Hotel Solvay: UNESCO World Heritage museum


From royal and early Art Nouveau building, to today’s hotel and museum, the Solvay House has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Monument since 2003.


The Hotel Solvay and most of its content have remained intact thanks to the Wittamer family who acquired the house in the 1950s and did the utmost to preserve and restore this magnificent dwelling. The house, once private property, is from last January 2021 a museum. It is accepting visitors twice a week1.


The Solvay Hotel was completed in 1903 by the architect Victor Horta by request of Armand Solvay, the son of the wealthy Belgian chemist and industrialist Ernest Solvay, to give a place to his bride in 1984. 


Being remained intact for so long and being one of the works of Horta, the Solvay Hotel is an Art Nouveau masterpiece and a relevant cultural site in Brussels. Due to its very specific characteristic, the building was classified as a monument by royal decree of 07.04.1988, while the garden and the old stables were classified as such in their entirety by government decree of 04.22.1999. Finally, as before mentioned, the Solvay Hotel was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 20032.

The architecture style of the Solvay Hotel is the typical one that was used to represent a large bourgeois family of the nineteenth century and offers in this respect a fairly classic schedule.


However, there is something radically new in the way it was constructed. Horta revolutionized the architecture of his time both by his desire to decompartmentalize spaces by the affirmation of metallic structures and unconventional materials in the living rooms and by the transparency of the space that results from it. It was innovative also due to the comfort of natural air conditioning and the real ergonomics of the whole and the furniture. Since every rooms was designed according to people’s needs and desires, the Hotel has been informally classified as a living and intelligent organism, in dialogue with those who lived there3.


Moreover, in contrast to most contemporary Brussels architecture, the façade is not disconnected from the inside-style. It is harmonious in all of its aspects: a real original spot.

Hotel Solvay Façade, located at 224, Avenue Louise, in Brussels. 

Hotel Solvay from the inside,


From 1984 to 2021 is a long way. How has been possible for the Solvay Hotel to remain intact for all this entire period? Brussels owes this jewel to Victor Horta and Armand Solvay, of course, but also to the Wittamer family, who saved the house from demolition in 1957 and have maintained it well all this time by establishing an haute couture house.


To thank Alexandre Wittamer for the role that his great-grandparents played in the preservation of this monument, Minister-President Rudi Vervoort and Minister for the Image of Brussels Sven Gatz handed him last January the “Bronze Zinneke”4. This statue, a miniature cast of the statue of Tom Frantzen5 in the Karthuizerstraat, is a tribute to Brussels residents who are informal cultural ambassadors6


Cultural ambassadors are officials who live in a foreign country and represent their own country’s cultural interests abroad. In this case, Alexandre Wittamer was awarded as an informal one since he is not an official but his devotion to this cultural site can be compared to the effort of a real ambassador. 


The new opening of this historic and cultural gem gives hope to the cultural and tourism sector, which suffered a lot because of the pandemic. The decision came not only from Wittamer’s love for Victor Horta and Belgian Art Nouveau, but also from the willingness of the Brussels government to enhance the value of its heritage, in particular by making Art Nouveau and ancient artisans more accessible to the public and by showing Brussels to the world as an Art Nouveau capital. To boost this initiative, the Secretary of State for Urbanism and Heritage, Pascal Smet, and the Brussels Region have financed the creation of a website and online ticket sales to best promote the Solvay House. 

Ilaria Ragni

Trainee, HICDB


1. Art Nouveau pearl Hotel Solvay opens to the public,
2. Hotel Solvay,
3. Hotel Solvay, op.cit.
4. This symbol celebrates the diversity of Brussels,
5. Belgian sculptor, known for his social street images, 
6. Hotel Solvay open to the public, 



  • Art Nouveau pearl Hotel Solvay opens to the public,
  • Hotel Solvay,
  • This symbol celebrates the diversity of Brussels,
  • Belgian sculptor, known for his social street images, 
  • Hotel Solvay open to the public,