After what could only be called a highly eventful history, the former Empain family villa in Brussels has undergone a Eur 5m restoration programme – as part of which it has been installed with an extensive APart sound system.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Empain family was among the world’s richest, their wealth built on railway projects in Russia, Congo, Egypt, China and France. In 1929, Louis Empain commissioned a villa in Brussels to be built in the art deco style. Five years later, the property was ready – gold window frames, marble walls and all – but Empain was to live in it for only two years. In 1937, he donated it to the Belgian state for use as a museum, while from 1940 to 1945 it was occupied by German forces.
The villa’s extremely eventful history continued after the war when the Belgian government put the building at Soviet disposal for use as an embassy facility. The Empain family regained the property after a lawsuit, but in 1973 Louis opted to dispose of the property once again. For a while it was used by RTL as a TV studio, but from the ‘80s onwards it fell into disuse, fast becoming a victim of vandalism and unauthorised occupation by squatters.
The villa’s resurgence finally began four years ago when it was purchased by the Boghossian Foundation, which intends to use it as a museum for intercultural dialogue. Through a renovation programme overseen by architect Francis Metzger, Brussels integrator and APart dealer Strobbe was brought on-board to take care of the facility’s AV installation.
“We worked with the architects on various art deco renovation projects before, and of course we were very pleased to be able to participate in this project,” said Laurence Rosseels from Strobbe. “As it is a historical building, we had to hide all the loudspeakers behind heating radiator grilles or air duct grilles. Everything had to stay completely invisible. We used a mixed sound installation with both 100 Volt and low impedance amplifiers and loudspeakers.”
APart equipment features extensively in the resulting installation. The museum ground floor and first floor areas include 24 COL81S column speakers (black), four COL41S column speakers (black), and four MPH30-G sound projectors (black), along with one CHAMP4 and two PA2240BP amplifiers, one PM1122 pre-amplifier, two PM122RL control panels, one MICPAT-D paging microphone and one BGM3000 tuner/CD player/music player. The basement, meanwhile, features 16 COLW41 column speakers (grey), one PA8250 amplifier and one PIR7600 pre-amplifier.
beyerdynamic headsets and wireless microphones have been specified for presentations, while overall audio system control is provided by two Xantech touchscreens.
“This is a building with true soul,” said Rosseels. “Working within the restrictions of a protected historical monument was a challenge, but achieving all our goals and seeing a satisfied customer made it a pleasure to work on.”