Restoration of Baron Empain Palace has been spotted by Heliopolis residents and those passing by the neighborhood. Nevertheless, many of them don’t seem to like it. Recently on social media, plenty of locals criticized the undertaken restoration. The opponents’ claims that maintaining the building character is one of the main pillars while restoring any historical building. However, Baron Empain Palace elevation now seems quite different from the white and brick red colors used in the exterior. That actually changed the palace character that lasted for decades.
On the other hand, officials stated that all the restorations are made according to the original architectural drawings. In addition, an unpublished book called Baron Palace, posted last year on their social media the story of the original color.
In November 1909 before finishing the palace by 2 years, Alexander Marcel, the baron palace Architect, discussed with the constructing company the possibility of coloring the palace similar to Basel and Freiburg cathedral. The color proposed is called Brunt Sienne, which is commonly used in the Hindu architecture design. Coloring the palace was according to Baron Edward Empain vision. Who wanted his palace color and architecture style to be unique than any other building in Heliopolis.
Brunt Sienne Composition
The chemical composition of the color used by Marcel is a mixture of iron and copper sulfate. Pumps were used to spray the desired parts of the palace. According to the French documents of the construction company and according to the archeologist Marie-Cécile Musee who works as the director of the Royal Museum of Mariemont. However, the question remains; was the color used nowadays composed by the same original technique and is the final color tone similar to the one used in Hindu temples.
The Palace Fence
The color is not the sole locals’ concern, but also the removed fences raised plenty of questions. Since locals started wondering if the new fence will allow them to see through it as they always did. Ministry of Antiques replied with an announcement on its official Facebook page that the existing fence was built in 2006. Accordingly, it was removed in order to rebuild the original fence which was designed by Alexander Marcel. The original fence had a longitudinal concrete base below the earth surface, on top of it, on distributed distances was a small stone section to fix the fences’ iron rods in between. And added that it won’t by any means block the view.
After many years of neglecting the palace, the exterior and interior were deteriorated. In addition, many of its mirrors, gilded doors, and furniture designed by Georges-Louis Claude were stripped away long ago.
So getting finally 85% of the restoration work already done, is a huge step towards protecting the palace and bringing it back to life. Ministry of antiques in cooperation with the embassy of Belgium in Cairo and Heliopolis Heritage initiative is planning to open the palace as an exhibition, featuring the history of Heliopolis neighborhood. The palace is expected to open this year.
Special thanks to Falcon Photography Studio.