Economic, political and cultural
Location and site
An esplanade of approximately 110 m x 75 m, of irregular shape almost like a rectangle, located in the middle of the old city (Pentagone), east of the central boulevards, namely on the former right bank of the Zenne River, which was removed at the end of the 20th century.
The Grand-Place of Brussels is located on the site of a former sandbank between two brooks flowing into the Zenne River. The first known written mention of the low market or the “Nedermerckt” dates back to 1174. The greater part of the southwestern side is dominated by the city hall, built in the first half of the 15th century and completed by a left wing during the reconstruction that followed the bombings of 1695. Since the Middle Ages, its functions have not changed: it is the seat of the politic representation of the commune.
The House of the King is in front of it. The present building, rebuilt between 1873 and 1895, in a flamboyant gothic style, has housed the municipal museum since 1884, first of all limited to one floor, before occupying the entire building in 1926.
The houses that make up the remainder of the built front of the square are of the baroque style characterizing the era of the reconstruction of the city after 1695. Although very individualized, they blend into the composition whose unity is undeniable. Still today, they are identified by a name that they have had for the most part since the Middle Ages. They were built on narrow and deep pieces of land, and some of them were bordered by dead ends that led to yards inside islets. With this system, quite a few houses had many separate accesses, justified by their various functions (business on the ground floor, corporation room on the first room, lodging on the higher levels
Criterion ii: The Grand-Place is an outstanding example of the eclectic and highly successful blending of architectural and artistic styles that characterizes the culture and society of this region.
Criterion iv: Through the nature and quality of its architecture and of its outstanding quality as a public open place, the Grand-Place illustrates in an exceptional way the evolution and achievements of a highly successful mercantile city of northern Europe at the height of its prosperity.
- Founded in the 10th century, the city of Brussels drew its wealth from craftsmanship and trade. As early as the 12th century, it was a main economic crossroad on the route between the North Sea and the south of Germany.
- In the 13th and 14th centuries, a few patrician stone houses (the “steenen”), cloth, bread and meat markets, and wooden houses that were not in a straight line surrounded the square.
- In the 14th and the 15th centuries, many major reconstructions modified the aspect of the square forever. A new cloth market was built southwest of the square; the city expropriated an islet on the northeast to straighten the line. Then, the present city hall was built progressively between 1451 and 1456, in front of the cloth market. A new bread market was built in 1405 and the entire southeastern side was rebuilt by the communal authorities in 1441.
- During the 16th and 17th centuries, the bread market was turned into the House of the King and many homes were rebuilt, often by rich corporations, and updated. Of baroque inspiration, the reconstructions of the most recent façades were made out of stone.
- From August 13 to 15,1695, the city was bombed to ruins by the troops of Field Marshall de Villeroi by order of the King of France Louis XIV, and was widely destroyed. There only remained a few façades, among which those of the House of the King and the City Hall, as well as its belfry tower.
- Despite the major damage, reconstruction was done quickly, so much so that in the first years of the 18th century, the city was completely rebuilt. On that occasion, the alignment of some of the streets was rectified and the streets were made wider. As for the rebuilding of the Grand-Place, it was particularly controlled, as the reconstructions were approved by the Magistrate only on the basis of the tabling of a façade project, under a municipal order of 1697.
- After a slow deterioration, still made worse by the exactions of the French revolutionaries in 1793, the Grand-Place raised again the interest of the communal authorities after the independence of Belgium, which occurred in 1831. As early as 1851, but mostly starting from 1883, public and private buildings surrounding the Grand-Place were systematically renovated. This vast campaign ended in 1920.
Major Town Houses of the Architect Victor Horta (Brussels)
Artistic and architectural
Location and site
The four major town houses – Hôtel Tassel, Hôtel Solvay, Hôtel van Eetvelde, and Maison & Atelier Horta – located in Brussels and designed by the architect Victor Horta, one of the earliest initiators of Art Nouveau, are some of the most remarkable pioneering works of architecture of the end of the 19th century. The stylistic revolution represented by these works is characterised by their open plan, the diffusion of light, and the brilliant joining of the curved lines of decoration with the structure of the building.
Criterion (i): The Major Town Houses of Architect Victor Horta in Brussels are works of human creative genius, representing the highest expression of the influential Art Nouveau style in art and architecture.
Criterion (ii): The appearance of Art Nouveau in the closing years of the 19th century marked a decisive stage in the evolution of architecture in the West, prefiguring subsequent developments, and the Town Houses of Victor Horta in Brussels bear exceptional witness to its radical new approach.
Criterion (iv): The Major Town Houses of Architect Victor Horta in Brussels are outstanding examples of Art Nouveau architecture brilliantly illustrating the transition from the 19th to the 20th century in art, thought and society.
These four houses, that bear testimony to the immense talent of this Belgian architect, achieve a remarkable sense of unity with meticulous attention to the smallest detail of the building, from the door handle or bell to the least piece of furniture.
Horta, one of the earliest instigators, heralded the modern movement of Art Nouveau architecture. The stylistic revolution represented by these works is characterised by their open plan, diffusion and transformation of light throughout the construction, the creation of a decor that brilliantly illustrates the curved lines of decoration embracing the structure of the building, the use of new materials (steel and glass) and the introduction of modern technical utilities. Through the rational use of the metallic structures, often visible or subtly dissimulated, Victor Horta conceived flexible, light and airy living areas, directly adapted to the personality of their inhabitants.
Artistic renewal in European architecture
Location and site
When banker and art collector Adolphe Stoclet commissioned this house from one of the leading architects of the Vienna Secession movement, Josef Hoffmann, in 1905, he imposed neither aesthetic nor financial restrictions on the project. The house and garden were completed in 1911 and their austere geometry marked a turning point in Art Nouveau, foreshadowing Art Deco and the Modern Movement in architecture. Stoclet House is one of the most accomplished and homogenous buildings of the Vienna Secession, and features works by Koloman Moser and Gustav Klimt, embodying the aspiration of creating a ‘total work of art’ (Gesamtkunstwerk). Bearing testimony to artistic renewal in European architecture, the house retains a high level of integrity, both externally and internally as it retains most of its original fixtures and furnishings.
Criterion (i): Created under the supervision of the architect and interior designer Josef Hoffmann, the Stoclet House is a masterpiece of the creative genius of the Vienna Secession through its aesthetic and conceptual programme of Gesamtkunstwerk, through its architectural vocabulary, through its originality, and through the exceptional quality of its decoration, of its furniture, of its works of art and of its garden. It is a remarkably well conserved symbol of constructive and aesthetic modernity in the west at the start of the 20th century.
Criterion (ii): Drawing on the values of the Vienna Secession and its many artists, including Koloman Moser and Gustav Klimt, the Stoclet House was recognised from the beginning as one of the most representative and refined works of this school. Created in Brussels, a key location for Art Nouveau, it exercised a considerable influence on modernism in architecture and on the birth of Art Deco.
The Stoclet House is an outstanding testimony to the creative genius of the Wiener Werkstätte. It was designed and built in Brussels from 1905 to 1911 by one of the founders of the movement, the Austrian architect Josef Hoffmann, of whose work it is the masterpiece. The Vienna Secession movement bears witness to a profound conceptual and stylistic renewal of Art Nouveau. Ever since its creation the Stoclet House has been and remains one of the most consummate and emblematic realisations of this artistic movement, characterising the aesthetic research and renewal of architecture and decoration in the west at the start of the 20th century. The Stoclet House decoration was the work of a very large number of artists from the Wiener Werkstätte, including Koloman Moser, Gustav Klimt, Frantz Metzner, Richard Luksch, and Michael Powolny. They worked under the guidance of Hoffmann to achieve a Gesamtkunstwerk (‘total work of art’), which is expressed simultaneously in every dimension – interior and exterior architecture, decoration, furniture, functional objects, and the gardens and their flower beds. From its creation the House inspired many architects in Belgium and other countries. It heralded Art Deco and the Modern Movement in architecture. It bears witness to the influence of the Vienna Secession, and the dissemination of its ideas in Europe at the start of the 20th century. It bears witness to a monument of outstanding aesthetic quality and richness, intended as an ideal expression of the arts. A veritable icon of the birth of modernism and its quest for values, its state of preservation and conservation are remarkable.
M. Philippe Close
Bourgmestre de la Ville de Bruxelles
Ville de Bruxelles
Hôtel de Ville Grand Place
Mme Paula Cordeiro
Site Grand-Place UNESCO
+32 (0)2 279 3136