Mont des Arts
|Mont des Arts (in French)|
Kunstberg (in Dutch)
The spire of the Brussels City Hall seen from the Mont des Arts/Kunstberg
|Location||City of Brussels, Brussels-Capital Region, Belgium|
|Architect||Maurice Houyoux, Jules Ghobert|
René Péchère (garden)
|Designated||18 November 1976|
The Mont des Arts (French, pronounced [mɔ̃dɛzaʁ]) or Kunstberg (Dutch, pronounced [ˈkɵnzdbɛrx] (listen)), meaning "hill/mount of the arts", is an urban complex and historic site in the centre of Brussels, Belgium, including the Royal Library of Belgium, the National Archives of Belgium, the Square – Brussels Meeting Centre, and a public garden.
This site is located between Rue Montagne de la Cour/Hofbergstraat and the Coudenberg in its 'upper' part, and Boulevard de l'Empereur/Keizerslaan and the Place de l'Albertine/Albertinaplein in its 'lower' part. It is served by Brussels Central Station.
The area of the Mont des Arts knew different affectations over the centuries. Jews settled there until the 14th century. Later, it used to be a densely populated neighbourhood, the Quartier Saint-Roch/Sint-Rochuswijk, centred around Rue des Trois-Têtes/Driehoofdenstraat. Between the 15th and the 18th century, the hill above it was known as the Montagne de la Cour/Hofberg.
By the end of the 19th century, King Leopold II had the idea to convert the site into an arts' quarter and bought the whole neighbourhood. Various architects and urban planners were called upon to draw plans of the buildings which were to accommodate all kinds of cultural institutions. In the meantime, the mayor of Brussels, Charles Buls, had drawn up a modest plan for the Saint-Roch district. His urbanistic and aesthetic conceptions were totally opposed to those of Leopold II. The burgomaster wanted to preserve as much as possible of the old districts, while the king imagined grandiose projects for his capital. Very isolated, Buls was not followed by the communal council which voted for the king's project on 19 November 1894. Sickened, Buls resigned.
After the demolition of the old buildings in 1897–1898, the site turned into an urban void because the project lacked sufficient finance. To increase the area's appeal during the Brussels International Exposition of 1910, the king ordered the French landscape architect Pierre Vacherot to design a 'temporary' garden on the hill. It featured a park and a monumental staircase with cascading fountains and terraces descending the gentle slope from the Place Royale down to Boulevard de l'Empereur/Keizerslaan. In 1910, a year after the death of Leopold II, the new park was inaugurated by his successor, King Albert I.
Although the garden was conceived as temporary, it became a well-appreciated green area in the heart of the capital, but when the plans for the Mont des Arts came back by the end of the 1930s, this park had to be demolished to create a new square as the centre of the urban renewal project. The project was entrusted jointly to architects Maurice Houyoux and Jules Ghobert. Between 1956 and 1958, the park and its surroundings gave way to massive, severe geometric structures such as the Royal Royal Library of Belgium and the Congress Palace (now the Square – Brussels Meeting Centre). The new geometric garden was designed by landscape architect René Péchère and built upon the concrete slab covering the Albertine car park. The inauguration took place in 1969.
The Mont des Arts offers one of Brussels' finest views. Though the glass and steel cube forming the new entrance to the convention center has modified the upper part of the complex, the perspective created by Péchère has largely been preserved. From the elevated vantage point, the famous tower of the Brussels Town Hall in the Grand Place is clearly visible. On a sunny day, the Koekelberg Basilica and even the Atomium can be seen. From the other end, looking up towards the Royal Square, the dome of Saint-Jacques on the Coudenberg closes the perspective.
Major tourist attractions are located within walking distance of the Mont des Arts: the Musical Instruments Museum (MIM), the Royal Museums of Fine Arts, the Royal Palace, and the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula.
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