The Hotel Tassel is a town house built by Victor Horta in Brussels for the Belgian scientist and professor Emile Tassel in 1893–1894. It is generally considered as the first true Art Nouveau building, because of its highly innovative plan and its groundbreaking use of materials and decoration. Together with three other town houses of Victor Horta, including Horta's own house and atelier, it was put on the 'UNESCO World Heritage List' in 2000.
The first town house built by Victor Horta was the Maison Autrique. This dwelling was already innovative for its application of a novel 'Art Nouveau' decorative scheme that didn't include references to other historical styles. However the floor plan and spatial composition of the Maison Autrique remained rather traditional. On the deep and narrow building plot the rooms were organised according to a traditional scheme used in most Belgian town houses at that time. It consisted of a suite of rooms on the left side of the building plot flanked by a rather narrow entrance hall with stairs and a corridor that led to a small garden at the back. From the three room suite only the first and the last had windows so that the middle room (mostly used as a dining room) was rather gloomy.
At the Hôtel Tassel Horta definitively broke with this traditional scheme. In fact he built a house consisting of three different parts. Two rather conventional buildings in brick and natural stone — one on the side of the street and one on the side of the garden — were linked by a steel structure covered with glass. It functions as the connective part in the spatial composition of the house and contains staircases and landings that connect the different rooms and floors. Through the glass roof it functions as a light shaft that brings natural light into the centre of the building. In this part of the house, that could also be used for receiving guests, Horta made the maximum of his skills as an interior designer. He designed every single detail; doorhandles, woodwork, panels and windows in stained glass, mosaic flooring and the furnishing. Horta succeeded in integrating the lavish decoration without masking the general architectural structures.
The innovations made in the Hôtel Tassel would mark the style and approach for most of Horta's later town houses, including the Hôtel van Eetvelde, the Hôtel Solvay and the architects own house and atelier. It might be superfluous to mention that these houses were very expensive and only affordable for the rich bourgeoisie with an Avant-Garde taste. For this reason the pure architectural innovations were not largely followed by other architects. Most other Art Nouveau dwellings in Belgium and other European countries were inspired by Horta's 'whiplash' decorative style which is mostly applied to a more traditional building.
The Hôtel Tassel had a decisive influence on the French Art Nouveau architect Hector Guimard who later developed a personal interpretation of Horta's example.References:
The Old Town Hall of Wrocław is one of the main landmarks of the city. The Old Town Hall's long history reflects developments that have taken place in the city since its initial construction. The town hall serves the city of Wroclaw and is used for civic and cultural events such as concerts held in its Great Hall. In addition, it houses a museum and a basement restaurant.
The town hall was developed over a period of about 250 years, from the end of 13th century to the middle of 16th century. The structure and floor plan changed over this extended period in response to the changing needs of the city. The exact date of the initial construction is not known. However, between 1299 and 1301 a single-storey structure with cellars and a tower called the consistory was built. The oldest parts of the current building, the Burghers’ Hall and the lower floors of the tower, may date to this time. In these early days the primary purpose of the building was trade rather than civic administration activities.
Between 1328 and 1333 an upper storey was added to include the Council room and the Aldermen’s room. Expansion continued during the 14th century with the addition of extra rooms, most notably the Court room. The building became a key location for the city’s commercial and administrative functions.
The 15th and 16th centuries were times of prosperity for Wroclaw as was reflected in the rapid development of the building during that period. The construction program gathered momentum, particularly from 1470 to 1510, when several rooms were added. The Burghers’ Hall was re-vaulted to take on its current shape, and the upper story began to take shape with the development of the Great Hall and the addition of the Treasury and Little Treasury.
Further innovations during the 16th century included the addition of the city’s Coat of arms (1536), and the rebuilding of the upper part of the tower (1558–59). This was the final stage of the main building program. By 1560, the major features of today’s Stray Rates were established.
The second half of the 17th century was a period of decline for the city, and this decline was reflected in the Stray Rates. Perhaps by way of compensation, efforts were made to enrich the interior decorations of the hall. In 1741, Wroclaw became a part of Prussia, and the power of the City diminished. Much of the Stray Rates was allocated to administering justice.
During the 19th century there were two major changes. The courts moved to a separate building, and the Rates became the site of the city council and supporting functions. There was also a major program of renovation because the building had been neglected and was covered with creeping vines. The town hall now has several en-Gothic features including some sculptural decoration from this period.
In the early years of the 20th century improvements continued with various repair work and the addition of the Little Bear statue in 1902. During the 1930s, the official role of the Rates was reduced and it was converted into a museum. By the end of World War II Town Hall suffered minor damage, such as aerial bomb pierced the roof (but not exploded) and some sculptural elements were lost. Restoration work began in the 1950s following a period of research, and this conservation effort continued throughout the 20th century. It included refurbishment of the clock on the east facade.