When locals in Brussels speak of “La Cambre”, they usually refer to both the beautiful Cistercian Abbey close to the Ixelles ponds, the Abbaye de la Cambre, and the popular park nearby, the Bois de la Cambre. Fewer people might know that it is also the name of a prestigious visual arts school hosted within a portion of the ancient abbey’s buildings, thus its name La Cambre.
La Cambre School of Visual Arts was founded in 1927 by famous Belgian architect Henry Van de Velde, well known in architecture history because he also founded the Weimar School of Decorative Arts in 1908 and so laid the groundwork for the first Bauhaus. You can see several examples of his work in Brussels, one of which is the modernist Hôtel Van de Velde in Avenue Franklin Roosevelt, not far from the Abbey, that became an extension of the La Cambre School of Visual Arts in the 1980s. This is no coincidence! However, the Abbey’s buildings still host the School’s headquarters (at number 21) along with its library, cafeteria, some workshops, an auditorium for lectures and performances.
So if you happen to visit the historic site of the Abbaye de la Cambre, which I warmly recommend, you might meet groups of students strolling around its beautiful gardens or relaxing in its romantic courtyards. I love to have a rest on the garden’s benches and observe these lively students who are sometimes a real inspiration for me in terms of clothing style.