Protected since the 1940s but then neglected for several years, this building, with its imposing façade, was in dire need of thorough restoration.
The transformation project chose, where possible, to preserve historic features or, where necessary, opted for complete rebuilding. The concept of the Handelsbeurs’ restoration was for the most part based on the concept of the Handelsbeurs as it was around the turn of the century, when the ‘twin building’ got its current outline.
The oldest of the two buildings, the ‘Hoofdwacht’, was erected in 1738–1739 according to a design by architect David ‘t Kindt (1699-1770). The main guardhouse or ‘Hoofdwacht’ for the Austrian Imperial Guard, in rococo style, was to be the first in a series of impressive projects by ‘t Kindt. In 1867, however, the property was altered for the first time, to house the court martial rooms of East Flanders until 1885.
The more recent of the two buildings, before being bought by l’Union to be converted into a banquet hall, housed part of the postal service and had been a vital link in the private Thurn und Taxis stagecoach network since 1779.
L'Union banquet hall
In 1899 Ghent’s city council, who already owned the ‘Hoofdwacht’ building, bought the adjoining l’Union banquet hall to house the municipal exchange or ‘handelsbeurs’. Architect Charles van Rysselberghe (1850-1920) was commissioned to join both buildings together.
In 1901 the building assumed the function that also provides its current name; it became an exchange hall or ‘handelsbeurs’. It was the design for this exchange hall, with wall paintings and decorations by Armand Heins (1856-1938), that was the focus of the most recent restoration.