1930 – 1935
Architect: Michel Polak
67 Avenue Franklin Roosevelt, Brussels, Belgium
Villa Empain is an Art Deco style residence built by Michel Polak between 1930 and 1935, commissioned by Baron Louis Empain.
The facades are clad with polished Baveno granite from Italy, and some brass profiles are covered with gold leaf.
Escalette and Bois Jourdan marble were used in the interiors.
Tropical woods were used in floors and paneling. In addition, there were elaborate glass mosaics and a backlit glass ceiling.
The building was initially planned as a residence, but the builder quickly realized that the villa was not suitable for living.
It is not certain whether he ever actually lived in the mansion. It is believed that it was used for about a year, after which Empain moved to Canada.
In 1937, Louis Empain donated the villa to the Belgian government with the stipulation that it could only be used as a museum.
In November 1943, the villa was requisitioned by the Wehrmacht as the headquarters of the local commander for the German occupation of Belgium.
After the war, for reasons that can no longer be explained, the villa was handed over, without regard to the terms of the donation, to the Soviet Union, which set up its embassy in it.
This decision was contested for years by the Empain family, citing its 1937 purpose as a museum, so that the Soviet embassy had to move out in 1964 and the villa was returned to Louis Empain.
The villa was again used as an exhibition space before being sold in 1973 to Harry Tcherkezian, an Armenian businessman based in the United States.
The latter rented the house to the French broadcaster RTL from 1980 to 1993.
After that, the villa fell into disrepair and was repeatedly the victim of vandalism.
In 2001, it was put on the list of Brussels heritage worthy of protection and was purchased by the Fondation Boghossian in 2006.
From 2007 to 2011, the villa was restored, for which the Fondation received a Europa Nostra award in 2011.
The facade and the interiors were renovated, the swimming pool and its pergola were revived.
The basement has since met all the requirements of a modern museum, and the Foundation’s offices have moved to the second floor.
Since 2007, the villa has been listed as a historic monument. It is the seat of the Fondation Boghossian and is used for exhibitions.