Monday, January 30, 2012

Victor Horta-The Horta Museum and his Modernism.

Throughout the history of architecture linearity and simple geometric form have been the dominant givers of form. Conceptual simplicity and universality, along with simplified construction methods, have made this the approach of choice for most architectural schools of thought. There has always existed, however, a rogue element, an amorphous thread, which occasionally resurfaces at the forefront of architecture. In the late 19th century the Art Nouveau movement hit the architectural scene, bringing Amorphism into the spotlight. In reaction to the Industrial revolution architects embraced the organic forms of the new style, applying its aesthetic to construction details and facades in an attempt to glorify the creation of man’s hand over the products of machines.In 1893, Victor Horta began designing the Hotel Tassel, a private residence for a fellow mason in Brussels. This building marks the emergence of the tenets of Art Nouveau into the architectural arena. While this design broke from the established norm, it was far from unusual in today’s terms. The plan of the building, while not entirely orthogonal, remained rectilinear. In section it is apparent that the structure of the building remains linear, the only evidence of the new style being the treatment of the ceiling in several rooms. The novelty in Horta’s approach was restricted in essence to an elaborate interior project. While the form and structure of Hotel Tassel showed little innovation, the execution of the details gave birth to a whole new architectural style in Brussels. The ironwork in the rail of the main stair is sculpted into a vine-like form, made all the more dramatic by the accompanying mural flowing down the wall beside it. The organic forms whipping up the wall are a perfect tribute to the graphic style from which this architectural innovation came. The floor, laid in orange and white tiles, elaborates on the curve of the stair filling large square sections of floor with beautiful scrollwork.

The windows and hardware chosen for the house follow suite, and even the metal columns end in a flowering capital that grows from its top to catch the structure above. Horta brought the Art Nouveau interior close to perfection when he completed his own residence in 1989, the Maison and Atelier Horta. While the plan and section of this plan also remain rectilinear, once again Horta’s detailing is full of exquisite organic form. By now, Horta has abandoned the superficial application of painted murals to accent his work and has moved on to hand crafted wood pieces to compliment his style. Every doorway is a hand-crafted piece of art, and at every opportunity custom built furniture surrounds fireplaces or provides a place to sit. Expertly crafted wood details flourish at every possibility, providing asymmetry and organic form to windows and giving handrails and trim an unexpected turn at each terminus or intersection. The laylight in the top of the main stair is the closest Horta ever comes to an amorphously sculpted space. On either side of the stair, he places an elegantly formed mirror, repeatedly reflecting the space ad infinitum. The form of the laylight follows the shape of the mirror, curving in a natural sloping arch terminating into a cantilevered glass panel. While this execution of space is far from innovative, it stands out as original among its peers. While Horta’s application of amorphism barely scraped above a superficial application, he was a pioneer in the realm of non-linear form. His elegant detailing succeeded in exalting the craftsman above the machine and brought the organic motif of the Art Nouveau graphic artists into the field of architecture.(By Steven Edward McGann)
Horta's Museum 
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. The Horta Museum was actually the house that Victor Horta built for himself in the late 1890's. It's a true example of the architectural style that made Horta into one of the most acclaimed architects in Belgium.
The Art Nouveau style was popular in Europe, and especially in Brussels, between 1893 and 1918. The characterizations are: the use of industrial materials like steel and iron in the visible parts of houses, new decorations inspired by nature (e.g. the famous whiplash motive, which occurs very often in the Art Nouveau style and especially in the work of Horta), decorative mosaics or sgraffito on the façades of houses, etc... Most of these principles can be seen applied in the Horta Museum itself. 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.
This style has sometimes a different name in certain countries: Jugendstil in the German-speaking countries, Modern Style, Liberty Style in Britain, Estilo Modernista in Spain.
Victor Horta was born in 1861 in Gent, Belgium. After studies in Paris, he settles in Brussels and continues to study at the Académie des Beaux Arts (Beautiful Arts Academy). In 1893 he builds his first true Art Nouveau house, the house of the Tassel family, which can still be seen in the Rue Emile Janson/Emiel Jansonstraat, 6 in Brussels. Other truly magnificent constructions were to follow: 1894 The Solvay House (his masterpiece); 1895 La Maison du Peuple (the meeting house of the Brussels socialists, now sadly demolished) and the Van Eetvelde House; 1898 the Horta house (his private mansion and this museum), 1901 Les Grands Magasins Innovation (destroyed by a fire in 1967 during which over 300 people were killed), 1903 Les Magasins Waucquez (nowadays the Comic Strip Museum of Brussels).

The research and presentation of the architect Victor Horta is dedicated to all young students of architecture in the  University of Thessaly,Volos-Greece.
Michael Balaroutsos architect

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