Girish Mahajan (Editor)

Neoclassical architecture in Belgium

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Neoclassical architecture in Belgium

Neoclassical architecture (French: Architecture néoclassique) appeared in Belgium during the period of Austrian occupation in the mid-18th century and enjoyed considerably longevity in the country, surviving through periods of French and Dutch occupation and the birth of Independent Belgium, surviving well into the 20th century.


Origins of neoclassical architecture

Neoclassicism in architecture was the result of renewed interest in the architectural forms of Greco-Roman antiquity discovered in the excavation of sites such as Pompeii and Herculaneum in the 18th century.

Its spread in Europe was driven by:

  • The writings of Johann Joachim Winckelmann who can be regarded as the founder of art history and archeology as modern disciplines;
  • The practice of "Grand Tour", a trip made by young men of the upper classes of European society which had the effect of bringing together northern European high society together with ancient art;
  • Visits to Italy by many young artists and architects.
  • Neoclassicism in the Austrian Netherlands

    Growth of the neoclassical style in the Austrian Netherlands took place from 1759 during the reign of the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria and the governorship of his brother Charles-Alexandre de Lorraine.

    The growth of the style was aided by various elements including:

  • The architect Laurent-Benoît Dewez stay in Italy from 1754 to 1757;
  • The decision in 1774 by the Governor Charles-Alexandre de Lorraine redevelop the site of the old palace of Coudenberg, destroyed by fire in 1731 and left in ruins for more forty years, and to entrust the construction area of the Place Royale and Brussels Park to two French neoclassical architects, Jean-Benoît Vincent Barré, who designed the Place Royale and the Church of Saint Jacques-sur-Coudenberg and Gilles-Barnabé Guimard.
  • Theresian Style

    The neoclassical style is known as the "Louis XVI style" in France, however the parallel development of the style in the Austrian Netherlands is sometimes called "Theresian style" (French: Style thérésien) in reference to the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria.


    It is possible to divide the architects and their major works according to the diverse phases of neoclassicism in Belgium and the distinct periods of political occupation.

    Austrian period (1759–92)

  • 1759 Laurent-Benoît Dewez
  • 1760 Jean Faulte
  • 1766 Jacques-Barthélemy Renoz
  • 1774 Claude Fisco
  • 1775 Jean-François Wincqz
  • 1776 Jean-Benoît Vincent Barré (French architect)
  • 1776 Gilles-Barnabé Guimard (French architect)
  • 1779 Charles De Wailly (French architect)
  • 1782 Louis Montoyer
  • 1786 Ghislain-Joseph Henry
  • Anonymous
  • French period (1792–1815)

    Since the period of French occupation was characterized by the long-running French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, few outstanding neoclassical works were constructed.

  • Ghislain Joseph Henry (already active under the Austrian period)
  • 1791 L. Radelet
  • 1805 A. Dubois
  • 1806 J.F. Van Gierdegom
  • 1807 J.J. Dutry
  • Dutch Period (1815–30)

    In 1815, the Southern Netherlands were united by the Congress of Vienna with the Dutch United Provinces to form the new Dutch-led "United Kingdom of the Netherlands".

    Under William I, many of the most significant neoclassical buildings were constructed in Brussels, including the Palais des Académies, Monnaie Theatre, Botanical Gardens, Royal Observatory and the Royal palace, precursor of the modern palace.

  • Ghislain-Joseph Henry (already active under the Austrian period)
  • 1815 Charles Vander Straeten
  • 1816 Louis Roelandt
  • 1818 Louis Damesme (French architect)
  • 1824 Nicolas Roget (French architect)
  • 1825 Tilman-François Suys
  • 1825 Bruno Renard
  • 1826 Pierre Bruno Bourla
  • 1827 Henri Partoes
  • Reign of Leopold I (1830–65)

    Architects already active under the United Kingdom of the Netherlands
  • Louis Roelandt
  • Royal Opera of Ghent (1837–40), Hall of the Saint-Trond Academy (1845...)
  • Cluysenaar family
  • Family of famous architects and artists.
  • Charles Vander Straeten
  • Maison de la Malibran (current town hall of Ixelles, 1835)
  • Tilman-François Suys
  • Plan du Quartier Léopold (1837), extension of the Botantical garden (1842–54), modification of the Church of Saint Jacques-sur-Coudenberg (side-aisles 1843–45, the new front to the façade and bell tower, 1849–51), Church of Saint-Joseph in Brussels (1849), modification of the Palais de la Nation (Senate Chamber 1847–49)
  • Bruno Renard
  • Place Saint-Pierre à Tournai (c. 1850)
  • Pierre Bruno Bourla
  • Museum and entry hall of the Académie des beaux-arts in Antwerp (1841)
    New Architects
  • 1836 Auguste Payen
  • 1841 Louis Minard
  • 1847 J.P.J. Peeters and G. Hansotte
  • 1849 Joseph Poelaert
  • 1855 Émile Coulon
  • Neoclassical Eclecticism (1865–1909)

    King Leopold II (1865–1909) was a prodigious builder, who launched various constructions of large buildings to demonstrate the prestige of the monarchy.

    However, during his reign, the Eclectical style, appeared with Poelaert under Leopold I became predominant, mixing various forms from neo-Romanesque, Gothic, Neo-Renaissance and Neo-Baroque as well as neoclassical schools.

    Neoclassicism under Leopold II was no exception. Some buildings from this period, such as the Bourse de Bruxelles or Palais de Justice were openly eclectic, others cited below, can be broadly considered as neoclassical, without however exempting them from the banner of characteristic decorative eclecticism.

    Note that many of the buildings commissioned by Leopold II incorporated his monogram, consisting of two letters L symmetrically

  • 1867 Hendrik Beyaert (notable eclectic architecht)
  • 1875 Gédéon Bordiau
  • 1892 Charles Thirion
  • 1897 Albert-Philippe Aldophe
  • 1902 Charles Girault (French architect)
  • 1904 Henri Maquet
  • Late Neoclascissism (1910–80)

    In the 20th century, neoclassicism nearly disappeared, swept away by new waves of architectural styles including Art nouveau (which was very popular in Brussels), Art Deco, Modernism and functionalism.

    In Brussels, the survival of the style is owed to the planning laws governing the construction of buildings in the vicinity of Brussels Park, as well as the desire to preserve the stylistic unity of the neighborhood.

  • 1910 François Malfait
  • 1920 Oscar Van de Voorde
  • 1930 Michel Polak
  • 1950 André and Jean Polak
  • 1966 Christian Housiaux, Hugo Van Kuyck, Pierre Guillissen
  • 1972–74 Christian et Jean-Pierre Housiaux
  • Monumentalist Classical Architecture (1929–59)

    During the Interwar period, a style developed in several European countries using neoclassical architecture on a much bigger (monumental) scale.

    In the 1930s, this was often associated with totalitarian regimes like Nazi Germany, but the style is often wrongly labeled as Fascist architecture like Stalinist architecture, Nazi architecture or Soft Portuguese style. However, it was also found in democratic countries like Belgium, France (for instance the Palais de Chaillot), Great Britain and the United States.

    Postmodernism (after 1980)

    At the end of the 20th century, neoclassicism reappeared in a revitalized form incorporated in the Postmodern Style. This postmodern neoclassicism is most commonly used in the construction of offices and municipal buildings.

  • 1989 Ricardo Bofill (Spanish architect)
  • 1989 José Vanden Bossche
  • 1993 Bureau d'architectes ASSAR
  • 1994 Wolf et Conreur
  • 1995 Jacques Cuisinier
  • 1996 « Roosevelt Business Park » (avenue Roosevelt 104 in Genval)
  • References

    Neoclassical architecture in Belgium Wikipedia