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Owner of Horta Gallery wants to close passage to Central Station

20:18 16/01/2020

If the owner of the Horta Gallery gets his way, rail passengers will no longer be able to use the underground walkway to get from Central Station to Place d’Espagne (and vice-versa). Anthony Huerta wants to open a permanent attraction in the Gallery that would require the entrance to the space from Central Station to be closed off.

Horta Gallery was built in the 1950s according to a design by architect Victor Horta. He wanted a way for passengers to get from the station to the lower part of town without having to cross busy streets. Huerta’s plan would shut down free public access to the Gallery.

The oval-shaped hall, large columns, elegant slope and wooden escalator has remained a favourite passageway for many Brussels commuters. But not enough of them, according to Huerta, who told Bruzz that only 2,000 people a day use the Horta Gallery, just 4% of the total number of travellers in Central Station every day.

While the SNCB could not confirm that figure, it did say that it was in discussions with Huerta about the space. While Huerta took over ownership of the Horta Gallery from a Russian concern three years ago, it comes with an agreement that the rail authority has the right to maintain the entrance to and from the station.

Luxurious passageway

Currently, the interactive Monet exhibition is taking over a large part of the space, but passengers still have access to the old wooden escalator to be able to pass through the gallery to Place d’Espagne. Huerta says that another artist will be the focus of another digital exhibition following the Monet show.

But he wants more space for his ultimate dream: An interactive, digital museum on the history of Brussels. “I need the entire space for the museum,” he told Bruzz. “I want to use the wooden escalator as seating to screen a film about Horta. I’ve been in talks with the SNCB for three years about this. Central Station has six entryways, and this one is barely used.”

Brussels-City councillor in charge of urban projects, Ans Persoons, does not want to see the passageway disappear. “We would be happy to see a quality project set up in the gallery,” she said, “but access to passengers must be maintained.”

The Horta Gallery, points out Huerta, is 5,000 square metres “200 metres from Grand Place. Surely they don’t want to see it be just a luxurious passageway?”

Photo: Luc Mercelis/Flickr

Written by Lisa Bradshaw