now and then.. la grand-place, no. 857

la grand-place in brussels has been on the unesco heritage list since 1998. it is on the list thanks to the architecture itself, which provides a vivid illustration of the level of social and cultural life of one particular period in this important political and commercial centre. most of the buildings on la grand-place (eng. the main square) are dating mainly from the late 17th century. la grand-place also shows the evolution and achievements of a mercantile city of northern europe at the height of its prosperity.

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i have been to brussels (and on la grand-place) twice; the first time in november 2005. and now, after almost eight years. what can i say, the place itself did not change a bit.. but i sure have.

when i came to brussels for the first time, i was only 21 years old. i was living in kuala lumpur, malaysia, and decided to spend my semester break with my sister, who at the time lived in stockholm. she treated me with the weekend trip to brussels.

we had a great time! since it was the second half of november, it was already snowing in stockholm, but in brussels it was still autumn.. with golden leafs around&all. i also remember how i felt completely dependent on my sister. she got the tickets, found the place where we could spend the night and finally, she was my guide brussels since she’s already been there. when i came for the second time all those feelings came back. i remembered how i used to be back then.

so, what happened in the meantime.. i became an aerospace engineer and came back from malaysia, afterwards i moved to milan, where i discovered the world of oil&gas pipelines.. and became fluent in italian. for a long time i had to juggle between my work & master’s (which was not particularly fun).. however, i’ve travelled a lot (& seen a lot of unesco heritage sites!). i got to meet a lot of fascinating individuals.. and one in particular.. i got married to a wonderful man (whom with i came to brussels & la grand-place for the second time).

finally, here are the pics of me on la grand-place; one from november 2005. and the other from may 2013.

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major town houses of the architect victor horta, no. 1005

the four major town houses – hôtel tassel, hôtel solvay, hôtel van eetvelde, and maison & atelier horta – designed by the architect victor horta, one of the earliest initiators of art nouveau, are some of the most remarkable pioneering works of architecture of the end of the 19th century. these four beautiful buildings have found their way to the unesco heritage list in the year 2000, and therefore they have found their place on my list-of-unesco-sites-to-see.

art nouveau appeared in the closing years of the 19th century and initiated an evolution of architecture, making possible following developments, and the town houses of victor horta witness to this transition from the 19th to the 20th centuries in art, thought and society.

the hotel we we’re staying at was quite close to one of houses of victor horta, so we decided to take a look at it.

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this is hôtel solvay; it was initially commissioned by armand solvay, the son of the wealthy belgian chemist and industrialist, and therefore victor horta was allowed to spend a fortune on expensive materials and details. it is known that horta designed every single detail; furniture, carpets, tableware and even the door bell. also, he used expensive materials such as marble, onyx, bronze, tropic woods, etc.

the house is still private property and since it can only be visited by appointment, we took several photos and then decided to search for maison & atelier horta, architect’s former house and now a museum.

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the maison & atelier horta have been designed to satisfy the professional and family needs of the architect, and were built in 1898-1901. the maison is in a fashionable district of brussels, sant-gilles, where one may find other examples of art nouveu style. for that reason (and also due to the long queue in front of horta’s house), we decided not to go in, but to enjoy lovely spring day in gorgeous sant-gilles.

while taking a walk in the area, we came across one of the most beautiful buildings and examples of art nouveau in sant-gilles, hôtel hanon. even if not on the unesco heritage list, in my view, it is as good as, and therefore it should not be treated differently.

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ps. all the photos were taken by me (may 2013).

greedy taste of brussels!

last week i’ve managed to organize a little trip to the land of chocolate, lace & lovely art and architecture. the plan was simple, we would stay in brussels for several days, just relaxing and enjoying the spring, and then we would go on a daily trip to bruges. even though our schedule wasn’t so packed, this little trip gave me enough material for couple of blog posts.

one of the days we were wandering around the brussels’ central area, quite close to the grand place actually, and as we were searching for a place we could eat in (and we were looking for impossible – a non touristy place in that area!) we came across this lovely brasserie (eng. brewery) of unpronounceable name!

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“nüetnigenough” means something like “greedy” in brussels’ dialect. on the brasserie’s website it is defined as “someone who has never, never ever enough (of something/someone)”.

nuetnigenough is one of those places where people would hang out with beers while having a light dinner (either tapas or starters). there were also several traditional dishes (cooked with beer, of course!). since we don’t drink beer, we didn’t get to enjoy that part of the restaurant; however, we could admire its design & cosy atmosphere. it is just off the famous grand place, on rue du lombard 25 (corner of rue du midi).

the place was designed in art nouveau style, very popular in brussels, and in this part of the world. art nouveau is often described it as “sudden violent curves generated by the crack of a whip”. when it comes to architecture, art nouveau unique style is often seen in windows, arches and doors.

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anyway, more of art nouveau architecture was yet to be discovered in brussels. the four town houses, designed by a great belgian architect & pioneer of art nouveau in architecture victor horta, have found their way to unesco heritage list. therefore, my next post will be dedicated to the major town houses by victor horta.

ps. as for the brasserie, for more info visit the following website: http://www.nuetnigenough.be