The best place to start a visit to St-Gilles is the delightful Musée Victor Horta (whttp://www.hortamuseum.be), just off the chaussée de Charleroi at rue Américaine 25 and reachable by tram #92 from place Louise. The museum occupies the two houses Horta designed as his home and studio at the end of the nineteenth century, and was where he lived until 1919. The exterior sets the tone, a striking re-working and re-ordering of what was originally a modest terraced structure, the fluidity of the design incorporating almost casually knotted and twisted ironwork. Yet it is for his interiors that Horta is particularly famous. Inside is a sunny, sensuous dwelling exhibiting all the architect’s favourite flourishes – wrought iron, stained glass, ornate furniture and panelling made from several different types of timber. The main unifying feature is the staircase, a dainty spiralling affair, which runs through the centre of the house illuminated by a large skylight. Decorated with painted motifs and surrounded by mirrors, it remains one of Horta’s most magnificent and ingenious creations, giving access to a sequence of wide, bright rooms. Also of interest is the modest but enjoyable selection of paintings, many of which were given to Horta by friends and colleagues, including works by Félicien Rops and Joseph Heymans.
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