Brussels, the Chinese Pavilion is shaping its future

Belgium. It was built between 1903 and 1910, near the Royal Palace of Laeken, at the request of Leopold II. It could have become a luxury restaurant or a dating club for wealthy businessmen. It briefly served as the setting for a permanent exhibition on products imported from the Far East. Ceded to the Museums of Art and History, it housed the Royal Museums of the Far East of Belgium and a private collection of Chinese porcelain. Despite a first renovation in the early 1990s and a classification in 2019, the Chinese Pavilion closed its doors to the public in 2013 for security reasons and lack of staff. And since then, his condition has continued to deteriorate. However, the building built by the architect Alexandre Marcel, in a style that mixes Art Nouveau, the Louis XV and Louis XVI styles, is an exceptional heritage which includes Asian decorative elements that are very rare today, such as the woodwork made in Shanghai by young Chinese artisans under the leadership of Belgian Jesuits.

The Silk Road Palace

Formal notice given by the Brussels Secretary of State for Heritage, Ans Persoons, the Régie des Bâtiments – the federal body that owns the premises – presented at the last minute a rescue solution that was, to say the least, original. Led by Diane Hennebert, a non-profit association (ASBL) made up of public and private administrators will take charge of the management of the building and will share the costs of the renovation. The pavilion will now be called the Silk Roads Palace to indicate that interest will be focused on all cultures of the Far East. It will host temporary exhibitions and its annexes can be rented for private events. Work should begin at the end of 2025, with an opening provisionally planned for autumn 2027.

Diane Hennebert, former director of the Boghossian Foundation who presided over the rescue and renovation of the Villa Empain thanks to a private owner, hopes that this mixed management model between public and private will make it possible to save other jewels of Brussels heritage

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