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Belgian Blue Stone in heritage Royal Galeries
The Royal Galeries, Brussels, Belgium
Contracting Authority: Société Civile des Galeries Saint-Hubert
Architect: J.P. Cluysenaer
Restoration Architect: Atelier A.2R.C

Blue stone sets the tone in luxury surroundings

Founded in 1847 by the Dutch architect J.-P. Cluysenaer to house luxury specialised shops, the Galeries Saint-Hubert in Brussels are among the oldest covered shopping arcades in Europe. They are also a true emblem of neoclassical architecture.

With its 200 m long, 8 m high arcade and its immense glass roof, this shopping arcade ushered in a new generation of covered arcades with its monumental proportions.  At the time, the Galeries Saint-Hubert was the most illuminated and the most ornamented arcade in the world. The arcade was a considerably successful and bustling shopping venue from the day it opened.

Façades, arcades, flooring and corbelling

Blue stone is present in the Galeries Saint-Hubert in all its forms: chiselled or moulded hewn stones on the exterior façades and their reverse sides, honed or polished products for the skirting and lintels of the shop windows and sawn tiles on the floor. An interesting detail is that the heavy wear that this busy shopping arcade has experienced over the last 150 years has given the tiles their current honed and almost polished appearance. The monolithic columns on pedestals of the alleyways and peristyles, the lintels and circumferences of windows, the ledges, abutments and corbelling are also made of blue stone.

Francis Tourneur, from the association Pierres et Marbres de Wallonie (Stones and Marbles of Wallonia) :
“The ease of delivery in comparison to other stones present on the market at the time gave Belgian Bluestone a certain advantage.  However, above all it was certainly chosen for its sturdy beauty, its great resistance and its aesthetic simplicity which enhances the finery of the shop front marbles and the imitation marbles of the elevations.”

An epic site

An important invitation to tender was launched among the best quarries of the Hainaut basin. Two quarry masters from Soignies obtained the order: the Carrières Rombaux and the Carrières Wincqz. Les Carrières de la Pierre Bleue Belge S.A. are descended from those very same quarries.

Francis Tourneur :
“These quarries had a large production capacity and excellent references for that type of public architecture. It was an epic site and the two quarries had to join forces in order to be able to keep pace: deliveries were scheduled to start twenty days at the latest after the sending of the drawings. Except for the tiles, all items were custom made. The quarry workers had to do the rejointing of the tiles and about fifteen of them were working on the site.”

Identical stones

150 years later. 150 years later, the Galeries Saint-Hubert underwent very high quality restoration work. The façades recovered their original marbles and the glass roof was restored with the period metal structure. The blue stones were also the subject of major restoration work. The floor tiles were replaced using identical stone. A century and a half later, the project manager once again called on the services of Les Carrières de la Pierre Bleue SA.

Francis Tourneur
“Over a century of use and exposure to the elements and to the heavy wear of pounding feet prove that the designers and the project manager made the right choice. The impeccable restoration work shows the benefit to be gained from choosing a well established company with a long tradition, where the same material can be found 150 years later!”     

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