Victor Horta – Belgian Architect and Designer (1861-1947)

Victor Horta was one of the leading architect and designer of Art Nouveau and his style inspired many modernist artists all over Europe. He also influenced the aesthetic ideals the avant-garde group of artists in Belgium, such as “Les Vingt” and “La Libre Esthétique”.

Victor Horta was very influential in the birth of Belgian Art Nouveau Style, along with fellow architects Henry van de Velde, Paul Hankar and jeweler Philippe Wolfers.

What is the style of Horta?

Inspired by nature, his style was swirling and linear, like the stems of plants. Tending towards unity, every material, surface, ornament, inside or outside, was harmoniously assembled with great fluidity and highly detailed by innovative shapes and lines.

The houses are especially significant for their interior architecture: the irregularly shaped rooms open freely onto one another at different levels, the natural design of an iron balustrade is echoed in the curving decorative motifs of the mosaic floors or plaster walls.

House Horta, Bruxelles, 1898, V. Horta
House Horta, Bruxelles, 1898, V. Horta

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The organic forms of Belgium Art Nouveau architecture as established by Victor Horta generated revolutionary ideas and marked the beginning of modern architecture and design. Plant-like forms and sensuous double curves,that would later be known as “the Belgian line”, were adapted to every detail of the building from the main structure to whole interior decoration elements, as colored window glasses, lamps, wooden furniture, wrought-iron and metalwork, door handles and even the house bell. Very popular today, Horta‘s linear designs have inspired many modern silver and glass works, decorative objects and jewelry.

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What are the main buildings of Horta?

His first independent building, Tassel House, was among the first Continental examples of Art Nouveau. An important feature was its octagonal hall with a staircase leading to various levels. The curved line, characteristic of the Art Nouveau style, was used on the facade and also in the interior.

Casa Tassel, V. Horta
Tassel House, 1893, V. Horta

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His chief work is the Maison du Peuple, Brussels (1895–99), which was the first structure in Belgium to have a largely iron and glass facade. In its auditorium the iron roof beams are both structural and decorative.

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Maison du Peuple, V. Horta
Maison du Peuple, 1895-1899, V. Horta

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Four of his private houses (hôtels), were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site:

  • House Tassel in Bruxelles in 1893;
  • House Horta in Bruxelles in 1898;
  • House Solvay in 1895;
  • Maison du peuple in 1895 (destroyed).

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