Visiting Genval, Belgium: the grace of civic architecture

Flag of Belgium
Flag of Belgium | Source
Former 'Masion communale', Genval
Former 'Masion communale', Genval | Source
Ceramic detail at Genval railroad station
Ceramic detail at Genval railroad station | Source
Map location of Rixensart municipality in Walloon Brabant
Map location of Rixensart municipality in Walloon Brabant | Source

Memories of a past era

The downtown area of Genval in Belgium's Walloon region has some notable examples of gracious architecture in public buildings.

Former Town hall

The building known as the Masion communale (approx: Town hall), prior to the municipality's fusion with neighbouring Rixensart in 1977, is now used as the local library. Built in 1913, its features include stone steps at a porch frontage, and a small tower turret.

The architect Campenhout was responsible for the design of this structure.

Railroad station

The Genval railroad station, belonging to the Belgian national railroad company SNCB / NMBS, is another public building in the form of a pleasing brick structure, dating from 1910. This building containins a number of significant ceramic details by the architect G. De Lulle .

Although the whole is described as eclectic in style, yet some colourful, floral patterns displayed on this ceramic tiling, and other features, follow the Art nouveau style, particularly popularized in Brussels by the disinguished Victor Horta .

Impressions of a soon to close era

These buildings at Genval thus date from a soon to close era, just before the convulsive World War One swept away not only millions of lives, and causing huge destruction, but also, from an architectural perspective, brought in simpler styles. Some of these newer styles, though purportedly more functional, may be said to to lack the grace of buildings dating from the late 19th and 20th century.

The castle at Genval (see below), being privately owned, would not come under the category of civil architeture, but is worth a visit.

Also worth seeing

Lake Genval (French: Lac de Genval ; known in Dutch as the Meer van Overijse-Genval ) and its late 19th century castle (distance: 1.1 kilometres) is a scenic feature, through which the linguistic boundary between the Walloon and Flemish region runs.

Rixensart (distance: 2.6 kilometres); this is the municipality to which Genval belongs; it possesses a picturesque Mérode castle, which dates from the 17th century, although the original castle on the site was from the 13th century.

Overijse (distance: 7.4 kilometres), over the boundary into the Flemish region, has a distinguished Town Hall (Gemeentehuis ), which is Medieval in origin, restored in the 1960s. The stone parish church of St. Martin of note.

Waterloo (distance: 11 kilometres) has the huge memorial to the battle of Waterloo; an attraction which over many years has brought large numbers of visitors to the locality.

Brussels (distance: 22 kilometres) has many important, historical and cultural sites which are too numerous to mention properly here; however, be sure to visit the Grand' Place . The Royal Palace (French: Palais royal ; Dutch: Koninklijk Paleis ) has a façade, which may be seen to impressive effect from the Park of Brussels (French: Parc de Bruxelles ; Dutch: Park van Brussel ); a wing of this Palace, the Hôtel Bellevue, contains a museum of Belgium's royal dynasty. The Erasmus House (Maison d'Erasme ; Erasmushuis ), Anderlecht, is dedicated to the life of Renaissance scholar Erasmus of Rotterdam.

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How to get there: Brussels Airlines flies from New York to Brussels Airport (Brussel Nationaal / Bruxelles-National ), from where car rental is available. The Belgian railroad company SNCB / NMBS maintains a railroad link to Genval station. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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