‘Shapes the city’: Mont des Arts becomes protected Brussels heritage

‘Shapes the city’: Mont des Arts becomes protected Brussels heritage
Credit: Ugo Realfonzo / The Brussels Times

The Brussels-Region Government will give the famous Mont des Arts in the city centre protected status as Brussels heritage, to ensure the future of the historical site.

The monumental site between the Place Royale and the Place de l’Albertine, known as the Mont des Arts (“Kunstberg” in Dutch), was designed by architects Jules Ghobert and Maurice Houyoux and built between 1954 and 1969. Landscape architect René Pechère took care of the construction of the gardens.

“The Mont des Arts, the esplanade with the garden of Pechère, the statue of King Albert I and also the interiors and furniture of the Royal Library are part of our Brussels heritage. This is an architecturally important place in our city,” said Brussels State Secretary for Heritage Pascal Smet, who took the initiative to protect the site.

For him, the area “shapes the city” and “helps determine the identity of Brussels.” The protection ensures the future of the Mont des Arts without making it impossible to make possible adjustments.

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“We must therefore ensure that this place is treated with respect and well-maintained. The Region protects its heritage,” Smet said, adding that the Federal Government is responsible for its maintenance.

Landscape architect Péchère played a key role in what the Mont des Arts looks like today, as the different compartments that he created for the gardens still exist today: he was the first in Europe to design hanging gardens on such a large area.

The height differences, sculptures and fountains by various artists – strongly influenced by the Art Deco style – come into their own along the high stairs on the sides of the gardens. Of those works, the equestrian statue of King Albert I (by Alfred Courtens), is the most symbolic and perhaps also most well-known one.

What will be protected exactly?

These parts of the Mont des Arts are definitively protected for their historical, aesthetic, artistic, technical, landscape, urban development and folkloric value:

  • the esplanade, including the central garden of René Pechère and the side garden to the north along the street, as well as the statues and the fountains,
  • the equestrian statue of King Albert I,
  • the facades and roofs of the old Congress Palace on the Mont des Arts,
  • the entrance hall on the Rue Ravenstein side, including:
    -the main entrance facing the esplanade, decorated with the mural by Paul Delvaux
    -the reception area, decorated with the mural by René Magritte
    -the main staircase with the mural by Louis Van Lint and the sculpture by Dolf Ledel
    -the royal box (including the original decor and furniture)
    -the Arc conference room on the second floor (including the original decor and furniture)
  • the facades, the roofs and the south-eastern patio of the Bibliothèque royale Albert I (or KBR), located on Mont des Arts 28, Boulevard de l’Empereur 2-4 and Place de la Justice 8-9-10, as well as certain interior spaces, the decorative decoration and the furniture designed by the company Kortrijkse Kunstwerkstede Gebroeders De Coene who are a full part of it:
    -the historic entrance hall with its cloakroom and telephone booths,
    -the main stairwell,
    -the two secondary stairwells located on either side of the Boulevard de l’Empereur wing,
    -the reading room of the Contemporary Print Department, with reception area, lending desks, the catalogue room, the bibliography room and the workroom on the mezzanine,
    -the reading rooms of the special departments (such as Old and precious printed matter, Manuscripts, Maps and plans),
    -the conference room,
    -the auditorium of the Music Department,
    -the cafeteria,
    -the official residence of the conservatoire
    -the hall of the “Museum” in the Boulevard de l’Empereur wing,
    -the council chamber,
    -the curator’s office,
    -the offices of the administration in the wing on Boulevard de l’Empereur.

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