Situated in the heart of the Province of Hainaut, at a short distance from the cities of Mons and Valenciennes, Grand-Hornu is one of the finest examples of neoclassical industrial heritage in Europe.This monumental complex was built in the 19th century by Henri Degorge, a French entrepreneur who was tempted by the coal mining venture. The site began operating at the height of the industrial revolution, in a region which at the time was the second most important one in the world in industrial terms! The colliery became a symbol of the coal industry throughout Belgian and French Hainaut, and was also an incredible technological, social and human laboratory.
The post-war period plunged Grand-Hornu into a long hibernation. When European Coal and Steel Community was established in 1954, the production in the coal mine was rationalised. Industrial operations ceased and the site was abandoned. In the late 1960s, a handful of heritage enthusiasts campaigned to save it from impending destruction. At that point in time, the site was no more than a shadow of its former self, having been made derelict by nature and vandalism. In 1971, the architect Henri Guchez purchased the site and secured its salvation. He began an initial renovation phase and established his firm there. The Province de Hainaut initiatied the second phase of renovation works in 1989.
The non for profit organisation Grand-Hornu Images (founded in 1984) subsequently established its offices there and pursued a threefold mission: heritage, tourism and culture. It secured the recognition of Grand-Hornu by major international heritage associations and manages the complex, so that the public is able to discover it once more. In the early 1990s, the French Community’s decision to establish its future Museum of Contemporary Arts at Hornu ensured the completion of Grand-Hornu’s renovation. Developing the Museum guaranteed that the remaining part of the site would be refurbished. Since September 2002 and the opening of the Museum of Contemporary Arts at Grand-Hornu, the site is once more open to visitors. After being one of the jewels in the crown of Belgian industry, the Grand-Hornu site is now one of Belgium’s leading cultural centres.