Hôtel Solvay

Victor Horta
1895-98





This town house, along with the Hôtel Tassel, Hôtel van Eetvelde, and Horta's house and studio , all located in Brussels are remarkable pioneering works of art nouveau architecture and represent the architect's style at the height of his powers. Except for the House and Studio, now a museum, the interiors of most of Horta's domestic structures are not accessible to the public. This is unfortunate, since the facades only give a hint of their glories: the spacious open plan, the diffusion of light through wide windows or skylights, the built-in detailed cabinetry, and the beautiful stairways with swirling wrought iron banisters. His houses are no mere shell but an integrated, aesthetic world.
Hôtel Solvay, designed for wealthy industrialist Armand Solvay, was the most prestigious of the town houses on the then grand Louise Avenue and many scholars consider it his masterpiece. It was also pictured on the Belgian 2,000 franc note, an honor usually reserved for more privileged profiles. (Horta'a bearded face does appear there as well.)
 

Two symmetrical bow windows raised over two stories terminating in balconies

This facade is even more plastic than the earlier Hôtel Tassel. Note also the elaborate ironwork of the balconies.
 

The bow window with wrought iron decoration over the entrance

 

Oblique view of first story (the bel étage--the main floor) with details of the central bay

This facade illustrates the interplay of stone (in two colors) and metal, and the importance of organic curves against rectilinear symmetry. Horta not only opened the house to natural illumination but to the air as well. Doors open onto the several balconies.
 

The interplay of carved stone, metal, stained glass

The double door has a metal lintel and elaborate stone carving encasing it. Curving tendrils are echoed in the stained glass of the windows of the door and transom. Even the numbers of the address (224), carved on each side of the door, are unified with the other elements of the entrance.


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© 2007 Mary Ann Sullivan. I have photographed (on site), scanned, and manipulated all the images on these pages. Please feel free to use them for personal or educational purposes. (I would appreciate being told if you find them useful.) They are not available for commercial purposes without my explicit permission.