit, ask them first!)

Ancien atelier et maison du sculpteur Ernest Salu
Parvis Notre Dame 16
1020 Bruxelles
Website Epitaaf

I, Karl Stas [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons
Copyright Karl Stas

Hotel Tassel

Don’t be fooled by the name: Hotel Tassel is not actually a hotel. It was however the house of Professor Tassel and designed by the famous architect Victor Horta in 1893. Horta was working on the Maison Autrique and after seeing what he did there, Tassel gave Horta carte blanche to do whatever he wanted with the design of his house. The result? A composition of two seperate houses, one in the front and one in the back, connected by a staircase and a winter garden. Hotel Tassel was also the first Art Nouveau house: the Art Nouveau organisation was only founded in 1895, two years after the completion of Hotel Tassel.

What’s it like inside? First of all, the two houses have a different function. The one in front served as a more public space. Tassel’s students were welcome in the very first room of the house and he received friends there as well. There’s also a lot to say about the decoration. Victor Horta is known to put a lot of effort in every detail of the buildings he designed, not only on the outside but also on the inside. Glass and iron are important parts of the interior, creating a very light and open look. The stained glass windows were designed to reflect some of the owner’s interests. The ones in the smoking room represent an abstract impression of smoke, the ones in the hallway were inspired by Japanese art. Apart from that, symmetry is probably the most obvious property of the house – returning in the ceulings, doors, wallpaper… The so-called whiplash-design (coup de fouet) returns both on the floors and the hallway murals.

As Tassel was a freemason, Horta tried his best to integrate symbols of the freemasonry. And succeeded to do so. The hall downstairs is shaped like an octagon – an important part of the masonic culture. Seven stairs lead up to the living room. A flaming sun is pictured on the floor. And who knows what other secrets are hidden in the design of the building.

A consultancy agency currently occupies the building, which means it’s very rarely open to the public. Again Banad offers a nice way to get a look behind the scenes of an otherways private property. So be prepared for next year if you fancy a visit!

Hotel Tassel
Rue Paul Emile Janson 6
1000 Ixelles
Tripadvisor

 

Culture: Maison Autrique

Brussels has a lot to offer when it comes down to museums. From a Comics Museum to the Royal Botanical Gardens and everything in between. The architectural side of Brussels maybe lesser-known to some of you, but can’t be ignored. Especially the Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements are very well represented – which is exactly what I’m going to talk about today. On a gloomy Sunday I went to Schaerbeek to visit one of the earliest buildings Victor Horta ever designed: the Maison Autrique.

Maison Autrique

The building dates from 1893 and is the first memorable design from Horta. Who’s Horta you’re wondering? He was probably the most important Belgian Art Nouveau architect. He designed several buildings in Brussels and even has his own museum. Some of his creations have disappeared over the years, but this one was instead renovated in a way that best represents the original decoration dating from the 19th century.

Maison Autrique

The pictures may give you an idea of what the place looks like, but to be honest you have to visit it by yourself to truly see what it’s about. You feel a little bit like entering a world long gone. Everything, from stairs to wallpaper, has been thoroughly selected.

Maison Autrique

At the moment there’s an ongoing exhibition about Camille Jenatzy and ‘la Jamais Contente’. The engineer was born in Schaerbeek and was the first man ever to achieve 100km/hour. ‘La Jamais Contente’ was his vehicle of choice. His story is told throughout the building through short texts and some of his drawings. So even if you’re not an Art Nouveau-lover (but instead of that a car-lover), you should go give the exhibition a look.

Maison Autrique

Practical information

Maison Autrique
Chaussée de Haecht 266
1030 Schaerbeek
Website

Entrance is free every first Sunday of the month!