World Heritage #1005 – Horta’s town houses

Last modified 22.03.2022 | Published 27.05.2017Belgium, North and Central Europe, World Heritage Sites

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It is such a pity with heritage sites that you can’t actually visit and discover the true reason why they are on the list. Horta’s four town houses in Brussels are of this kind.

The UNESCO World Heritage List includes more than a thousand properties with outstanding universal value. They are all part of the world’s cultural and natural heritage.

Official facts

  • Full title of site: Major Town Houses of the Architect Victor Horta (Brussels)
  • Country: Belgium
  • Date of Inscription: 2000
  • Category: Cultural site

UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre’s short description of site no. 1005:

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. (…) 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.

My visit

A drive between the houses will take about 15 minutes over a distance of 6 km. I made my visit in 2017 on foot and by bus, and spent a bit longer. I even skipped the Hotel van Eetvelde. The other three are quite near each other. Apart from the museum, which is only open for a couple of hours, all houses are in private ownership. This means that will not be able to get inside. That is a great pity. The interiors seem to be more interesting than the exteriors, making the works of this great architect/artist unavailable for most people.

In fact the exteriors of the visited three town houses do not reveal much to the untrained eye. Why were they awarded a place on the distinguished world heritage list? Unless you are very interested in architecture, this is almost boring. In addition the museum was closed when I arrived.

However, I do acknowledge Victor Horta for his work, and he must have had a significant effect on the development of the Art Nouveau movement in Belgium and beyond.

Read more

Read more about my visit.

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