For its 50th anniversary, the Brussels flower carpet returns to its roots
After a gap of two years, the famous flower carpet will return to the cobblestones of Brussels' Grand Place this weekend. To celebrate its 50th anniversary, this year's carpet will be a nod to the very first design from 1971.
The inspiration for the annual event came from Oudenaarde in East Flanders, where two Brussels city councillors discovered a carpet of thousands of flowers and decided that Brussels should have its own version.
In 1971, the very first creation came to life on the Grand Place, entitled Arabesques. It was the result of a collaboration between Francs-Bourgeois, an association of retailers in the centre of Brussels, and the AVBS, the Flemish green industry federation of which Étienne Stautemas was president at the time and who worked on the carpets until 1998.
As a tribute to Stautemas, the original design will be recreated. All the elements that were present in the original design will be found in the 2022 design, including Saint Michael the Archangel and the Flemish Lion, on the carpet, which measures 70 by 24 metres.
The artists working on the design have spent more than 280 hours reconstructing the pattern of the 1971 carpet, based on Stautemas' hand-drawn plans, while a hundred volunteers will spend less than six hours assembling the carpet.
But whereas with the 1971 flower carpet, the shape of an arabesque was cut out of thick cardboard and transferred thousands of times, with volunteers using the space between their thumb and little finger to measure the required 20 cm, modern techniques make it possible to calculate the surface area to the nearest cm², thus avoiding scale errors.
Brussels in Bloom
Due to the pandemic, the 2020 edition was cancelled altogether. Last year, the flower route Brussels in Bloom replaced the traditional flower carpet, where the streets around the central square of Brussels were decorated with flower exhibits. Due to its success, the route was revived this year.
"After two years of Covid, the Grand Place, which is on UNESCO's World Heritage List, will once again shine with colour this summer," said Delphine Houba, councillor for Culture, Tourism and Major Events of the City of Brussels.
Fabian Maingain, Brussels councillor for Economic Affairs, added that the return of the flower carpet also marks the return of a highlight of the Brussels summer tourist attraction.
"This event also supports the city centre's hospitality industry and shops."
In addition to the usual begonias and dahlias, this year pot chrysanthemums and euonymus japonicus, which are considered the jewel in the crown of Belgian floriculture, will adorn the Grand Place.
A few days before the inauguration, a life-size drawing is made on an enormous organic cotton cloth that is laid out on the cobblestones of the Grand Place. The flower carpet will then be erected on Friday 12 August between 9:00 and 13:00.
The spaces between the flower motifs will be filled with rolls of turf. If there is a heat wave, which will be the case this weekend, the sod will be sprayed to prevent the flowers from wilting.
The laying will be followed by an official opening with a music and light show from 22:00. The carpet will remain in the heart of the Grote Markt until Monday 15 August, with a show every 15 minutes between 21:30 and 23:00.
© BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK