It might be a bit of a tourist trap but Victor Horta’s Brussels home should not be missed, if only for the amazing “swing-out” urinal.
Today the house and studio of Victor Horta stands as a monument to the great Art Nouveau movement. Situated in Rue Américaine and saved by the local authorities of Saint Gilles, it has been open to the public since 1969.
Horta remains Belgium’s leading Art Nouveau architect. And despite the valiant attempts of local authorities to demolish his works, Horta’s influence can still be seem all over Brussels. Even the remains of his demolished “Meeting place of the Socialists” have been put up at the Horta tram station.
For a small fee you can enter and marvel at the work of a man who put Belgium (albeit briefly) on the map of architectural sophistication. You may have to compete with busloads of tourists, but it is one of Brussels’ highlights.
Using a style which promoted the use of materials that were by the late 1800’s being produced on an industrial scale, he built a home of true originality and charm.
Entering the house you take a step backwards in time. A large spiral staircase, worked in elaborate iron and beautifully lit by a Tiffany glass skylight, dominates the structure. The stairs effortlessly guide you through the building and into the rooms.
Places to explore
There are plenty of nooks and crannies to explore given the house’s rather eccentric layout. As he strives to combine interior design with architecture, Horta’s attention to detail is second to none. Check out the furniture, door handles, mosaic flooring and internal toilets (especially his private urinal in the master bedroom).
Walking around, it feels more like a friends’ home than a museum. It has that “lived-in” feeling and, in truth, is a little bit tatty at the edges, but that just adds to the ambience. (It would be nice if someone could do something with the garden though).
This house is a historians dream. Perhaps they can date the wood chip wallpaper for us…
25 Rue Américaine
Tel: 02 543 0490
Fax: 02 538 76 31
Open: Tuesday to Sunday, 2pm to 5:30 pm.
Standard: EUR 7.00
Students and seniors: €3.50
Primary and secondary schools: €2.50
Photo credit: Purple