Visiting the Stock Exchange Building, Brussels, Belgium: Neo-Renaissance and Second Empire opulence
A sumptuous creation of Léon-Pierre Suys
This opulent building, which houses the Stock Exchange (French: la Bourse ; Dutch: de Beurs ), Brussels (French: Bruxelles ; Dutch: Brussel ) was erected between 1871 and 1873.
Some history and features
The work of Architect Léon-Pierre Suys (1823-1887)(1). the building, in a combination of Neo-Renaissance and Second Empire styles, symbolizes and exudes a sense of the increasing prosperity of the city's commercial classes in the third quarter of the nineteenth century. Belgium was among the earliest European countries to undergo industrialization in the 19th century and the Brussels Stock Exchange represented the regular supply of finance for Belgium's economic growth. Thus, in the 1860s, the need for a large, new stock exchange building was perceived as being among the city's top, public works priorities.
The main frontage has eight Corinthian columns. Various sculptures are present at locations around much of the building, including ones representing Commerce and Industry by sculptor Joseph Jacquet (1822-1898), and Africa and America, Art, Science, Metallurgy and others. French sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), who resided for many years in Brussels, was also responsible for a considerable proportion of the sculpture work.
After the building's official opening in 1873, amidst great pomp and circumstance typical of the era of King Leopold II of the Belgians, further work on the building was required; the Stock Exchange's business operations were eventually begun here in 1874. As an institution, the Stock Exchange of Brussels had been founded in 1801.
A third floor was added to the building in the early 20th century.
The Stock Exchange's public square (French: place de la Bourse ; Dutch: Beursplein ) is a focal point for traffic and frequent meetings and demonstrations. Indeed, in 1957, no less than 32 streetcar (British: tram) routes converged there.
Some damage was cause by a fire at the building in 1990.
The site of the building was previously occupied by a Franciscan convent, dating from the 13th century, and subsequently by a market.
I think the words 'grand', 'sumptuous' and 'opulent' sum up the building. (Just as words such as 'modest', 'understated' and 'simple' certainly do not!)
Architect Léon-Pierre Suys was also involved in a large project for beautifying the city centre and expanding its boulevards. He notably worked on the covering of the Senne River during the mayoralty of Jules Anspach, for whom a nearby, major boulevard is named. His father, Tilman-François Suys, was also an architect responsible for many prominent buildings in Brussels.
Also worth seeing
How to get there: Brussels Airlines flies from New York to Brussels Airport (Brussel Nationaal / Bruxelles-National ), from where car rental is available. However, the Metro is a very convenient way of getting around Brussels. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. 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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