- The Cinquantenaire consists of an arch with colonnade, a park, and a building complex of two wings that house three of the city's major museums.Situated at the eastern end of the avenue de la Loi, the site had served as a military parade ground. A fair was held regularly. French troops were interned here during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871). King Leopold II sought to erect a prestigious edifice and park to embellish the route linking the Parc de Bruxelles with the royal domain at the chateau at Tervuren as well as to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Belgian independence. In 1875, Gédéon Bor-diau proposed the creation of an esplanade — a park and two exhibition halls linked by a semicircular promenade. Construction took decades to complete. The Bordiau hall was finished by 1880. The National Exhibition of the Golden Jubilee (1880) and the World's Fair of 1897 were held here.The neoclassical Arc de Triomphe was completed in stages. An arcade of stucco was erected for the exposition of 1880. King Leopold sought a more permanent structure. The twin colonnades were completed in 1888, but the central arch itself was not in place for the exhibition of 1897, and funds remained unavailable until the king drew upon royal resources to underwrite construction in 1904. In January 1904, architect Bordiau died, and his concept of a single arcade was abandoned by his successor, French architect Charles Girault (1851-1932), in favor of a triple arcade design. Around-the-clock construction led to rapid completion, and, following eight months of work, the structure was inaugurated on 24 September 1905 with the king in attendance. Built in the Louis XVI style, it is topped by a four-horse chariot sculpture group depicting Brabant Raising the National Flag, designed by Jules Lagae (1862-1931) and Thomas Vinçotte (1850-1925). The facing mosaics were added in 1920.In 1888, Bordiau conceived the idea for a museum on the site and two exhibition halls were constructed. One hall burned in 1946 and was rebuilt in a style somewhat different from its glass and blue-painted cast-iron twin. The buildings now contain the Musée du Cinquantenaire (Jubelpark museum), also known as the Musées royaux d'Art et d'Histoire, which displays an overview of world civilization, the Musée royal de l'Armée et de l'Histoire militaire, which houses exhibits of military history, and Autoworld, which opened in 1986 and features vintage autos from around the world.The Parc du Cinquantenaire (Jubelpark) was designed by Bordiau. Comprising 38 ha (94 acres), it consists of a formal garden and landscape gardens. The area was used as a fairground until 1930, when the Heysel exhibition grounds were opened. An expressway (avenue John F. Kennedy), bisecting the park, was built in 1974. At the park's north end is the Grande Mosquée de Bruxelles, a mosque and Islamic cultural center, and the Pavillon des Passions humaines (Pavillon Horta), designed by Victor Horta in 1889 but left unfinished. The neoclassical building was intended to house a massive relief sculpted by Jef Lambeaux entitled Passions humaines (Human passions). However, the building was closed only three days after inauguration of the work on 1 October 1897, its visual details of nakedness having aroused the virulent moral wrath of both officials and citizenry. Occasional tours are run.
Historical Dictionary of Brussels. Paul F. State.