(b. 1859, Frameries, d. 1901, Bruxelles)


Belgian architect and designer. A stonecutter's son from Hainaut, he served an apprenticeship as a decorative sculptor before entering the Brussels Academy in 1873, where he graduated as an architect. In 1888, he began an architecture and furniture designer practice in Brussels and worked with interior designer and specialist of sgraffito Adolphe Crespin (1859-1944).

His first independent work was his own house in the Rue Defacqz, Brussels (1893), a sober structure in brick with bluestone dressings and horizontal bands. He used the same style for the two Zegers-Regnard houses, Avenue Louise, Brussels (1894 and 1895, destroyed), the Ciamberlani and Janssens houses, Rue Defacqz, Brussels (1897 and 1898), and the Renkin, Bartholomé and Kleyer houses, Brussels (1898, all destroyed). These commissions established his reputation as one of Belgium's most outstanding domestic architects, particularly gifted at designing for narrow, cramped sites and using economical materials such as wood and brick. These inventive houses secured Hankar an international reputation.

Hankar's most lasting fame came through his shopfronts. The first of these, Au Carnaval de Venise in the Rue de l'Ecuyer, Brussels (1896, destroyed), was mentioned in The Studio in November 1896. The second, Niguet's Shirt Shop, Rue Royale, Brussels (1897), with its astonishing decoration of Japanese-style window bars, curved mahogany tracery and chamfered lights, epitomized the flamboyant Art Nouveau shopfront. It was so successful that Hankar gained the commission, in preference to Horta, to design the Exposition Congolaise at Tervuren, part of the Exposition Internationale of 1897 in Brussels. He commissioned a group of some 40 Symbolist sculptors, and the exhibition halls provided a spectacular expression of Belgian Art Nouveau at its peak.

From 1898 Hankar was obliged to curtail his activities owing to ill-health. Despite his early death, Hankar's work was well received and influential, both nationally and internationally, as at Otto Wagner's Majolikahaus in Vienna (1898).