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Brussels, a Journey at the Heart of Art Nouveau

Victor Horta, Henry van de Velde and Paul Hankar are pioneers of Art Nouveau in Brussels and Europe. Brussels' streets have dramatically changed under their influence and became the setting where their talent blossomed. The Faculty of Architecture La Cambre Horta at Université libre de Bruxelles invites you to dive into the heritage of these Architecture giants through lectures and exclusive site visits led by internationally renowned experts.

Course description

This programme will not be organised in 2021. If you would like to receive updates about next editions, please send an email to summerschool@ulb.be. 

The Summer School "Brussels, a Journey at the Art of Art Nouveau" is a two-week summer programme in English organised by the Faculty of Architecture La Cambre Horta at Université libre de Bruxelles from 8 to 19 August 2020. It combines lectures and exclusive site visits in the Brussels area led by internationally renowned experts.

From the beginning of Art Nouveau to its peak, from private housing to public schools, from furniture to ornamentation, from destruction to preservation, you will undertake a journey at the heart of Art Nouveau and discover Brussels through a unique lens.  

Learning outcomes
At the end of this course, participants will be able to make the link between Art Nouveau in Belgium, its place of birth, and its European extensions. By meeting with key stakeholders in architectural history, renovation, preservation and public policies, they will have shed lights on the full scope of the importance of the movement at the time and how this “revolution” in Art and Architecture is still relevant today.

Target audience
This programme is designed for students (minimum 3rd Bachelor), graduate students, PhD students and young professionals with a background or profound interest in architecture, arts, history and urban renovation. Participants are expected to have a sufficient command of English to follow classes, interact and deliver a short presentation. 

Assessment & Credits
Participants will be assessed based on the final presentation of a group assignment. They will receive 3 credits upon successful completion of the programme. 


Monday 8 June - The beginnings of Art Nouveau

The objective of this session is to analyze the general historic context in Belgium and Europe and to outline the cultural premises of the particularly rich intellectual and artistic scene of Brussels in the years that preceded and lead to the emergence of a radically new architectural and decorative language in the early 1890’s: the Art Nouveau.

Jean-Marc Basyn (1968) studied art history (UCL) and conservation of architectural and urban heritage (KUL), specialized in preservation policies of 20th century modern movement (IAUG). Author of many articles and conferences about heritage issues of the end of the 19th and the 20th century, he currently works at urban.brussels and teaches history of urbanism at ISURU (Saint-Luc) and conservation of modern architecture at La Cambre Horta (ULB).

This session will be followed by a guided tour of the Maison Autrique, the first house built by Victor Horta in the Art Nouveau style.

Participants will also visit the Josaphat School in Schaerbeek. This school was designed between 1900 and 1907 for the Schaerbeek municipality by architect Henri Jacobs who worked with engineer Henri Fontaine. This building is a “total” work of art – not only has the architect designed the plans but he has also designed all the details and furniture. It the greatest achievement of its kind in Schaerbeek, together with the building located on avenue de Roodebeek, built by the same architect between 1907 and 1922.

A welcome drink will be organised. 

Tuesday 9 June - The renewal of ornament

The renewal of ornament (1861 - 1920): the examples of Victor Horta and Paul Hankar
The second half of the 19th century was obsessed by ornament: historians hoped they could unravel its hidden meaning - as if it was a language - and artists - architects as well as painters - gave it a spark and an interpretation previously unseen. Organised in the framework of the exhibition “La fabrique de l’ornement” at the Horta Museum, this lecture will focus on formal identity as well the origins of the renewal of ornament in the work of Victor Horta and Paul Hankar.

This session will be followed by a guided tour around Ixelles and a visit to the Ciamberlani Hotel.

Benjamin Zurstrassen is Curator at the Horta Museum in Brussels. He has a degree in History and Art History from the Université libre de Bruxelles. His master thesis was on the topic ‘Henry van de Velde’s Furniture: Between Practice and Theory (1893 – 1902)’ and he has published numerous articles most of which address Henry van de Velde works and writings. In addition, he lectures at the U.D.A., focusing mainly on decorative arts and architecture.

Wednesday 10 June - Art Nouveau in Brussels and Europe

Art Nouveau in Brussels and Europe
This session will take the participants to urban.brussels, the regional administration responsible for urbanism and cultural heritage policies in the Brussels Region. 

Guy Condé-Reis is an architect. He has followed many restoration projects within the Directorate of Monuments and Sites - Brussels-Capital Region until 2018. There he was in charge of the technical and administrative support of town planning permits related to listed monuments as well as the support of restoration projects of listed monuments such as: the Autrique house of Victor Horta, the pavilion of Human Passions of Victor Horta or the Saint Cyr house of Gustave Strauven. He has organized numerous symposiums on heritage, curated various exhibitions and written articles on heritage conservation. He is currently the coordinator of the Cultural Development Department of Urban.brussels and teaches at the Faculty of Architecture La Cambre Horta at ULB.

Visit to the Belgian Comic Strip Center
With the “Magasins Wolfers”, the former “Waucquez Department stores” are the only surviving commercial architecture of Victor Horta. They are located in the centre of Brussels and were built between 1903 and 1906. The owner, Charles Waucquez, was a fabric wholesaler who wanted to develop his activity in this popular neighbourhood nearby the future “Jonction Nord-Midi” – the railway junction - planned by King Leopold II to create a Central Station in the heart of the city. The architecture follows the typology of the department store of the time: sales spaces with central void under a glass roof and monumental staircase. The store closed in 1970, and thereafter experienced its most difficult years. In 1984, the building was bought by the federal State, with the aim of establishing a museum devoted to Belgian comic strips which opened in 1989.

Maurizio Cohen (Milano, 1964) is an architect graduate of the Politecnico di Milano. Practitioner, critic, journalist and exhibition organizer, he teaches at the Faculty of Architecture La Cambre Horta at Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB) and at the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Liège (ULiège). He is the author of several books on contemporary and modern architecture in Belgium and regularly writes in the Belgian and international architectural press. He is member of the board of DOCOMOMO Belgium.

Urban promenade on the North-South Junction
The North-South Junction is an impressive railway infrastructure of 3,8 km, of which 1,4 km is underground, through the historic centre. Built between 1909 and1952, the Junction is synonym in Brussels of a major urban and social trauma because of large scale destruction of populous neighbourhoods. Above surface, this axis is covered with a catalogue of official state architecture from the 1930’s until the 1980’s. Most buildings are emblematic of the modern architecture in Belgium.

This tour will be guided by Jean-Marc Basyn (see above). 

Thursday 11 June - Teamwork

Participants will prepare their group assignment. 

Friday 12 June - History of renovations

History of renovations of several buildings by Victor Horta
Based on thirty years of restoring Horta buildings, Barbara Van der Wee will discuss the specific complexities of such restorations as well as the methodology and approach her office developed over the years. Masterplanning is a crucial element in this methodology, consisting of a precise survey, a careful reconstruction of the building history, acknowledging the heritage value of the different building parts and, eventually, proposing a sensible set of interventions. Equally crucial is the involvement of the different actors – the client, users, engineers, craftspeople, HVAC-specialists, the heritage administration – from an early stage, in order to develop a shared vision, in which all interventions are integrated in one architectural project. As a case-study, Barbara Van der Wee will focus on of a series of four Brussels Horta houses listed as World Heritage by Unesco since 2000.

This session will be followed by a guided tour of the Hotel Van Eetvelde (Victor Horta).

Architect Barbara Van der Wee is manager of the team Barbara Van der Wee Architects - studio for architecture & conservation, based in Brussels, Belgium. The office focuses on the restoration, conversion and updating of 19th and 20th century monuments, including a large number of art nouveau buildings: the conservation and restoration of the Hôtel Van Eetvelde and of the former home and studio of Victor Horta (today Hortamuseum), the modernisation of Horta's Children's Garden, of Hôtel Winssinger, Hôtel Frison, Hôtel Max Hallet and Villa Carpentier in Ronse. Van der Wee is also part of interdisciplinary collaborations for complex architectural projects with high heritage value, both in the Brussels-Capital Region and beyond, such as the Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels (BOZAR), the Ghent University Library (‘Book Tower’), the old Thermes de Spa, the Museum of Fine Arts in Tournai and the Grand Theatre in Verviers. Characteristic for her team is the integrated approach, in which the preservation of the authenticity of the building and the well-considered integration of contemporary interventions and techniques are part of the design process, in order to make new destinations possible. The firm's aim is not only to preserve as much of the original materiality as possible, but also to use professionals who have mastered the traditional methods of execution. They are therefore also involved in restoration projects at an early stage of the design process. As a result, Van der Wee has built up an extensive network of specialised professionals over a period of thirty years in practice.
Barbara Van der Wee teaches at the Raymond Lemaire International Centre for Conservation (RLICC) of the KU Leuven and she also lectures internationally. In 2010 she became a member of the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts, is involved in ICOMOS and DOCOMOMO, and contributed as an expert to Europa Nostra and Unesco World Heritage.


Monday 15 June - Victor Horta at the Royal Museums of Art and History

Reconstitution of the Magasins Wolfers
Since 2016, the Wolfers Frères jewellery store - inaugurated in 1912 - can be admired in its original form. To do this, the Art & History Museum has cleared a room of approximately the same shape and area as that originally foreseen by the Belgian Art Nouveau Architect Victor Horta in the building in rue d’Arenberg in Brussels. On the basis of a thorough historical study, the showcases and the counters were reinstalled as Horta designed them in his time and even the original entrance doors were reintegrated. Participants will be able to walk around an identical reconstruction of the room, like elite customers of the past. The lecture, followed by a visit to the shop, focusses on the history, restoration, and reintegration in a museum context.

The Pavilion of Human Passions
Just like the building’s history, the conservation studies of the pavilion have gone through many ups and downs, until its reopening to the public after the conservation works in 2014. During these works, priority was given to the preservation and enhancement of the historic elements. The intervention was minimalist while ensuring a homogeneous final result. The presentation will address the works both from the technical and philosophical points of views.

Werner Adriaenssens is doctor in Archeology and Art Studies (Free University Brussels). Since 2000 he is the curator of the collection 20th Century at the Royal Museums of Art and History (RMAH, Brussels) and since 2009 he is professor of Decorative Arts at the Free University of Brussels. He is the author of several scientific publications concerning themes of the Belgian Art Nouveau and Art Deco period and curator of several exhibitions as La Dynastie Wolfers (Design museum Gent, 2006-2007), Tables en majesté (BEL-Vue, 2012), Henry van de Velde Passion Function Beauty (Royal Museums of Art and History, 2013-2014) and Horta-Wolfers Reopening of the Wolfers Frères shop 1912 (Royal Museums of Art and History, 2017-2018). He is preparing a big hall in the museum wherein the historical Belgian Art Nouveau and Art Deco collection will be shown permanently (2022).

André Demesmaeker, architect-conservator since 2000 in the Conservation Department of the Belgian Buildings Agency was among others responsible for the conservation studies of Horta's Pavilion of Human Passions and is since 2018 responsible for the follow-up of the conservation studies of the façades of the Brussels Law Courts.

Tuesday 16 June - Henry van de Velde

Henry van de Velde, pioneer of the Bauhaus and founder of La Cambre
Henry van de Velde (1863–1957) is an important figure in the history of modern design. He was equally at ease designing furniture and objects as entire buildings – he paved the way for the transition from Art Nouveau to Modernism, and proposed a model for design education that inspired the Bauhaus. The link between the school that van de Velde himself led in Weimar and the Bauhaus remains controversial. What are the links between the Bauhaus and Henry van de Velde? Would the Bauhaus have been created without the precursory commitment of Henry van de Velde? Is there a link between the pedagogy of the Bauhaus of Gropius and that of La Cambre, founded by van de Velde a few years later?

Kevin Saladé studied Art history and Classical philology at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB). He is a lecturer at the same university and teaches art history at La Cambre, of which he is also the Deputy Director. He is a member of the scientific committee of the « Fonds Henry van de Velde ».

Henry van de Velde’s conception of private housing
Architecture as a place of beauty and happiness was essential to Henry van de Velde and his oeuvre. The self-taught architect designed his first own house « Bloemenwerf » on the outskirts of Brussels in 1895 and soon after received a great number of commissions for private houses. Beyond their great differences, examples like the « Bloemenwerf », the quite experimental 1906 villa built for Herbert Esche in Chemnitz and the 1908 Gesamtkunstwerk « Hohenhof » erected in Hagen, are all expressing a constant search for harmony and modernity, beyond the Art Nouveau ornament. A comparison with the 1931 Maison Wolfers built in Brussels even shows a surprising projectual linearity from the Art Nouveau period to the modernist one.

Priska Schmückle von Minckwitz, architectural historian, studied law in Paris/France and Munich/Germany, as well as art history at the Ecole du Louvre and the Sorbonne in Paris. From 1999 to 2001 she coordinated the advisory council for the restoration of the Villa Esche in Chemnitz, the first German commission of the Belgian Art nouveau architect Henry van de Velde. She has been successively executive director of the “Henry van de Velde Society” in Chemnitz, member of the board of the "Henry van de Velde Society" in Hagen and founding member of the "Fonds Henry van the Velde" in Brussels. She is a freelance preservation consultant and writer on architectural history, while pursuing her doctorate in art history with a study of van de Velde’s theory of the ornament. She is living in Paris since 2010 and actually advising the restoration and opening to the public of the "Bloemenwerf", Henry van de Velde's first house in Brussels.

This session will be followed by a guided tour of the Henry van de Velde archives at ENSAV La Cambre and of the Bloemenwerf in Uccle (to be confirmed). 
Wednesday 17 June - Art nouveau and socialism / Art Nouveau from 1900 to 1914

Art Nouveau and socialism. The heritage of the socialist cooperatives and the Brusselization.
Meat, bread and coal were the basic products that socialist cooperatives provided to workers in the late 19th century. The socialist cooperative “La Maison du Peuple”, created by the Belgian Labour Party in Brussels in 1882 is an association of persons, such as Jean Volders and Emile Vandervelde they meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically controlled enterprise. The first bakeries, coal warehouses and food stores in Brussels were designed by architect Victor Horta, at the same time as the Maison du Peuple (1895-1899). A café, a bakery, a butchers store, a clothing store, the offices of the socialist party and a large auditorium for 2000 persons, were also located in the Maison du Peuple. The socialist cooperatives invested at the end of the 19th century in progressive architecture applied arts and culture: the Art Nouveau.

Jos Vandenbreeden, architect and professor emeritus at the Department of Architecture Sint-Lucas Brussels and Ghent, now Catholic University of Louvain (Belgium). He restored, for instance, the Solvay house (1894-1902, Unesco World Heritage since 2000) in Brussels, designed by Victor Horta, the Art Deco Basilica Koekelberg (Brussels), three villas in Blankenberge reconverted as Belle-Epoque Centre. He is head of the research centre and the archives “Foundation Civa - Sint-Lukasarchief” in Brussels. Many publications on Belgian Art Nouveau architecture, the 19th Century, Art Deco and Modernism.

Other dimensions of Art Nouveau in Belgium: from 1900 to 1914
Brussels is the center of Belgian Art Nouveau, but architecture is also evolving in other cities such as Liège, Antwerp and Ghent. There are three major international exhibitions with foreign participation: Liège 1905, Brussels 1910 and Ghent 1913. In Liège, the work of Paul Jaspar and the furniture of Serrurier-Bovy should be mentioned. In Antwerp the work of Emiel Van Averbeke stands out and in Ghent the designs of Van Rysselberghe and Van huffel.

Marc Dubois was until 2015 professor Faculty Architecture KULeuven, campus Gent & Brussels. Commissioner of the exhibition “Architects from Flanders”, Architecture Biennale of Venice (1991). Advisor for the Mies van der Rohe Pavilion Award Barcelona. Since 2015 chairman DOCOMOMO Belgium.

Virtual reconstitution of Victor Horta’s Maison du Peuple
Within the framework of a scientific collaboration that began 5 years ago, the AlICe laboratory of the Faculty of Architecture La Cambre Horta (ULB) and the Horta Museum have undertaken to develop hypotheses for the restitution in 3D of the spaces and remarkable elements of Victor Horta's House of the People, as it was in its original state in 1899. Relying on new technologies and university know-how, this collaboration between the students, their professors (Denis Derycke and Michel Provoost) and the Museum's curators led, after several years of meticulous work, to a 3D reconstruction of the exterior façades and various interior spaces such as the stairwells, the top floor auditorium, the Matteoti Hall and the large brewery of the Maison du Peuple.

Denis Derycke qualified as an architect at ISACF La Cambre and gained his Ph.D from the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB). He is currently an associate professor at the Faculty of Architecture La Cambre Horta (ULB). Since 2008, he has been the head of the AlICe lab research unit where his work focuses on the formal analysis and graphic representation of architecture, both traditional and digital, historical and contemporary. The specificity of his approach is the use of graphic representation as a concrete tool for research and knowledge production. He has carried out an analysis of a number of complex theoretical projects by the Californian group Morphosis, producing drawings and models to function as the principal tools of investigation. He has also overseen several 3D reconstructions of historical buildings, including Victor Horta’s Maison du Peuple.

Thursday 18 June - Teamwork

Participants will prepare their group assignment. 

Friday 19 June - Final presentations and farewell 

Participants will present their group assignment.

A certificate ceremony and a farewell drink will be organised in the late afternoon. 

Practical information

Classes will start on Monday 8 June and end on Friday 19 June 2020. 

Flagey Campus, Université libre de Bruxelles and several visits in Brussels, Belgium.

€1500 (course, coffee breaks, visits, welcoming and farewell drinks and a public transport pass for visits included in the programme).
Accommodation, travel to/from Brussels and any other expenses are not included in the fee.

Brussels offers several options for accommodation. For more information, please visit our "practical information section" or contact summerschool@ulb.be.

Participants will receive 3 credits upon successful completion of the programme. Students can apply for recognition of these credits to the relevant authorities in their home institutions, therefore the final decision on awarding credits is at the discretion of their home institutions.

Cancellation policy
Cancellation by the participant:
Participants who wish to cancel their registration must send an email to summerschool@ulb.be.
Cancellation more than 7 days before the start of the programme: a non-refundable administrative €250 fee will apply.
Cancellation less than 7 days before the start of the programme: no refund.
All refunds are made in euros. In any case, travel costs, visa costs and any other cost will not be refunded.

Cancellation by the organisers:
If the number of applicants is too low or too high, the organisers reserve the right to cancel the programme or to open waiting lists. If the programme is cancelled by the organisers, the registration fee will be refunded in full. In any case, travel costs, visa costs and any other expenses will not be refunded. Please keep this in mind when making travel arrangements. 

Depending on your nationality and the length of your stay, you might need a visa to enter Belgium. Visa procedures may take several weeks. For more information, visit the website of the Foreigners Department of the FPS Home Affairs. Please note that we can only issue an invitation letter if your application has been accepted and we have received the payment of your registration fee. 

For any question, please contact us at summerschool@ulb.be.


If you would like to receive updates, please send an email to summerschool@ulb.be. 

Updated on February 11, 2021