BALAT, Alphonse
(b. 1818, Gochenée, d. 1895, Ixelles)


Belgian architect. He studied at the Academie of Namur and obtained his degree in architecture from the Academy of Antwerp in 1838. In 1839 he stayed in Paris for a year but returned after his father's death. He was soon discovered by the Walloon nobility for which he built or renovated many châteaux. Stylistically these constructions often contained Renaissance elements with Neoclassical stress. In his interior designs, he also used elements from the Louis XV and Louis XVI styles.

In 1852, he became architect to the Duke of Brabant (later Leopold II, King of Belgium), an important future patron. Balat undertook a wide range of commissions, mainly in Brussels, ranging from simple buildings to grand townhouses, for example, the palace (1856-58) for the Marquis d'Assche (Asse) in the newly planned district called 'Quartier Léopold'.

Balat's most typical works are the royal buildings commissioned by King Leopold II, including the riding school and winter garden (1873-74) and the group of famous glasshouses (1883-87) at Laeken. The royal glasshouses at Laeken cover over 2 ha. The winter garden is a three-tiered domed building (68 m wide and 34 m high) without internal columns as the whole building is supported by wrought-iron roof trusses.

Balat was an innovative urban planner, although few of his schemes were executed. In 1853 he was elected correspondent of the Académie Royale de Belgique and in 1862 was made a member. He was much involved with official commissions and committees of all kinds. Remaining a Neo-classicist long after it had ceased to be fashionable, Balat had the sadness of seeing his trainee Victor Horta reject his ideal, to create new forms that opened the way to Art Nouveau. In an attempt to be modern in his final work, Balat designed an iron Gothic Revival church (1893) in the park at Laeken.