Urban bourgeois interiors as playgrounds for historically inspired styles, in search of national identity (Belgium, 1850-1913)

01 November 2020 → 31 December 2024
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Humanities
    • Architectural design history and theory
    • History of art
    • Interior architecture history and theory
domestic space interior national identity urbanity styles class gender 19th century
Project description

This research aims to illuminate and explain two seemingly contradictory types of ‘period room’ in private bourgeois homes in Belgium during the second half of the 19th century – namely, the French salon and the neo-(Flemish) Renaissance dining room (or its gothic alternative). It will do so in relation to Belgium as a newly-created nation state within Europe and the process of creating a national identity. The primary research goal is to determine to what extent these historical styles were inspired by local or European design and what socio-cultural significance they contained, as they were used to conjointly stress social status, cultural heritage, standards of taste or gender differentiation between rooms, within a newly emerging middle class. We also want to understand to what extent the private interior can be seen as an externalization of socio-political and identity concerns, in their promotion by government and market. Finally, we investigate the urge of the bourgeoisie / middle class for a personalised, intimate and tasteful ‘home’ within a setting of mass production and urbanisation. Subsequently, the hitherto underexplored role of these styles within contemporary society and their materiality, meaning to what extent and why they were produced and applied in the urban private Belgian home, will be examined and compared to the broader European context.