By Aarushi Ganguli, Travel Editor
Stepping into the Grand-Place in the heart of Brussels never fails to amaze me. Nevertheless, it becomes more beautiful when over one million flowers are laid out in designs to be viewed by the millions of people who flock to the city for just this occasion. That is what the Brussels Flower Carpet is; an occasion that takes your breath away.
Living in the Netherlands makes travelling to Brussels very accessible for me. I have had the opportunity to view the years during which the city has covered the entirety of its city hall in flowers. However, nothing could have prepared me for the brilliance and the sheer opulence of the Flower Carpet. This being its 50th anniversary, the organizers had reverted to the original design that was put in place during its first showing in 1971 as a dedication and reminder of the event’s beginning. Brussels Alderwoman, Mrs. Van Den Heuvel and Alderman Mr. De Rons, were visiting the Flemish city of Oudenaarde and discovered a stunning carpet created from thousands of flowers. This gave them the inspiration to replicate the design on a grander scale, in the middle of one of the most famous squares in the world. Thus, the idea was born and the following year, the exhibition held its very first edition.
As a tribute to Étienne Stautemas, who designed the first Flower Carpet, the 2022 Brussels Flower Carpet reproduces the very first design he created. All the elements present in the original design appear in the 2022 design, including Saint Michael the Archangel and the Belgian Lion. The title of the 1971 carpet (and thus the one this year) was Arabesques. The arabesques in question were formed by the natural shapes of leaves and stems, arranged in a decorative manner. The arabesques were the trademark of Étienne Stautemas, who used them right up to his final carpet in 1998. Any new additions to the design of the 2022 edition is the result of a collaboration between Roo Aguilar Aguado, a Mexican artist, and Koen Vondenbusch, a student of Étienne Stautemas and his successor Marc Schautteet, who has been working on the Brussels Flower Carpet for 28 years. Both spent more than 280 hours reconstructing the pattern of the 1971 carpet, based on Stautemas’ hand-drawn plans. Since its beginning, it’s become a highlight of the summer in the city and people from all around Europe and beyond come to marvel at this masterpiece that is made within only 4 hours.
I arrived the day before the official start date of the Carpet and was able to witness almost 120 volunteers arrange over 1 million begonias over the stretch of almost the entire square in such a short amount of time. The chaos of the set up was almost as mesmerizing to watch as the Carpet itself. Moreover, as if the spectacle itself was not a testament to the talent of the artists and volunteers involved, accompanying the Carpet is a full light and sound show that lights up the entirety of the Grand-Place, transforming the already breath-taking center. As such an international city, the music is from all around the world and is captivating to the thousands of people that show up each night to watch the show, starting at 9 pm.
If there is anything that is worth visiting in Brussels that is utterly unique to the city, visit this once-in-a-lifetime experience that will not fail to enchant you