Shortly after the First World War, the Belgian architect Victor Horta (1861-1947) began to plan the Centre for Fine Arts (Palais des Beaux-Arts/Paleis voor Schone Kunsten). The building was part of his urban development project for the Mont des Arts/Kunstberg ("Mount of the Arts").

Horta is primarily known for his mansions in pure art-nouveau style, built at the end of the nineteenth century. In the Victor Horta Museum – Horta’s former private home and studio – it is possible to take a look behind the scenes. In Horta’s work, architecture and interior design are inextricably bound together. The leaded windows, cast-iron railings, floral decoration on the floors and walls, and furniture designed by Horta himself: all combine to create an unforgettable impression. 

A crazy plan
Horta was forced to cope with quite a few obstacles before he could realise his plans, which were seen by many as crazy. Edward Anseele, the minister of public works, was immediately interested in his plans. In 1920, however, parliament refused to approve funding, until in 1922 the Société du Palais des Beaux-Arts came into being and the project finally got off the ground.

The City of Brussels made available an irregular plot measuring 8000m2. In exchange, they insisted that shops had to be placed along the street front. This elicited the following outburst from Horta in his memoirs: "Palace? That is not how I think of it: just an arts centre, because I would never be able to give that name to a construction whose main facade is taken up by shops."

On the rue Royale/Koningsstraat, higher up the hill, the Centre was not permitted to spoil the king’s view of the lower town. The height of the building was therefore strictly limited and the majority of the "Palace" was built underground.