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Brussels, Belgium

Temple of Human Passions

This Greek temple, open only an hour a day, was the site of a war of tastes between an architect and an artist 

The Temple of Human Passions houses a scandalous sculpture, but it’s only open for one hour a day. 

The building in Cinquantenaire Park in Brussels was commissioned from architect Victor Horta in 1889. Although Horta would later be renowned as a great influencer in Art Nouveau, here it just creeps out in his version of a Greek temple. But look closely and you’ll find no straight lines and each seemingly classical detailed altered in an organic feeling way. 

The temple was meant to hold Jef Lambeaux’s “Human Passions” relief, depicting a startling tableau of war, rape, and violence. However, Horta and Lambeaux almost immediately didn’t get along. Horta wanted the Temple open so that the relief was always visible; Lambeaux wanted a wall. The sculpture also wasn’t exactly getting rave reviews, with L’Art Moderne in 1890 describing “a pile of naked and contorted bodies, muscled wrestlers in delirium, an absolute and incomparable childish concept. It is at once chaotic and vague, bloated and pretentious, pompous and empty.”

The Temple remained unfinished even for the celebratory Brussels International World’s Fair in 1897. Finally a barricade was built up around the Temple, but it remained much longer than intended. It was finally opened to the public in 2002, but even now is only open an hour a day, and not on Mondays. 

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