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projects ISSN 2595-4245


Conheça o projeto de restauração da Villa Empain na Bélgica, realzado pelo escritório Ma² Project

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PORTAL VITRUVIUS. Villa Empain. Projetos, São Paulo, year 11, n. 123.01, Vitruvius, mar. 2011 <>.

The Villa Empain, with its concierge quarters and its gardens, is an exceptional ensemble of the  Art deco style built by the architect Michel Polak between 1931 (allocation of a building permit) and 1934 (its inauguration).

Imagine a young 23-year-old baron, just returning to his native land and eager to visibly occupy a place in Brussels’ high society conferring the conception of his residence to a foreign architect, himself eager to pierce Brussels aristocracy via a private contract imbued with prestige. The Villa Empain is the fruit of this meeting.

The Villa is conceived around available light: two floors in four free facades under a pavilion roof, the ramparts of which are lightly sloped, developed symmetrically according to a practically square plan the outer planes of which are eased by curvatures, all surrounding a light shaft. The originality of the plan and the remarkable organization of space, as well as that of the exterior volumes which correspond perfectly, permit a limpid legibility of the ensemble. The building joins the modernist current, a legacy of Viennese architecture from the beginning of the XXth century.

The use of materials, both for facades (polished granite and brass) and for the interiors (Escalette marble and Jourdan Wood marble, precious wood veneers, ironwork) confers to the Villa Empain a remarkable cachet. No other such example exists in Brussels with the exception of the Stoclet Palace.

Louis Empain donated his property to the Belgian State on September 22nd, 1937. The property was intended for the use of the State Education Ministry in order to establish a Museum of  Contemporary Decorative Arts.

From 1937 until 1943, the Cambre School managed the Museum of Contemporary Decorative Arts in the Villa and organized several exhibitions there. Regrettably, the Villa was requisitioned in 1943 by the German army.

From 1947 until 1963, at the initiative of Paul-Henri Spaak, the USSR embassy was installed in the Villa. In 1947, Louis Empain expressed his doubts about his donation since the Belgian State deliberately chose to ignore the conditions of the donation by renting the building to the Russians in spite of the baron’s protest. Finally, in 1964, Louis Empain recovered his property and Villa.

From 1965 to 1973, at Louis Empain’s initiative, the Villa became a Multicultural Center where exhibits and cultural events take place.

Baron Louis Empain would then sell his beloved property to Tobesco S.A. (Belgo International Estate) in 1973 and died shortly thereafter in  1974.

The radio station RTL (Radio-Télévision-Luxembourg) rented the Villa and installed its Belgian headquarters there from 1980 until 1993.

The Villa is inscribed as an historical monument in 2001, and placed on the Brussels patrimonial protection list.

During the period from 2002 until 2005, the Villa is partially destroyed and suffers from many acts of vandalism.

In 2006, while the architectural bureau Ma2 has already been engaged for the restoration mission, the Villa is purchased by the Boghossian Fondation, on the  advice of the architect Philippe Debloos. An associative convention is signed between the two architectural firms, with Ma2 maintaining the responsibility for the project.

The first step for the Foundation was to protect definitively and entirely the Villa Empain by a request for classification with the Royal Commission for Monuments and Sites (the classification was obtained on March 29th, 2007 which implied a commitment from the Brussels Region to financially support the project). Then the second step was to obtain all the necessary town planning licenses. The project could only become a reality subject to obtaining these licenses. This concerns both the building itself, a major work of the decorative arts, and its accompanying structures (swimming pool and pergola). The license request is submitted on January 24th, 2008 and will be delivered November 21st, 2008.

In December, 2008, the government of Brussels Region grants a 1.400.000-€ subsidy for  the restoration works for the Villa. In May, 2009, a 780.000-€ amount is granted for the restoration of the swimming pool and its surroundings. Two additional demands would be also introduced during the course of construction.

The construction site kicked off in August 2008 and its daily follow-up has been assured by Florence Doneux ( Ma2). The works have come to an end this April 2010 after 20 months of effort. The Valens-Delens Company, under the direction of Christian Jacob, had responsibility for the execution of the restoration works in the Villa. The swimming pool is the object of another contract directed by the company Dimension 7.


Complete project for the restoration of Villa Empain, situated 67 Avenue Franklin Roosevelt, 1050 Brussels

Boghossian Foundation

4.500.000 Euros


about the author

Francis Metzger leads Ma² Metzger and Partners Architecture.Also is a professor and Deputy director in the I.S.A. Victor Horta.


123.01 Restauro
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original: português

outros: english




123.02 Concurso

Revitalização da Praça da Liberdade em Ipameri

123.03 Idéias

Arroio Dilúvio

123.04 crítica

Loja Forma, Paulo Mendes da Rocha, São Paulo, 1987

Edson Mahfuz


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