Major Town Houses
The Major Town Houses of the Architect Victor Horta (Brussels) are pioneering works of architecture in the Art Nouveau-style. The site consists of four houses: Hôtel Tassel, Hôtel Solvay, Hôtel van Eetvelde, and Maison & Atelier Horta.
Victor Horta was born in Ghent and lived between 1861 and 1947. He was one of the most prominent men in the Art Nouveau-movement, a new decorative style that developed in the late 19th century. Characteristics are for example the use of industrial materials like steel and iron in the visible parts of houses, new decorations inspired by nature, decorative façades of houses.
Most of these principles can be seen in the house that Victor Horta built for himself in the late 1890's. This house now is a museum.
Visit September 2002
The house I visited is the house where Horta used to live, and the only one you can visit. I joined quite a number of tourists, mostly Americans and Japanese. They were all dressed up, probably trying to blend in with the exclusive atmosphere in the rooms.
Most striking feature I found the spiralling staircase. When you look down from the highest floor (the 5th or so), it is as if you look into an elegant labyrint.
Note: as you are not allowed to take pictures inside, the small pics no. 1 and no. 3 are not mine, but © Musée Horta.
I was lucky enough to visit some of the Horta houses in October 2011 when they were opened to the public. I can see a Horta house from my window since I'm lucky to live close to one of them. The trail by walk or by bike is really worth it!
| Date posted: September 2012|
|Adrian Lakomy (Slovakia; currently Luxembourg):|
Visited only the House and atelier - this is site is absolutely beautiful. One of the best I have seen!
Would be great if other Houses could be accessible for public too (Stocklet house included!)
| Date posted: August 2012|
|Henry and Jessica Townsend (USA):|
A few years ago we were in Brussels and walked by the Tassel House. The front door was open, but we could see inside and see that repairs were being done. We were invited in and were dazzled. More wonderful than the Horta House. I do not know how often it is open, but our visit was a great treat. Wonderful pictures of the front stairway and floor as well.
|Ingemar Eriksson (Sweden):|
Ok, nice house and outstanding features but is it really worth an World Heritage? I think not.
Altougt, there are many reasons to keep the houses and they are a must see if you are fond of Art Noveau - Jugend.
| Date posted: June 2006|
|Ian Cade (England):|
These four houses are some of the finest city residences in Europe, and in my view the finest works of the Art Nouveau movement. The main problem is that the incredible interiors are mostly out of bounds for mere mortals. The exception is Musée Horta, which is my ‘Must See’ sight in Brussels. It is a fairly small museum but the incredible detail of design can be seen on every surface, even the most functional aspects of the interior, such as the door handles have been laboured over. The canopy at the top of the staircase is incredible.
Though they may look twee and escapist the buildings were actually at the forefront of technological advancement, using iron as the frame of the buildings and actually exposing it, as it was a revolutionary technique at the time.
Of the façades that can be seen Hotel Van Eetvelde is perhaps the finest, Hotel Solvay has some great details the ornament of the door and the numbers are great. Hotel Tassel from the outside looks pretty uninspiring, however inside lies perhaps the finest piece of Horta’s work, the mosaic floor and painted walls of the staircase are sublime. On two occasions I have even chosen to stand outside having a cup of coffee in the hope that the owner would walk by, take pity on me and allow me a quick glimpse, needless to say this has never happened.
There are many great Art Nouveau buildings in Brussels, my favourite is the Old England Building which now houses the Museum of Musical instruments. If you are keen on this style it is worth looking at ARAU.org as they run tours of the main buildings in both French and English, which sometimes allow you to see the impressive interior of Hotel Van Eetvelde.
There are many cities with great Art Nouveau flourishes; (Paris, Vienna, Chicago, Prague) however Brussels is the finest and it is right that Horta’s major works should be highlighted by their place on the list, hopefully this broader heritage can receive the same protection and attention, including the incredible Palace Stoclet which is on the tentative list but is facing the threat of its interior being broken up and sold.
I really love these buildings and a trip to Brussels would really not be complete unless you get to see something of these incredible works of art.
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