Horta in America, 1916 - 1918

28/01/2017 - 01/10/2017

World War I spelled a fundamental break in Horta’s life. He went to London in 1915 to attend a congress on the future reconstruction of Belgium. A journalist had revealed his presence, however, and it was impossible for him to return to Belgium. He decided to go to the United States. Upon arriving in New York, he was astonished by the skyscrapers. Symptomatically, he shaved off his beard the very next day, and would never sport one again, as if he had turned a page. For four years, he led the life of an itinerant lecturer in the United States: while Julia, his second wife, pleaded the cause of wounded Belgium, Horta spoke of the treasures of old art.
This long stay would bewilder his conceptions. The discovery of American architecture completed his detachment from his first period. As he explained in his Memoirs: “My mind was loosened up. What I would have once opposed as being incompatible with the architect’s profession, I have understood since and, from a certain angle, see it even as a desirable example.” Horta accepted the principle of cooperation between architects and that of standardisation, convinced of the need to move towards an “intelligent uniformity.” He felt that the cost of labour would become increasingly heavier, and that architectural forms had to take due account of that development.

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