Villa rescued with APart sound

An art deco villa completed in 1934 in Brussels has been completely restored as part of a €5m renovation project lasting two years. The Villa Empain, now a museum for intercultural dialogue, employs an Apart sound system.

In the late 19th and early 20th century the Empain family ranked amongst the five richest families on earth. Their fortune was built on constructing railroads in Russia, Congo, Egypt and China. Baron Eduard Empain was the driving force behind the construction of the Paris underground.

In 1929, Louis Empain inherited his fathers’ fortune and business empire, asked Swiss architect Michel Pollak to build a villa that would be a masterpiece of art deco style. Only the most exclusive and precious materials were used: window frames are covered in 23.75 carat sheet gold, walls are decorated with marble and floors are covered with rare tropical hardwood.

The house was completed in 1934, but Louis Empain left it after only two years. In 1937, he gave it to the Belgian state for use as a museum. From 1940 to 1945 it was occupied by German forces, and after the war the Belgian government put the building at Soviet disposal for use as their Brussels embassy. Finally a lawsuit returned the villa back into the hands of the Empain family. Louis Empain decided to sell the villa in 1973 and the new owner rented it to RTL for use as a television studio. After the network walked away from it in the eighties, neglect, decay, vandalism and squatters reduced the once-magnificent villa to ruin.

After decades of misuse, looting and squatters the Brussels villa has now finally been restored to its former glory. A €5m, two year renovation project transformed it into a museum for intercultural dialogue. The management and architects chose APart for their sound system.

In early 2007 the villa was bought by the Boghossian Foundation who wanted to use it as a museum for intercultural dialogue. The foundation asked Francis Metzger, an architect with experience in renovating art deco buildings to lead the restoration. Metzger and electric installer TS P&O ask Brussels integrator and APart dealer Strobbe to take care of AV in the renovation project.

Laurence Rosseels of Strobbe said: “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. In total we’ve used more than 40 APart sound columns and some sound projectors. All the speakers are in black color, to make them as invisible as possible. Further we have a paging microphone, and a BGM3000 CD-player/media player. We are using a beyerdynamic headset or wireless microphone for presentations and have two Xantech touchscreens that are used to control the audio system.”

Rosseels concludes: “This is a building with a true soul. 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”.

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