Human Flower Project

A New Spin on Brussels’ Flower Biennial

The 2006 Brussels Flower Carpet incorporates nine huge rotating rosettes of begonias. Getoutahere!


Tapis de Fleurs de Bruxelles, 2004

Photo: Muya

Our memory of the Grand’ Place in Belgium is ornate and ashen. Those tall slender facades all clasped together struck us as elegance always does—with gloom. So what a thrill must be the Tapis de Fleurs de Bruxelles, a carpet of 800,000 begonias that every other year cheers up the gray. The 2006 Flower Carpet will make its debut tonight and receive tens of thousands of visitors through August 15th.

This is the fourteenth installation, inspired, so they say, by The Middle Ages. “The 9 rosettes that compose this marvelous plant tapestry are mounted on vast, rotating platforms, thereby adding a fine touch of mystery to its admiration. The movement is deliberately slow and majestic: less than one turn per minute. The sizeable diameter of the supports makes this rotation subtly, if immediately perceptibl(e). The different orientations of this multiple and original wind rose invite meditation.” We’re aware of the rose’s significance in medieval iconography but not so sure about “vast rotating platforms” which sound a bit like weaponry or a torture device.

Landscape architect E. Stautemans originated the idea and created the first carpet for Brussels in 1971. He and others hoped to promote begonias, native to the West Indies but intensively cultivated in and near Ghent since 1860. “Belgium cultivates 60 million begonia tubers every year, and is recognized as the world’s largest producer”—recognition glaringly enhanced by this 1800 sq. meter display in the center of Belgium’s (and now the European Union’s) capital.

You can find a gallery of past carpets here, art nouveau, Chinese, heraldic…. We understand that 100 gardeners compose the carpet in a mere four hours, packing 300 blossoms per square meter, so tightly the wind may ruffle but not blur the design. The best view, from the Hotel de Ville, will cost you 3 Euros. Human Flower Project—the second best view—is, of course, free.

(Thank you, John Levett, for the tip.)

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