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About The Bibliothèque Solvay

“La Bibliothèque Solvay” is situated in Brussels' Parc Léopold, next to the European Parliament and close to other institutions. This 100 year-old monument is one of Belgium's finest architectural examples of Eclectism and makes it a very interesting venue.


Bibliothèque Solvay

Rue Belliard 137
B - 1040 Brussels

More than 100 years of history

The Solvay Library: historical background

The Solvay Library was inaugurated on 16 November 1902, when the Institute for Sociology of the University of Brussels moved in.

Sociologist Emile Waxweiler was asked how to organise the building in the light of the new theories on academic teaching. He thus placed the library at the centre, and surrounded it with numerous work spaces. Those rooms were intended as an incentive for students and teachers to reflect individually as well as to allow learning through emulation.

Constant Bosmans and Henri Vandeveld, two famous Brussels architects, drew the plans and supervised the building, financed by Ernest Solvay.

In 1967, the Institute for Sociology, as well as several other scientific institutions, moved near the Solbosch University Campus. The University Press then used the building until 1981. Afterwards, the building was abandoned, fell prey to vandals, and was left to decay.

In 1988, renewed attention for this jewel of Brussels architecture and decorative arts gave birth to a new hope: the Solvay Library was listed as a historical monument with a preservation order on it, and the Government of Brussels-Capital Region asked the Brussels Regional Development Agency to restore the building.

In 1989, the B.R.D.A. obtained a 99-year lease from the building’s owner, i.e. the City of Brussels.

Painstaking restoration started in March 1993, with the aim of giving the Solvay Library the aspect it had at the beginning of the century. The building, accurately restored, was thus inaugurated for a second time on 27 May 1994.

The Solvay Library in Leopold Park, Brussels

The Solvay Library is situated in Leopold Park, Brussels. This public park was listed in 1976 and still contains a series of constructions that bear witness to Brussels’ rich architectural past of the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries.

Leopold Park originally belonged to knight Dubois de Blanco, a scion of the noble Eggevoort family.

In 1851, the Royal Society of Zoology bought the estate, which was converted into zoological gardens. Unfortunately, careless management and an epidemic in 1876 quickly led to bankruptcy. The City of Brussels was therefore able to buy the estate. A year later, the Belgian State acquired the Redemptorists’ convent next to the park and transformed it into a Museum of Natural History.

In 1880, on the 50th anniversary of Belgium’s independence, the park was renamed after the first two kings of the Belgians. The City of Brussels decided that the park would henceforth be opened to the general public and used for fairs.

Between 1887 and 1908, Leopold Park accommodated the greenhouses of the Plantation Service of the City of Brussels as well as the collections of Brussels’ botanist-explorer Jean-Jules Linden.

The dawn of the 20th century gave the park the opportunity to establish its pedigree thanks to the creation of a science park. This innovation was made possible by the sponsorship of three industrialists - Ernest and Alfred Solvay, and Raoul Warocqué - and three bankers - Georges Brugmann, Fernand Jamar, and Léon Lambert. Several other scientific institutions were created at this time: The Physiology, Hygiene, Bacteriology, and Therapeutics Institutes, the Institute of Anatomy and Histology, the Sociology Institute, and the School of Commerce. The Province of Brabant added the Pasteur Institute later on.

In 1921, ULB moved to the Solbosch campus where the scientific institutions were grouped together. Some of Leopold Park’s buildings were demolished, while others received a new assignment.

In spite of all these changes, Leopold Park still retains the character it had at the beginning of the 20th century, and of which, the Solvay Library is a prestigious example.

The Solvay Library: one year of restoration for one hundred years of history

As the years went by, the Solvay Library underwent a series of transformations that modified its original aspect. Ten years of abandonment also left many scars.

Brussels Regional Development Agency entrusted the building’s restoration to the Atelier d’Architecture Deleuze, Metzger et Associés.

The ground floor and the first floor, built around a magnificent basilica-shaped reading room surrounded by studies, have been meticulously restored in accordance with the spirit of the time, as have the gallery and the stairwell. Extensive research has been conducted, based on photographs, plates, original plans, and material samples, in order to achieve the most historically accurate result possible. All the architectural elements that had been destroyed have thus been redrawn and reconstructed. The basement, which is not listed, has been renovated in a contemporary style that nonetheless respects the spirit of the architectural characteristics at the turn of the century.

Bibliothèque Solvay

Bibliotheque solvay wall EMIF


Getting to the venue on foot

From Round-about Schuman (Charlemagne, Breydel, Justus Lipsius):
Take Rue Froissart in the direction of Place Jourdan, turn right on rue Belliard and follow it until you see the entrance to the Parc Léopold on your left. Follow the signs to La Bibliothèque Solvay (3 minute drive; 8 minute walk).

For complete directions to the venue please visit the Getting around page

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