Heritage Happy Hour at Van Buuren Gardens in Brussels

It has become a tradition in the past few years for Europa Nostra to raise a glass in the company of our members and partners based in Brussels before the summer break. These “Heritage Happy Hours” give us the opportunity to take stock of our activities, to celebrate our common endeavours and to get inspired for undertaking new joint initiatives. This year, we chose to host our networking event in the Picturesque Gardens of the Van Buuren Museum, whose recent restoration received a 2015 EU Prize for Cultural Heritage/Europa Nostra Award. The event was kindly supported by the Foundation of the Van Buuren Museum, was co-hosted by Piet Jaspaert, Board member and newly appointed Vice-President of Europa Nostra, and by Sneska Quaedvlieg-Mihailovic, EN Secretary General, and the “vin d’amitié” was kindly offered by Jozef van Waeyenberge, Chairman of Europa Nostra Belgium.

The Picturesque Garden of the Museum van Buuren in Brussels, BELGIUM. Photo: Atelier EOLE Paysagistes

The Picturesque Garden of the Museum van Buuren in Brussels, BELGIUM. Photo: Atelier EOLE Paysagistes

Organising our networking event in the Picturesque Gardens of the van Buuren Museum gave us the opportunity to discover this hidden gem located in the European capital. The President of the van Buuren Museum Foundation, Jacques Bedoret, briefly presented us the history of the house, bought in 1928 by the Dutch banker and arts maecenas David van Buuren. This house soon became a “living academy” of Art Deco indoor decoration, with rare furniture, carpets, stained-glass windows, sculptures and international masterpieces. Allegedly, this is where the idea for establishing the Queen Elizabeth Music Competition was born out of discussions between two dear friends, the Queen herself and her hostess Alice van Buuren.

Anne-Marie Sauvat, in charge of the garden’s restoration works who travelled to Oslo to receive our European Heritage Award gave us an enlightening and inspiring presentation on the originality of the Picturesque Garden which was created in 1927-1928 by Jules Buyssens (1872-1958), a garden designer who achieved an international reputation. She particularly noted the wealth of different atmospheres he managed to create by including different levels and view points, combining structured areas such as the Rose gardens with more English-style nature, and leading from the one to the other through an ingenious use of water. Ms Sauvat wholeheartedly thanked the European Union and Europa Nostra for their European Heritage Award and she spoke with much appreciation and lots of emotion about her “magical European experience” in Oslo.

When greeting the guests, Piet Jaspaert and Sneska Quaedvlieg-Mihailovic praised the “power of partnerships” and stressed that the “secret of our success” lies in the combined skills, passion and commitment of so many members (professionals, volunteers and donors) of our ever-growing European Network for Heritage. They put a special emphasis on the vital importance of the fruitful partnership which Europa Nostra and other members of the European Heritage Alliance 3.3. have been intensifying with the European Commission, and in particular with the committed team led by Michel Magnier, Director for Culture and Creativity, at DG EAC, many of whom were present at the Gardens of van Buuren. Finally they recalled the positive spirit and energy generated by the European Heritage Congress which was held in June in Oslo. This was a perfect illustration of the power of culture and heritage to bring people together across borders and to stimulate creative exchanges, especially in times of Europe’s present-day crisis. Finally, they called for the widest possible dissemination of the far-reaching results of the Cultural Heritage Counts for Europe project which where presented in Oslo and which provide compelling evidence of the value of cultural heritage and its impact on Europe’s economy, culture, society and the environment.
The official local award ceremony at the Picturesque Gardens of the Van Buuren Museum will take place on 22 September, in the presence of Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport and Denis de Kergorlay, Executive President of Europa Nostra.

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