Throughout March, the BANAD festival provides a unique opportunity to explore the Art Nouveau and Art Deco masterpieces of Belgium’s capital.
Ahead of the launch of the 2020 program, KET spoke with Thomas Detry of Explore Brussels – the organisation behind BANAD – for a behind-the-scenes look at what we can expect.
“The origin of the festival dates back to 2001”, explained Detry. “It’s been an annual event since 2017.”
“This year, we’re expecting around 10,000 people to take part. About 50 percent will be from across Belgium, and 50 percent will be international visitors. That will translate into 1,500 guided tours through the 60 participating properties.”
“Each tour only has a limited number of people, depending on the size of the house. It’s quite a logistical challenge – everyone has to select which properties they want to visit and their preferred time-slot. The most popular houses sell out very quickly.”
“The festival creates opportunities for people to not only understand the concept of the architecture being showcased, but also to feel the atmosphere of each property. This is a style of design that’s very personal. These houses were designed specifically for the first owners that built them – especially when you look at the Art Nouveau period. You can feel the history. You can feel the personality of the people involved.”
We asked Detry whether either of these styles of architecture could be described as having a particularly queer aesthetic.
“I guess the Art Deco style represents a period synonymous with change and liberation”, considered Detry. “The inter-war period saw an embrace of desire and pleasure that probably encouraged a freedom of expression in the homes created at that time. The architecture followed the mood of those crazy years. These designs reflected the personality of the people who were going to live there.”
There’s a surprising mix of functionality in the properties opening their doors to the public as part of BANAD. As well as the private homes, tours will be available at schools, churches, museums, cinemas, bars, and a chocolate factory.
“Each year we try and include new properties in the festival”, confirmed Detry. “This year there’s a number of exciting new inclusions – the interiors are extraordinarily well-preserved. Everyone is very keen to see them.”
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