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Commissioner General's Pavilion of Honour - Expo Brussels 1935

Commissioner General's Pavilion of Honour at the Exhibition Expo Brussels 1935
© L'Epi
Architect(s) : Henri Lacoste

The Reception Pavilion itself was set in a square of 32 metres on each side. It was preceded by a paved terrace dominated by a mast bearing the national flag at a height of 50 metres. A gilded bronze shaft supported the flagpole like a rostral column where the spurs of ancient ships were replaced by colossal animal heads. At the base a fountain that the sculptor J. Berchmans had decorated with spitters and sea horses. L. Hoffman and E. Nootens modelled graceful nymphs holding flowers for the other corners of the terrace. The floor was paved with a polychrome pavement bordered by a parapet of Kortrijk tiles.

The door of the Palace was 9 metres wide and 11 metres high. A huge bronze lintel hid a blind that was tied up in the mouths of five golden lions.

The porch was panelled with black marble, enhanced by the freshness of the frescoes. One of them, by Master Fabry, recalled the joyful entry of Leopold III into Brussels. In the centre, the figure of the King on horseback; the figures cheering him occupy the lower register and the mass of flags merges with the warm tones of the brick. An ideal, all-white figure crosses the sky horizontally.

Opposite, P. Artot had represented the taking of the oath. The King, on the left, dominates the assembly, the Queen and the Princes are placed in front, the dignitaries on the right. The columns of the Chamber's hemicycle can be seen fading away in an apotheosis of the three Kings who preceded our Sovereign.

The decoration of this hallway was completed by two panels: one evoked Saint Michael, patron saint of the capital. It was the work of M. Counhaye. The other, by the painter Stroobants, represented a lion figure.
The doors had been forged by L. François to the designs of Paulis and over the marble archivolt with gold rosettes by Engels moved the monumental clock built by Tordoir.

The main hall was red and gold. From the centre of a rich marble mosaic, a crystal column sprang up, its three drums symbolising the three reigns that had passed, and opened into blue flower buds eight metres above the ground, an image of the reign that had just begun.

An immense silver and gold chandelier reflected in the centre of the hall the thousand lights of the sun captured on the terraces at the four cardinal points.

The large octagonal hall was surrounded by four small salons of the same shape. A large rectangular salon measuring 8 metres by 16 metres met a dining room of equal size. Two square rooms, an open dressing room, a kitchen and outbuildings occupied the rest of the ground floor.

The large hallway was lined with red Merbes-Sprimont marble, red Rance marble and paved with Fauquez marble. The spandrels of the arches were decorated with animals painted by M.-J. van der Haeghen, and the intrados of the vaults with medallions, the work of F. De Pooter, Colfs, De Roover, Gaillard, L. Gilsoul, P.-A. Masui, Moitroux, Spillaert, Sterck-mans and Max Van Dyck.

The iron doors, wrought by Alexandre, were embellished with medallions, in embossed lead, by Aebly. A wrought and sculpted iron frieze was the work of Alfred François. Galler did the balconies.

One of the four small rooms was a library by Paul Pelseneer, whose fine cabinetwork contained rare bindings by R. Simonson, under locks chiselled by Menzel. Green armchairs by Bouy surrounded a fireplace by Henri Losange.

Another formed a small pink satin boudoir furnished and decorated by Beirnaert.

The very refined ensemble opposite was by Robert Decerf, and Rosel had equipped the last small room for radio and telephone auditions.

The high windows of the large salon revealed remarkable trees right up to their tops. The velvet curtains woven by Achel were edged with Joseph Clara's trimmings. Above a fireplace by Ermans, which contained a pair of andirons, wrought-iron snakes and a piece of mastery quite beyond compare by the Costermans, was the large tapestry painted by R. StrebeHe and woven by G. Chaudoir. The other tapestries in the salon were woven by G. De Wit on cartoons by P. de Vaucleroy.

The general staff decoration was executed by P. Colleye. On a carpet by Peeters-Van Roye and carpets in knotted stitch by Guillon were distributed the furniture of our best cabinet makers: by Blondel, a sofa and an armchair in ivory satin, a table in metal and amboyna, stools covered with tapestry;
by G. Carie, a sofa in peach velvet and a table in mahogany and ice;
from Désir, lambskin armchairs, a mahogany and metal pedestal table;
by G. Desneux, a rosewood desk, a green morocco armchair, an armchair and stool in tapestry;
by Ch. Rosel, furniture decorated with egg shells, a crystal console;
by H. Wallaert, a game table in violet wood, two small armchairs and two large ones in the same wood and upholstered in velvet.

Two ceramic vases by H. Javaux, a light fixture by De Winter, and bindings by Mademoiselle Godart, completed this beautiful ensemble, which was further enhanced by busts of LL. Albert and Elisabeth by Vinçotte, Leopold III and Astrid by Adolphe Wansart.

The square salon, which followed, was designed by Servranckx and executed in marble in collaboration with Van Haegenborgh.

The Furniture Gallery, which extended over a length of 120 metres between two circular porches painted by Schirren and Georges Creten, could be seen from the large box opening onto the gardens.

The Kiosk of the Seasons was a bold belvedere built in the centre of a pool. Sixteen iron columns clad with glass mural by Fauquez, supported a mirror ceiling and an enamelled tile roof 15 metres above the pavement. The construction was the work of the engineer J.-F. van der Haegen and his student M. De Mol. The beautiful wrought iron balustrades were produced by the kingdom's ironmongery schools.

Four statues resting on marble pedestals justified the name given to this building: Spring, by Eric Wansart, a highly original interpretation; Summer, by F. Débonnaires, author of the four selected sketches; Autumn, by J. Beernaerts, and Winter, by J. Witterwulghe.

From the kiosk, one could overlook the gardens, skilfully created by René Péchère and decorated with charming circular red fountains with black fish. These fountains, studied by Mr. André Hermant for the architecture, modelled by Tony Hermant, had been made by the ceramist Helman.

Frescoes still covered the walls of this open lodge and a special mention is due to the talent of the painter Léon Navez. His work was dedicated to LL. Albert and Elisabeth, protectors of the Arts and Sciences. It was in perfect harmony with the architecture of the lodge and the surrounding materials.

Opposite him, R. Van Cauwenberghe had depicted the return of the Sovereigns to the reconquered cities after the war and M. Langas-kens had framed the large door of the lodge with allegorical figures.

The balconies were made by Cruls. The ironwork was by Alexander. The giant copper flowers in the fountain's spotlights and the bees on the balconies had been hand-beaten by Lacoste. The gold of these bronzes enhanced the rich polychromy of the columns covered with wall glass, red for the lodge and blue for the fountain.

We left the lodge to cross the square salon paved with travertine, which was a credit to M. Baugniet's taste, and we thus arrived at the large dining room. The centrepiece was undoubtedly the tapestry commemorating the institution of the Albert National Park. It had been woven by Braquenié from cartoons by Paul Leclerc.

The lighting was pleasantly diffused by six sconces placed on the pilasters and numerous batteries of diffusers hidden in the woodwork. This interesting design, which combined semi-direct and diffused lighting, was the work of V. de Winner.

The fireplace, whose andirons were decorated with stainless steel balls, was designed by Costermans. Sobriety reigned supreme here too, and this fireplace gave an impression of honest and frank well-being even before the logs were lit.

Finally, two mirrored panels engraved by Ch. M. Brunard, with a refined effect and a pleasant fantasy, enhanced the sumptuous sycamore panelling made by Van Calster.

The floor was covered all around with special thick black Eternit panels. A compass rose in discreet tones was inlaid in the paving. The doors were also covered with Eternit, the variety of which made it possible to cover the floor in fresh colours.

The parquet floor with its curved ends, with a pleasant and sufficiently calm design, was made by La-chapelle. Natural copper also played a role in this ensemble, either as a door or fireplace frame or in the fine window frames made by Menzel.

The curtains were reduced to the role of light clouds, softening the daylight and intercepting the view from outside. These 10-metre-high curtains, which were enriched by a series of wide strips running along the bottom, were a prodigious feat of weaving carried out by Van-den Hole, thanks to the silky-looking and silky-feeling Setilose spun by Tubize.

The furniture was striking in its sobriety and robustness; it was made of an almost plain rosewood by Stevens. The tables had been designed to be placed end to end with a system of extensions, so as to give place to a number varying from 4 to 50 guests. The wide, low-backed chairs, supported by flexible steel bars, were covered with a saddle.

The tablecloths were happily varied, whether they were woven by Marie-Louise Zimmer or embroidered by Yvonne Kaufman.

The porcelain, crystal and silverware services were carefully designed. There was not a single detail of the glass service that had not been studied, examined and sampled by Val-Saint-Lambert.

The tableware was of beautiful porcelain and decorated entirely by hand by Demeuldre-Coché, from whom the "old Brussels" had once come. The silverware, studied by Marcel Wolfers, with a desire for simplification combined with a great finesse of form, proved that the lack of ornamentation is not misery and that a beautiful metal treated with love can do without all the chasing and guilloche work.

Among the pieces on display, the perfectly curved vegetable dishes with Pyrex interiors reflected the spirit of this ensemble. Sobriety but refinement of form and material; sumptuousness respecting the utilitarian side, the life side, of each object, be it crystal, porcelain, goldsmith's ornaments or furniture.

Such was this reception pavilion of the Commissariat Général of a truly fascinating beauty.

© Le Livre d'Or de l'Exposition Universelle de Bruxelles 1935