Stoclet House – or Stoclet Palace – is a secret heritage site. All you’ll see is the back of the building. Through an iron fence. I’m feeling a bit like a stalker, snapping photos through the fence as cars pass by on Brussel’s busy, snazzy Avenue de Tervueren.

Now, the back of the building does look cool – in a slightly forbidding, geometric way. Art Nouveau meets Modernisme here. Wealthy financier Adolphe Stoclet gave the architects free reign – both on creativity and money. And this house is the result.

I wish I could see it from the front. And even more, I wish I could see the inside, decorated by the artists of the renegade Viennese Secession art and design movement. The first president of the movement was Gustav Klimt, and it is precisely Klimt who has sketched mosaic friezes for the dining room. I’ve seen photos – and they look stunning, in Klimt’s signature golden, glorious gorgeousness. I want to eat in that dining room. A long, leisurely meal. I don’t even care what’s on the menu.

In fact, if this little palace is as avantgarde inside as it is outside, it must be striking. But it’s off limits to me. And to you, unless you’re a Stoclet. Or a close friend of one, we must assume. 100 years after Adolphe had it built, it’s still in the family, and his heirs aren’t opening it up to visitors anytime soon, it seems. Despite the fact that they don’t live there. Only caretakers do.

Here’s what I think: A World Heritage site should be open to the public. Stoclet House is a total work of art – a Gesamtkunstwerk! Its OUV – that’s UNESCO speak for ‘outstanding universal value’ – its value to humanity – comprises both the inside and the outside. We should be able to see it. Even if just a limited number annually… tickets, waiting lists, if need be. I want to see it!

But for now, all I can see is the back of the house. Through the fence. And four naked men surrounding the top of the tower. That’s at least something.

World at a Glance is a series of short articles here on Sophie’s World, with a single photo (yeah, yeah), portraying curious, evocative, happy, sad, wondrous or unexpected little encounters.


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Stoclet House is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Here are more UNESCO World Heritage sites around the world.