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Le Grand-Hornu

Le Grand-Hornu

Le Grand-Hornu: social utopia in the Borinage

In 1810, industrialist Henri De Gorge bought the Grand-Hornu coal mine in the Borinage, a famous mining region in Belgium.

Architect Bruno Renard, commissioned by the Gorge, designed an industrial complex around an oval-shaped courtyard between 1816 and 1832. Nearby, 450 labor houses, a school and a library were erected because the Gorge dreamt of the ideal city.

The coal mine turned out to be a laboratory of innovative technologies. In 1830, De Gorge built the first railway in Grand-Hornu to transport coal to the canal in horse-drawn freight wagons. This was much to the dismay of coachmen, who revolted and plundered his home.


De Gorge died of cholera in 1832, and in 1855, the family placed a cast-iron statue of Henri De Gorge in the courtyard of the mining complex. The crypt for the de Gorge family are at the back of the mine complex.

The utopian mine of De Gorge threw in the towel in 1954. Everything attached or loose was looted, including the machine room, the only building that has not been restored today.


Le Grand Hornu was threatened with demolition in 1969. However, architect Henri Guchez stopped it by purchasing Le Grand-Hornu. The province of Hainaut took over the site in 1989 and continued the restoration. Since 2002, it has housed the MAC (Musée des Arts Contemporains), and UNESCO included it, together with three other Walloon coal mines, in the World Heritage list in 2012.


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