Victor Horta (6 January 1861 – 8
September 1947) was a Belgian architect
and designer. Horta is one of the most
important names in Art Nouveau
architecture. His design for the Hotel
Tassel in Brussels (1893-4), for instance, is
seen by art critics as the first example of
Art Nouveau being introduced into
architecture from the decorative arts -
thanks to the use of revolutionary artistic,
technological and compositional
elements. In 1932 King Albert I of Belgium
conferred on Horta the title of Baron for
his services to architecture. Four of the
buildings he designed have been
designated a UNESCO World Heritage
Interior; Hotel Tassel
• The stylistic revolution represented by these works is
characterized by their open plan and the three-dimensional
articulation of space, the diffusion of light, and the brilliant
joining of the curved lines of decoration with the structure of
the building. The use of iron, for instance, as a material for both
construction and decoration, is Horta's unique contribution.
• Other important Brussels buildings designed by Horta include:
the Hotel Winssingers (1895-6); the interior of the Hotel van
Eetvelde (1895-8); La Maison du Peuple (1896-1898); Hotel
Solvay (1895-1900); Dubois House (1901); the shop known as
Magasins Waucquez (1903); Palais des Beaux-Arts (1928) and
the Central Railway Station (1937).
• After a stay in the United States (1916-19), Horta fell back on a
more traditional and severe style which borrowed from classical
The sculpture room
Palais des Beaux-Arts
• Until the late nineteenth century, the architecture was based on
historicism, heavily influenced by ancient classical traditions.
• Insisting on remodeling the old formulas, the architects produced
buildings devoid of any originality architecture, repeating shapes
and extremely attached to traditional artistic culture that existed
• By 1890, however, with the breakthrough of industrialization and
consequent discovery of new materials and construction
methods, begins, in general, dissatisfaction with this eclectic
atmosphere that made the architecture subject to historical styles
and prejudices of the past.
• Artists from around the world longed for a renewed architecture
that accompany the progress of science of his time, leaving
behind the old artistic rules and resolving the issue of newly
discovered architectural language used until then.
• Within this context of new discoveries and overcoming the old
traditions, not only the architecture, but the artistic culture in
general is revalued to broaden the traditional field of art, based on
the modern conception of the world that was increasingly evident.
• Then arises as a result of this crisis, a new way to create,
descendant of young artists who put into practice a new style with
original ideas, forms and bold experiences and increasingly distant
from the old repertoire of schools.
• Both in painting, in architecture, design or any other form of art
production, the new style is characterized by the spirit of
innovation, facing the artistic culture as a whole.
• With the absence of certain excesses and increased exposure of
the materials of reason used, the Art Nouveau movement was
inspired by the English Arts and Crafts (arts and crafts) - which had
then restored the value of craftsmanship and artistic work - but
had new forms and different designs that were inserted inside an
• In an attempt to transform the industrial decorative arts, this style
also brings the ornament in a different way than hitherto existed
vision, so that the ornament not only complete the structure, but
is part of the object instead of being "glued" to this one.
• Besides the abandonment of historical styles, attempt insertion
of art in everyday life and the structural organization according to
the function are other common features of the movement, which
some authors even consider one of the first steps toward modern
6 January: Victor Horta born in Ghent, the son of a shoemaker.
Enrolled in the school of architecture at the Académie des
Beaux-Arts in Ghent.
Left for Paris, where he entered the studio of the interior
designer Jules Debuysson.
13 June: death of Horta's father. The young Horta returns to
His first marriage and the move to Brussels, where he enrolled
at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts.
Winner of the Godecharle prize for architecture with his plans
for a new parliament building.
Designed three houses in the Twaalfkamerenstraat in Ghent.
Winner of the triennial competition organised by the Brussels
Académie des Beaux-Arts for its former students with his
project for a natural history museum building.
Visited the Great Exhibition in Paris (Eiffel Tower, Galerie des
Machines). Thanks to Balat, commissioned to design a pavilion
to house Jef Lambeaux's sculpture "Les Passions humaines"
Simone Horta born. The Matyn house, 50 Rue de Bordeaux in
Saint Gilles, Brussels.
Appointed professor in the Faculty of Applied Sciences at the
Université Libre de Bruxelles, a post he resigned in 1911.
The Autrique house, 286 Chaussée de Haecht in Schaerbeek,
Brussels. The Tassel house, 6 Rue Paul-Emile Janson in
Became president of Central Society of Architecture in
Belgium. The Frison house, 37 Rue Lebeau in Brussels. The
Solvay mansion, 224 Avenue Louise in Brussels.
The Van Eetvelde mansion, 4 Avenue Palmerston in Brussels
(extended in 1898-1901). The 'Maison du Peuple', Place E.
Vandervelde in Brussels (demolished in 1965-1966). The
kindergarten, 40 Rue Saint-Ghislain in Brussels. The Deprez-
Van de Velde mansion, 3 Avenue Palmerston in Brussels.
House and studio, 23-25 Rue Américaine in Saint-Gilles (which
became the Horta museum in 1969).
Divorced in 1906. Second marriage, to a Swede, Julia Carlsson.
Horta is given the task of reorganising the courses at the
Académie des Beaux-Arts in Brussels.
Appointed director of this same Academy for a period of three
Attended the 'Reconstruction of Belgium' congress in London.
The German authorities learnt of his journey. Unable to return
home, Horta went to America, where he remained until
Sold his house and studio in the Rue Américaine. Drew the
first plans for the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels
(inaugurated in 1928).
Appointed professor at the Hoger Instituut voor Schone
Kunsten in Antwerp.
Architect of Belgium's 'Pavillon d'honneur' at the International
Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts in
Paris. Appointed director of the Fine Arts section of the
Académie Royale de Belgique.
Horta made a baron.
Final plans for the Central Station in Brussels.
Began writing his Mémoires.
Pulped part of his personal archives.
Died on 8 September.
*Important works this Colour
• The design had a groundbreaking semi open-plan floor layout for
a house of the time.
• It incorporated interior iron structure with curvilinear botanical
forms, later described as “biomorphic whiplash”.
• Ornate and elaborate designs and natural lighting were concealed
behind a stone façade to harmonize the building with the more
rigid houses next door.
• The building has since been recognized as the first appearance of
Art Nouveau in architecture.
• Use of sgraffito.
• Distribution house lies in two areas:
1. Access by the main staircase, which relates the lobby
(common area of the house) with two large bedrooms with
views over the street.
2. Garden side, served by a secondary staircase.
• A Living room, belonging to the second floor of the building, has a
higher elevation than the hall, so that we have an internal
• Decoration of the walls and floor passes mosaics, stained glass,
rows of decorative forms.
• Horta made a break with the past here by using stone and the
modern material, metal, in domestic architecture.
• He created buildings of simple and sober structures, busy facades
with large windows and functional interior, the decor allied to
structural elements and dilated spaces using sets of mirrors and
• A large bay window extending
over two stories, dominates
the front facade.
• While the entrance is
shaded by the
lintel with enormous
brackets, the rest of
the central bay is
glazed and features
the lightest and most
slender of metal
• The facade includes classical
elements like moldings and
columns but here some of
the columns are iron, not
stone, and the entablature is
metal, complete with
exposed rivets. The exposed
rivets seem part of the
• The bowing forward of the
entire central bay has
parallels with the linear
curves within. Apparently,
the interior is even more
striking in its use of linear
interior architecture as well
as curvilinear decoration on
walls, stairways, and floors.
Plan of the entrance of one of the
rooms, showing their mosaics
Room / Living Room
Level connected by stairs
Detail of wall decoration
The Horta Museum is located in the private house and
studio of Victor Horta. Built between 1898 and 1901, it is typical of
Art Nouveau at its height. This is not a museum in the traditional
sense: a building where the objects exposed draw all the attention.
Here it is the reverse : the building itself is the museum. He
inhabited the house from 1901 to 1919. The interior decoration has
largely been retained, the mosaics, stained glass, and wall
decorations forming a harmonious & elegant whole, down to the
The museum also contains a collection of furniture drawn
by Victor Horta and typical of Art Nouveau at its best. It also shows
old photographs, scale models, casts and plans explaining the work
of the architect.
This house also
shows one of the great
innovations of Horta: the
rooms are built around a
central hall. From the
beautiful glass ceiling light
falls into the house and
thereby creating a much
more natural illumination
of the building than was
the case in the traditional
late 19th century houses in
Brussels and Belgium.
La Maison du Peuple (demolished)
• Victor Horta’s La
Maison du Peuple
was built in Brussels
over the years 1896-
99. It was situated on
Vandervelde, near to
• It was destroyed in the year 1965 as an act of barbarism in the
squalid interests of speculative development, appears to have
resisted most attempts at analysis.
• In spite of a rather restrictive very irregular building place along a
circular square and on a slope, Horta succeeded to construct a
building with maximum functionality.
• The building provided rooms for several aims like offices, coffee
shops, shops, meeting rooms and a party hall.
• The building had been mainly constructed in white iron (more
than 600,000 kilogrammes) glass and masonry façade, and a light-
filled interior with exposed ironwork and much fine detailing.
Fifteen craftsmen worked for eighteen months on the iron work.
• To make this construction possible, Horta drew no less than 8,500
square meters of plans.
• The building was completed in 1899 and was considered a master
• Because of the experimental combination of brick, glass and steel
this building was considered as an example of modern
Hotel Solvay is a large Art Nouveau town house designed
by Victor Horta on the Avenue Louise in Brussels.
• The house was commissioned by Armand Solvay, the son of the
wealthy Belgian chemist and industrialist Ernest Solvay.
• Horta designed every single detail; furniture, carpets, light fittings,
tableware and even the door bell.
• He used expensive materials such as marble, onyx, bronze, tropic
• For the decoration of the staircase Horta cooperated with the
Belgian pointillist painter Théo van Rysselberghe.
• The Hôtel Solvay and most of its splendid content remained intact
thanks to the Wittamer family.
• They acquired the house in the 1950s and did the utmost to
preserve and restore this magnificent dwelling.
• The house is still private property and can only be visited by
appointment and under very strict conditions.
• The Hôtel Solvay was built from 1895 to 1898, with furniture
completed in 1903.
• In 1957 the building became the seat of a fashion house; in 1980
the owners started the restoration of the building, including the
restitution of the glass roofs of the main staircase, cooling of the
interior decoration, and restoring the façade.
• The stylistic revolution represented by these works is
characterised by their open plan, the diffusion of light, and the
brilliant joining of the curved lines of decoration with the
structure of the building.
• The Town Houses of Victor Horta in Brussels bear exceptional
witness to its radical new approach.
• It is the best preserved of all Horta's house and still maintains its
interior intact, including original art objects and the utilities in
• The Hotel van Eetvelde in Brussels was designed in 1898 by Victor
Horta, undoubtedly the key European Art Nouveau architect.
• While most other architects flirted with the new style, Horta
found it gave the best expression to his ideas.
• His skill is demonstrated in his ability to slip his domestic
designs into narrow constricted sites.
• The interiors become of great importance as centres of light,
which permeates through the filigree domes and skylights—
usually in the centre of the building.
• The Hotel van Eetvelde is a remarkable example of the way Horta
handled the situation and used it to highlight the imposing
staircase, which leads up to the first-floor reception rooms.
• The visible application of "industrial" materials such as steel and
glass was a novel for prestigious private dwellings at the time. In
the Hôtel van Eetvelde Horta also used a hanging steel
construction for the façade.
• The interior receives additional lighting through a central
reception room covered by a stained-glass cupola.
The Hotel Van Eetvelde
• An extension to the house was designed by Horta in 1898. This
building has a more conventional, beautifully detailed sandstone
• It was designed to house a garage, an office for van Eetvelde as
well as supporting apartments and therefore had a separate
entrance (2 Avenue Palmerston).
Delicate ornamental works of
gold, copper, silver, etc.
Hotel van Eetvelde interior
Horta's use of iron and glass
frames with Art Nouveau
ornamentation, shows the
strength and delicacy of the
The top story with carved tendrils in stone and elaborate ironwork
The recessed entrance with the upper floors resting on metal consoles
Center: colonnettes with plant-like capitals; mosaic decoration on the
WAUCQUEZ DEPARTMENT STORE
(Now The Belgian Comic Strip Center)
• Victor Horta designed this
department store for
Charles Waucquez and it
became a shop unlike any
• When Charles Waucquez
commissioned Horta, he
was not eager to have an
Art Nouveau building so
the design (certainly the
exterior) is less obviously in
that style than Horta's
• “It was like the concourse of a station...The iron staircases, with
double spirals opened out in bold curves...the iron bridges,
thrown acrosd the void, ran straight along, very high up...all this
metal formed a delicate piece of architecture, a complicated
lacework through which the daylight passed, the modern
realization of a dream-palace…” - Emile Zola, The Ladies’
• The shop closed in 1970 and a few years later the architect Jean
Delhaye, a student of Horta's, succeeded in bringing the
Waucquez warehouse, which had become an endangered
masterpiece, to public attention. The building was listed.and
was bought by the Belgian government to convert into a
museum of bande desinées in 1984.
• The exterior is stone,
• But, the window
frames have gentle
sinuous curves and
wrought iron grates-
with rather less
elaborate designs than
other Art Nouveau
The interior has a coloured glass mezzanine with the kind of ceiling
light well that Horta used in domestic interiors.
• Now restored, this house built by
Victor Horta for his own use is one of
the best example of Art Nouveau in
• Although constrained by funds, he
was able to let his creativity run
freely when designing the house.
• The design responded to the
professional and family needs of the
architect, and were built in 1898-
1901 on two lots in a fashionable
district of the town.
• Horta designed his house distributed
around the stair way by half floors.
The stair way is topped by a veranda.
Maison privée et atelier de Victor Horta
• After his divorce, he leased the building for a while, but then
continued living there, making changes in the interior; a terrace
and a winter garden were added and the atelier was enlarged.
• The facade is built from stone and has delicately designed metal
• The most spectacular element in the building is represented by
the vast glass ceiling over the main staircase.
• In 1919 the buildings were sold to Major Henri Pinte and in 1926
the two parts of the building were separated.
• In 1961 the Commune of Saint Gilles acquired the residential part
for a museum of Horta's work.
work became more
pedestrian: his Central
Railway Station (1911–
37), and his Palais des
both in Brussels, have
structures, and lack all
the grace and charm of
the Art Nouveau work.
He designed numerous
funerary and other
Brussels Central Station
Important Points to Remember
Horta’s works are recognizable by their-
• Open plan- Horta’s most works are based on narrow, linear
spaces. These spaces are very difficult to design in terms of
natural light and ventilation. So to overcome this difficulty, he had
to make the building plans open. This allowed free circulation
along the building, as the main staircase was placed centrally, and
later allowed the property to be sold in parts (Hotel Tassel and
Maison privée et atelier de Victor Horta).
• Three-dimensional articulation of space- Use of Mezzanines and
stairways centrally, creating common lobbys as a transition space.
• The diffusion of light- By mezzanines, filigree domes and glass
roofs along the main staircase. Also he incorporated mirrors as a
decorative feature which too helped in diffusion of light. Allowed
entry of natural light even in very narrow ad long buildings.
• The use of large areas of glass and the linear iron supports allows
for a delicate, almost transparent approach.
• The brilliant joining of the curved lines of decoration with the
structure of the building.
• The use of wrought iron as a material for both construction and
decoration as it is versatile, appropriate for both structural and
decorative uses .He also left load-bearing columns exposed,
making them become a decorative feature.
• Horta has echoed the curves in the balustrading with the curved
stairs, tiled mosaic floor and the painted wall designs- influence
of ‘Biomorphism’, i.e., influenced by nature and vegetation, and
incorporated their curves tendrils in his designs.
Important Points to Remember
• Global History of Architecture- Francis D. K. Ching, Mark Jarzombek,
• A History of Architecture- Sir Banister Fletcher
• A History of Architecture: Settings and Rituals- Spiro Kostof