Art Deco Eperon d’Or wins annual Monument Prize


The gorgeously restored 1930 building in West Flanders is now home to two city museums, a visitor centre and administration

Public also votes for Eperon

The Eperon d’Or building in Izegem, West Flanders, has won this year’s Monument Prize as well as the Public Prize. This third edition of the event that recognises recent restorations and archeological developments put the spotlight on monuments that are open to the public.

The Eperon d’Or is a former shoe factory. Built in 1930 in Art Deco style according to a design by local architect Charles Laloo, the building was home to some 200 workers who produced handcrafted shoes.

Over the years modern machinery took over the manufacturing process, and in 1946 a concrete extension was added at the back of the building. The final pair of shoes rolled off the line in 1968.

The main building became a protected monument in 1999, and the city bought it in 2005, buying the extension five years later. Renovations began in 2011 to create a multi-purpose space that respected the historical elements, such as the interior colours, original glass and ornamental façade.

€15,000 in prize money

And additional floor was added, as well as a ground-level extension. The entire site is now home to the brush and shoe museum, a visitors’ centre and the town’s House of Economy. A grand opening took place last year.

Flemish minister-president Geert Bourgeois, who is also responsible for heritage and happens to be a resident of Izegem, handed over the prize. “I am extraordinarly proud to be able to offer this prize to the Eperon d’Or,” he said. “It is a beautiful example of a repurposing project that relied on input from the public and is a very accessible way to introduce people to the region’s industrial past.”

The Eperon d’Or site received €2,500 for being one of the three finalists for the juried prize and an additional €12,500 as the winner. It also won the public prize, which saw nearly 10,000 people in Flanders voting.

To be considered for the Monument Prize, restoration or repurposing projects must be submitted by the city, and a jury of heritage and renovation experts then chooses three finalists. This year 29 projects were under consideration. The other two finalists were De Maan Heilige Geestsite, a theatre and event centre in Mechelen, and the Het Moment experience centre at Averbody Abbey in Scherpenheuvel-Zichem.

‘Perfectly in balance’

“Old and new are perfectly in balance at Eperon d’Or,” said the jury in a statement. “Elements of heritage value were retained and meticulously restored. Contemporary additions form elegant complements to the existing historical structure to make this building a multi-functional whole.”

Also as part of the Monument Prize ceremony, woodworker Frans Willems received an honourable mention for his work on Meusegem’s 18th-century parish house, now a private flat and event centre. Meusegem is a district of Meise.

A one-time award in recognition of the European Year of Cultural Heritage was also given to a monument that embraces a social function. This went to De Heetvelde watermill in Galmaarden, Flemish Brabant, which brings people together to discuss the histories and futures of a number of topics, like education, research, art and sustainable energy.

Photos: Top, the façade of Eperon d’Or, ©courtesy Agentschap Onroerend Erfgoed; above,the interior of Eperon d’Or can be rented for events or photo shoots, ©courtesy B&B Herenhuis