From Belle Époque to Art Déco in 30 yards

A brief look at…
Brussels | Hotel Metropole

The ‘Metropole’ is the dowager of historic grand hotels in Belgium’s capital city. With 286 rooms it is also by far the largest in this category. Famous for the almost overwhelming Belle Époque splendor of the hotel’s ground floor spaces, the property has become a local sight in its own right, a picture-perfect relic of bygone times in today’s fast-paced world. But despite the turn-of-the-century allure of the lobby, reception and restaurant, the ‘Metropole’ is actually an unexpected, hybrid assembly of buildings and decorative styles that span from 1890 to 1925 and on to 1932. Resulting in an often-confusing network of hallways and that give evidence of the hotel’s expansion over time, it is quite easy to overlook many decorative treasures from the Roaring Twenties.

Facing uncertain outcome since it has been officially closed since April 1 of 2013, it was the initial success of the landmark ‘Café Metropole’ overlooking Brussels’s busiest square that provided the base for the hotel’s existence. Subsequently established in a neighboring building that originally housed a bank, the ‘Hotel Metropole’ opened its doors in 1895. To this day, the hushed atmosphere of the iconic reception room with its front desk, stained-glass windows and chandeliers is the legacy of its former use as the antechamber for discrete financial transactions. The atypical aspect of the public rooms in the ‘Metropole’ is further carried into the central, elongated lobby – a gallery, in reality – where the famous, still functioning, cage elevator is one of the hotel’s most cherished and photographed features. Servicing the oldest part of the hotel, it masks the main stair hall in the original part of the building that actually begins two stories above. But the most surprising aspect is the geometric aspect of the secondary staircase, truly an Art Deco masterpiece and a radical breach with the ostentation that was fashionable three decades earlier.

Not considering the noble materials of the décor, the ‘Metropole’ is perhaps one of the most utilitarian European grand hotels, lacking the symmetry and spatial sequences, which one might expect. In that sense, it is an interesting, early example of spatial conversion and adaptation of uses – a fact carefully concealed by its apparent, well-preserved opulence.

Hotel Metropole
Place de Brouckère 31
1000 Bruxelles