|Hendrik (Henri) Beyaert|
29 July 1823|
|Died||22 January 1894
|Buildings||Maison des Chats in Brussels|
Hendrik Beyaert was of very humble descent. For this reason he had to earn his living from a very young age onwards. Initially he and his family couldn't afford to finance higher studies. At age 19, Hendrik Beyaert worked as a bank employee at the National Bank of Belgium's office in Kortrijk. He found his profession not very indulging and decided to quit the bank. As he had always been fascinated by architecture he found a post as an apprentice stonemason on the building site of the new railway station of Tournai, a building that would be replaced decades later by a design of Hendrik Beyeart himself.
In 1842 the young man went to Brussels where he kept a small bookshop to earn his living and where he enrolled at the Académie to attend the architecture courses. In the following year he met the architect Félix Janlet who believed in the young Beyaert's exceptional qualities and who offered him a job in his office. Due to this job and to a small scholarship granted to him by his native city Kortrijk, Beyaert could finish his architectures studies at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts which he completed in 1846. At the Académie he studied with Tilman-François Suys by whom he was largely influenced during the first years of his career as an independent architect. Beyaert gradually moved away from the neo-classical style if his master and began to experiment with a neo-Louis XVI style in the mansions he built along the Brussels Avenue des Arts and Chaussée de Charleroi.
His first public commission was the head-office of his former employer, the "Banque Nationale de Belgique". This cooperation with the architect Wynand Janssens resulted in a lavish neo-baroque building heavily influenced by the new style propagated in Paris, known as Second Empire. The critical success that it enjoyed, together with Beyaert’s connections with the powerful Liberal Party, led to many other commissions, beginning with the De Brouckère fountain (1866), now on the Square Jan Palfijn, Laeken. Other major works followed in rapid succession. In his major renovation projects of medieval buildings, such as the "Hallepoort" (or "Porte de Hal", a vestige of the medieval fortifications of Brussels) he was influenced by the French architect and theoretician Viollet-le-Duc. This realisation played an important role in Beyaert's architectural development for it made him aware of the importance and beauty of the local architectural styles from the late middle-ages and the early renaissance. Beyaert's style largely shifted to the so-called "Flemish Renaissance Revival" which partly under his influence would become a very popular "National" style in the last quarter of the 19th-century. Other works included the Antwerp Office of the National Bank of Belgium building (1874–79), built on a clever triangular plan, the Tournai Railway Station (1875–79, damaged in WWII), and the Kegeljan-Godin house (1878–1880) in Namur. All had a similar, vaguely Flemish Renaissance or Baroque Revival flavour. In 1876 however, Beyaert publicly denied being a partisan of the nascent Flemish Renaissance Revival movement in Belgium, although the proponents of this movement had wished to align his creations to their own.
With his passion for study and novelties - Beyaert possessed an extensive library on the history of architecture and the decorative arts - his buildings became more and more charged with historical ornamentation without however lacking a clear structural basis. In an architecture contest following the covering of the Zenne, Beyaert's "Maison des Chats/Kattenhuis" took first prize. It was built along the new central boulevard in Brussels and showed clear affinities with the famous Guild Houses at the nearby Brussels Grand Place. Beyaert also designed a number of country houses, including the "Romantic" Château de Faulx-les-Tombes near Namur (1872) which was highly influenced by Viollet-le-Duc's restoration of the Château de Pierrefonds, and the Neo Flemish Renaissance, Castle of Wespelaar (1881–87) in the province of Brabant. Although he had been interested in urban planning since the early 1860s, he could only realise one of his urban design projects: the Petit Sablon Square (1880) in Brussels. It consists of a small park on a trapezium-shaped site, surrounded by a wrought-iron fence of inventive design. His final realisation, crowning an impressive architectural career, is the Ministry of Railways, Post, Telegraph and Navy in Brussels. This project shows Beyaerts ability to cope with a rich ornamentation without attacking the structural integrity of the building. While certainly revivalist in character, his strongly geometric architecture imitated only the spirit and seldom the details of historical models. His own details were highly original. They were part of an architecture of space and structure rather than of mere decorative appearance. In this respect Beyaert would become instrumental in the formation of a new generation of architects, such as Paul Hankar and Victor Horta, that would play an important part in the evolution of Art Nouveau architecture.
List of buildings
1. Private commissions
- Mansion - Brussels, avenue des Arts, 26 (1851)
- Mansions - Brussels, chaussée de Charleroi, 5-7-9 (1858–1860)
- Castle of Faulx-les-Tombes (Château de Faulx-les-Tombes) (1865–1868, renovations and extensions)
- Salles du Concert Noble - Brussels, rue d’Arlon, 82 (1870)
- Maison des Chats / Kattenhuis - Brussels, boulevard Adolphe Max, 1 (1874)
- Castle of Wespelaer (1881–1883) (demolished)
- Maison Kegeljan-Godin, Namur, (1880)
- Castle of Bornem or "Château Marnix de Sainte-Aldegonde", Bornem (1883–1894, renovations and extensions)
2. Public and semi-public commissions:
- Head-office of the National Bank of Belgium, Head-office of the National Bank of Belgium, Rue du Bois-Sauvage/Wildewoudstraat, Brussels, (1859–1867)
- Office of the National Bank of Belgium, Berlaymontlaan, today Frankrijklei, Antwerp, (1860–1878)
- Restoration and conversion into a museum of the "Hallepoort" / "Porte de Hal" (a former city gate of Brussels) (1868–1871)
- School in Soignies (1876–1877)
- Office building of the National Bank of Belgium, Antwerp (1875–1879)
- Tournai Railway Station (Gare et entrepôt des douanes) - Tournai (1874–1879)
- Church Saint-Joseph des Tombes - Faulx-les-Tombes (1879–1882, decoration by Paul Hankar)
- Square du Petit Sablon, Brussels (1879–1899)
- Palais de la Nation/Paleis der Natie, reconstruction and renovation, rue de la Loi/wetstraat, Brussels (1883–1886)
- Church Saint-Martin, "Sint-Martinuskerk" - Everberg (1886–1894, restoration and extension ; decoration Paul Hankar and Adolphe Crespin)
- Office building for the bank: Caisse Générale d’Epargne et de Retraite/Algemene spaar- en lijfrentekas - Brussels, wolvengracht/rue Fossé aux Loups (1890).
- Ministry of Railways, Post, Telegraph and Navy, Brussels, rue de Louvain/Leuvensestraat (1890–1894).
- Fountain "De Brouckère", inaugurated en 1866, Brussels, porte de Namur/Naamsepoort, in 1957 moved to Laeken, square Jean Palfijn/Jan Palfijnsquare.
A portrait of Hendrik Beyaert was represented on the former, 100 Belgian franc banknotes.
- W. Pluym a.o., The Hôtel of the governor of the National Bank of Belgium, Antwerp, 1995.
- Exposition de l’oeuvre de Henri Beyaert, exhibition catalogue, Brussels, Musées Royaux des Arts Décoratifs et Industriel, 1904.
- J. Kennes, J. Vanderperren and J. Victoir, L’Architecture éclectique d’Henri Beyaert, Brussels, 1978.
- J. Neirynck and F. Neirynck, Travaux d’architecture exécutés en Belgique par Henri Beyaert, architecte, 2 vols., Brussels, 1881–1895.
- J. Victoir and J. Vanderperren, Henri Beyaert: Du classicisme à l’art nouveau, St Martens-Latem, 1992.
- J. Victoir and J. Vanderperren, Hendrik Beyaert. Van Classicisme tot Art Nouveau, Sint-Martens-Latem, 1992.
- Hendrik Beyaert on the 100 francs banknote
- The "Concert Noble" ballroom in Brussels designed by Beyaert
- Porte de Hal / Hallepoort on Wikipedia in French
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