Fire devastates beloved Brussels concert hall, organ suffers ‘significant damage’

20 January 2021, 16:25

Fire devastates beloved Brussels concert hall, organ suffers ‘significant damage’
Fire devastates beloved Brussels concert hall, organ suffers ‘significant damage’. Picture: Getty/Facebook

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

Fire at beloved Brussels arts centre causes significant damage to historic organ, which was only restored in 2017 after another fire in the 1960s.

Yesterday a major blaze broke out at the Palais des Beaux-Arts (Centre for Fine Arts) in Brussels, as flames tore through the roof and caused damage to the ceiling and galleries around the Henry Le Bœuf concert hall.

The large symphonic organ also suffered significant damage, mostly from the large quantities of water used to put out the fire.

According to local media, no major national heritage artworks in the centre’s exhibition halls were touched by the blaze.

The fire started in the afternoon, as passers-by spotted smoke coming from the roof around 4.15pm.

At least 60 firefighters reportedly arrived at the building, which is locally known as the ‘Bozar’, and the fire was completely contained by the evening, around 9.20pm.

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Two of the firefighters were injured while working on the roof. The first, who suffered a heart attack, is in hospital but in a stable condition. The second slipped and injured his leg but continued to work.

The arts venue was designed by architect Victor Horta and completed in 1929 with the promotion of arts patron, Henry Le Bœuf, who lent his name to the music hall.

Seating 2,200 people, it is the resident concert venue of the National Orchestra of Belgium.

According to Belgian TV channel RTBF, “the enormous quantities of water required to contain the incident will have caused significant structural damage, in particular to the roof of the Salle Henry Le Bœuf and – above all – to its organ.”

The organ, which was renovated in only 2017, had been out of order since 1967 due to another fire.

The hall’s great organ was renovated in 2017 after a fire in 1967
The hall’s great organ was renovated in 2017 after a fire in 1967. Picture: Getty

The hall’s resident organist, Bernard Foccroulle, lamented the damage to the historic instrument in a Facebook post, as well as the apparent lack of national media coverage of the fire. “Has the surrounding disaster reached such a degree that such a disaster no longer arouses media interest?

“What does it take today for cultural life to be at the heart of media, political and civic attention?”

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined, and a full inventory of the damage is expected on Tuesday.

Director of the centre, Paul Dujardin, has said he believes “the situation is serious but will be manageable.”