Okay, it’s been a while… But I moved, and changed jobs, and have done other things, so my diligence with the blog has slid a little. But at least you haven’t waited for naught, because Belgium has some serious architecture. Unfortunately, it’s not always open. I trekked it to Villa Empain, the Art Deco masterpiece I had planned to see, to find it closed. So I got my kicks elsewhere.
Thankfully, the van Buuren Museum was open – another place that puts Bruxelles’ design nous on display. The house’s exteriors characterise the Amsterdam school of architecture, while the interiors are pure Art Deco goodness (the dining room had me swooning). The house was bought by a banker and his wife in the 1920s, who dubbed it a ‘private memory house’ and put it on public display upon their passing in the ’70s. It has an accompanying Alice in Wonderland-esque garden, too, if that’s your kind of thing (incidentally, the owner’s name was Alice van Buuren…).
I, of course, lost the accompanying notes discussing the house, which is a shrine to modernist design and serious art collection (various works by the Masters were donated by the van Buurens to museums worldwide). But the pictures are what you’re keen to see, right?
The garden is a pretty serious creation. Part Art Deco rose garden, part English picturesque, it has a real life maze, which, as you can imagine, amused this child. It now covers about 1.2 ha worth of land. The rose garden (which was apparently used for garden parties. I’d like a rose garden for my parties, thanks) was established prior to the house being built, and was designed by Jules Buyssens. The picturesque garden, meanwhile, is accented by Japanese maple trees, a Japanese wild lemon tree (‘thorns of Christ’), and a wild Chinese apple tree.
Rene Pechere (my, what a French name you have!) designed the maze in 1968. It was created to mark the occasion of the Israeli Ambassador’s departure.
Whereas Berlin was all post-communist urbanism smashed up against grand old pre-war structures, Brussels was defined by being straight-up pretty, like a miniature Paris. It had an alternative vibe, but a safe one, and one of its quirkiest features was the odd piece of colourful street art that’d pop up around the place. Some of my favourite residential spots from roaming around the city are below.