Monday is the final day to view the world-famous Flower Carpet which returned to the cobblestones of the Grand Place in Brussels after a two-year hiatus. To celebrate its 50th anniversary, the carpet this year is a nod to the very first design from 1971.
The inspiration for the event originally came from Oudenaarde in East Flanders, where two Brussels councillors came across a carpet created from thousands of flowers and decided that Brussels should have its own version. In 1971, the Grand Place welcomed its first installation, titled Arabesques.
The first edition was the result of a collaboration between Francs-Bourgeois (an association of retailers in the centre of Brussels) and the AVBS (Flanders' Federation of Green Industry), of which Étienne Stautemas was president at the time, and worked on the carpets until 1998.
As a tribute to Stautemas, the original design was recreated and includes all the elements present in the original design appear in the 2022 design, including the Saint Michael the Archangel and the Flemish Lion, on the 70 by 24-metre carpet.
Artists spent more than 280 hours reconstructing the pattern of the 1971 carpet, based on Stautemas' hand-drawn plans, while some hundred volunteers worked to assemble the carpet in less than six hours. Organisers describe it as a "1680 m2 puzzle composed of begonias, dahlias, and grasses."
However, where the 1971 Flower Carpet relied on the shape of an arabesque being cut out of thick cardboard and transferred thousands of times, with volunteers using the space between the thumb and the little finger to measure the 20 cm required, modern techniques allow area calculations to be made to the nearest cm², avoiding errors of scale.
Due to the pandemic, the 2020 edition was cancelled altogether; last year health restrictions remained in place although the alternative Brussels in Bloom route saw the streets around Brussels' main square being adorned with flower exhibitions. On the back of last year's success, the trail was created again this year.
"After two years of Covid, the Grand Place, a UNESCO World Heritage site, will once again be aglow with colour this summer," Delphine Houba, City Councillor for Culture, Tourism and Major Events of the City of Brussels, said.
Fabian Maingain, Brussels' Councilor for Economic Affairs, added that the return of the Flower Carpet also marks the return of a highlight of the tourist attraction of the Brussels summer. "This event also supports the hotel and catering industry and the shops in the city centre."
This year, aside from the usual begonias and dahlias, potted chrysanthemums and euonymus japonicus (Japanese spindles), considered the jewel in the crown of Belgian flower-growing, also decorate the Grand Place.
Several days before the inauguration, a full-size drawing is executed on an enormous organic cotton canvas that is laid down atop the cobblestones of the Grand Place. The Flower Carpet was constructed on Friday, and the final design was complete by the afternoon.
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The carpet will remain at the heart of Grand Place until Monday 15 August until 22:00 (final entry at 21:30). A light and audio show will take place every 15 minutes. Visitors can buy a ticket (€7) at the Grand Place to enjoy a panoramic view of the carpet from the City Hall balcony.
More information can be found here.