What’s the history of Villa Empain?

One of the cultural jewels to discover in Brussels is the Villa Empain, an Art Deco masterpiece.

Built in 1930 as a private mansion for Baron Louis Empain – who was then 21 years old – Villa Empain was designed by the Swiss architect, Michel Polak.

At the time that it was built, Villa Empain was the spectacular centrepiece of a 55-acre estate.

Delivering on the Baron’s brief, Polak created a modern and luxurious home that embodied the best of the Art Deco era.

The Baron lived at Villa Emapin for only a few years, before donating it to the Belgian State in 1937.

During World War II, the villa was occupied by the German army, and then became the embassy of the Soviet Union before passing into private ownership.

In 2001, the villa was added to the architectural heritage list of Brussels. However, by then, Villa Empain was a derelict house – unoccupied and subjected to vandalism.

It was the Boghossian Foundation that stepped in to save Villa Empain, acquiring the building in 2008.

The Boghossian family are jewellers. Their origins are in Armenia, but they came to Brussels from Lebanon. Created in 1992, the Boghossian Foundation finances social, educational and artistic projects in Belgium, Lebanon, and Armenia.

After renovating and restoring the property, the Boghossian Foundation adopted Villa Empain as it headquarters.

The villa now hosts a year-round programme of exhibitions, concerts, performances, screenings, and workshops.