Paul Jaspar, seminal figure of Liègeois architecture
From classicism to Art nouveau
Paul Jaspar was very eclectic as a young man (the Lechanteur building, the Dery and Aretz houses, etc.), and did not move toward Art Nouveau until later, in 1895, two years after his first works in Brussels, with the construction of the Bénard house located on rue Lambert-le-Bègue in Liège, followed a year later by the house of the lawyer and liberal legislator Charles Magnette. “By its architectonic quality and by the personality of the owner, Sébastian Charlier explains, the Bénard house may be considered as a synthesis of modern architecture in Liège at the end of the 19th century, coming before the more radical expressions that would appear beginning in 1900. What pushed Jaspar in this direction, was not only his contacts with Paul Hankar and the influence Hankar had on him in artistic terms, but also the fact that he was part of avant-garde society in Liège and participated in debates about modern architecture in that context.” In the purest tradition of Art Nouveau Jaspar would pay attention, in accordance with the wishes of his clients, to the style of furnishings and interior decoration; sliding doors, wrought iron, leaded glass windows, cabinets, window casings, mantelpieces, etc. During the same period, in 1898, he carried out his first construction in the neo-Mosan style in the rue Saint-Gilles, for the painter and engraver Armand Rassenfosse, and this allowed Jaspar “to establish his place as a modernist architect in contact with artists that were favourable to the avant-garde.” His reputation was secure, and even began to spread toward the borders of the Principality. Jaspar participated in many international salons and expositions, including the universal expositions of Paris 1900, Liège 1905, Brussels 1910, and Ghent 1913. Jaspar was prolific and worked on designing cottages and villas until 1914, when he began to work on projects that were more ambitious in urban areas. After the armistice he participated in reconstruction work and devoted himself to three great projects, the reconstruction of the city hall of Visé, the infrastructure of the reconstruction of the city of Dinant, and a project for a commemorative monument for the Defence of the Nation in Liège, a project that despite strong support, especially in the media, would never be realised for want of funding. At the end of the 1920s he began to slow down a little, concentrating on a few personal and family projects, such as the transformation of buildings he owned, or the construction of houses for members of his family. He died in 1945 at the age of 86, from cerebral congestion, a few days after the liberation of his beloved home town.