Schliemann discovered Troy and Amaury De Smet discovered the history of this beautiful but unknown residence.
It is the year 2006, Amaury is 15 years old. When he entered his friend’s house, he was immediately fascinated by the pure style of the house. Nobody knew yet who had built it, nor who had commissioned it. All the archives had been destroyed in World War II or, at any rate, were untraceable.
It took the young Sherlock Holmes eight years to find out what he wanted, but in the end he was able to give the villa the name “Muller”, because he was the client. Armand Muller was an industrialist, who had the house commissioned in 1938, while he managed his own business in Argentina. World War II broke out so the Mullers remained in Buenos Aires.
The clients never lived in the house. After the death of the childless couple, the villa came into the hands of several owners in succession, who – apart from a few minor interventions – only carried out the necessary renovations of water and electricity. Miraculously, everything was always done with respect for the property’s heritage value.
Trough persistent sleuthing, Amaury De Smet traced the building plans and the name of the architect in 2014. That turned out to be none other than Marcel Spittael, the man who had the institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp to his name. Villa Muller is thus his second masterpiece.
The monumental villa is located on a corner plot in Sint-Genesius-Rode, south of Brussels, in the middle of a fenced garden with a pond. The exterior is soberly modernist, the interior is art deco. Spittael designed the villa as a total concept. He designed the banisters, the bathroom, the kitchen, as well as the grilles of the heating, the lighting and the door handles. It is a sophisticated setting of unusual stone, marble, precious woods and gold leaf decorations.
The construction of the villa would be almost unaffordable today.
An interesting detail: the garage has two doors so that one can drive in through one and one can drive straight out through the other.
Amaury De Smet (author) and Serge Brison (photographer) wrote a book in 2015: “Villa Muller: Marcel Spittael, 1938” which was published by Archives d’Architecture Moderne (AAM) publishers.
In English: Archives of Modern Architecture (AMA)
The book was so well documented and provided with beautiful photos that it shook up the Flemish heritage authorities. A procedure was started and since 2017 the villa has been protected as architectural heritage.
Amaury De Smet and Serge Brison have only one wish: that the owners of the villa preserve this heritage as well as they discovered it.
Gerda STERK, © Archi-News 2021
Photo credits: © Serge Brison