Art & Botany: A Floral Carpet in Brussels

print

Art & Botany: A Floral Carpet in Brussels

July 12, 2012
06:48am
Photo by: Avi&Gulli, Gaston Batistini, Labo River, Michel Block; Le Tapis de Fleurs de Bruxelles, 2010.

This year will be the seventeenth installment of a biennial tradition in Brussels—an enormous carpet of begonias in the city's Gothic-and-grey central square. It is an extraordinary project: sprawling over the cobblestones at Grand-Palace, the Flower Carpet (Tapis de Fleurs de Bruxelles) is comprised of about 750,000 begonias and weaves a bright, complex design in many colors. The begonia offers an artist's palette of hues—vivid saturation, light pastels, or variegated and white. Where the blossom's extensive color palette falls short (i.e. green and brown), landscape designers will use an accent of grass or bark. The entire carpet is 1800 square meters.

Over the years, the carpet's sophisticated design has recalled historic tapestries, a coat of arms, an art nouveau tableau. This year's carpet is designed to evoke the textiles, colors, and designs of Africa. "You will have the chance to escape to faraway lands, while staying at the heart of our capital city," promises a press release. The begonias are arranged as "an extraordinary tapestry of shimmering patterns from tribes of Ethiopia, Congo, Nigeria, Botswana, and Cameroon." 

As in previous years, the installation will be ephemeral—after five days, the wilting begonias will be swept away.

Designers will begin to lay a full-scale design on the cobblestone square on August 13th. Over the next two days, a crew of about 160 will tightly arrange the blossoms (300 per square meter) to complete the carpet for the event's official inauguration on August 15th, at 8:30pm. While the event preparation spans two days, the flowers are assembled in four hours. As in previous years, the installation will be ephemeral—after five days, the wilting begonias will be swept away. 

 

Begonia 2012

The African-themed design for Tapis de Fleurs 2012, which will be on display at Brussels's Grand Palace from August 15th-19th.

 

begonia carpet

Le Tapis de Fleurs, through the years (clockwise from upper left): 1976Year of the Landscapes, Parks & Gardens waas the theme of the festival's second carpet; 1980, a celebration of Belgium's 150th anniversary includes the country's Coat of Arms; 1996, conceived as a garden "a la francais" with designs inspired by the Flemish Renaissance;2000, designed as an ancient inlaid table and lace table runner, including a rendering of the Archangel St Michael defeating the devil, a symbol of Brussels; 2004, an Art Nouveau-inspired pattern designed as stained glass; 2006, inspired by the Middle Ages' interest in alchemy, the carpet included nine rosettes mounted on slowly-rotating platforms, and considers Galileo's inquiry of the Scientific Revolution: “Eppur, si muove” [And yet, it does move]? Photo credit: flowercarpet.be

 

To carry the international theme, this year's opening night fanfare will include African music, and the square will be adorned with Anthuriums, a tropical plant native to South America. And the begonias themselves represent one of Belgium's gifts to the world. According to the event's horticulturalists, Belgium cultivates 60 million begonia tubers every year. 80% of the country's begonias are exported—primarily to the United States, France, and the Netherlands—making Belgium the world’s largest producer of begonias.

Indeed, the genesis of the floral carpet was a begonia promotion—in 1971, Belgian landscape architect E. Stautemans designed the first carpet for Brussels, hoping to cultivate an interest in his favorite flower. The campaign was a success, and Stautemans would go on to design begonia carpets in Cologne, Luxemburg, Paris, London, Amsterdam, Vienna, Buenos Aires, and Colombus, Ohio. However, his heart remains with his early begonias: "Nowhere is the carpet more beautiful and distinguished than in the unique, ancient surroundings of the Grand-Place in Brussels," says the architect.

 

press release for this year's event includes a calendar of activities. The 2012 carpet will be on display from August 15-19. Opening ceremony is on August 15 at 8:30pm. 

 

Begonias 2010

Le Tapis des Fleurs 2010. A mix of old and new: an emblem of Saint Michael striking down the dragon is in opposite corners; on the other two, a stylised image of the yellow and blue iris, the emblem of the region. Lining the shorter ends are motifs of Gothic architecture, representing the surrounding buildings. To commemorate the continent's unity, the EU logo is at the center, and other designs are patterns of twelve (the number of stars on the EU flag). Photo credit: Avi&Gulli, Gaston Batistini, Labo River, Michel Block.

Begonias 2010

Le Tapis des Fleurs 2010. Photo credit: Avi&Gulli, Gaston Batistini, Labo River, Michel Block.

Le Tapis des Fleurs 2010. Photo credit: Avi&Gulli, Gaston Batistini, Labo River, Michel Block.

Begonias 2010

Le Tapis des Fleurs 2010. Photo credit: Avi&Gulli, Gaston Batistini, Labo River, Michel Block.

Anna Laurent is a writer and photographer. Her work explores how we look at plants, and how those plants behave.

Comments (51) Write a comment
Page 2 of 2
Your Comment
All submitted comments are subject to the license terms set forth in our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use