Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp / KAAN Architecten

Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp / KAAN Architecten

Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp  / KAAN Architecten - Interior PhotographyRoyal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp  / KAAN Architecten - Interior Photography, WindowsRoyal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp  / KAAN Architecten - Interior Photography, Column, Arcade, ArchRoyal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp  / KAAN Architecten - Interior Photography, WindowsRoyal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp  / KAAN Architecten - More Images+ 39

  • Principals In Charge: Kees Kaan, Vincent Panhuysen, Dikkie Scipio
  • Project Senior Leader : Walter Hoogerwerf
  • Project Team: Valentina Bencic, Maicol Cardelli, Alice Colombo, Aksel Çoruh, Davis de Cos Roman, Sebastian van Damme, Paolo Faleschini, Raluca Firicel, Eva French i Gilabert, Michael Geensen, Narine Gyulkhasyan, Marco Jongmans, Martina Margini, Giuseppe Mazzaglia, Laura Ospina, Maurizio Papa, Ismael Planelles Naya, Giacomo Rizzi, Ralph van Schipper, Kim Sneyders, Koen van Tienen, Niels Vernooij, Martin Zwinggi
  • Primary Client: Departement Cultuur, Jeugd en Media (Vlaamse Overheid)
  • Mandated Client : Het Facilitair Bedrijf (Vlaamse Overheid)
  • User : Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen (KMSKA)
  • City: Antwerpen
  • Country: Belgium
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Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp  / KAAN Architecten - Interior Photography
© Stijn Bollaert

Text description provided by the architects. After winning an international competition in 2003 commissioned by the Flemish Government, Dutch architecture office KAAN Architecten has worked intensively on the complex masterplan, renovation, and extension of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp bringing contemporary allure to a glorious, overlooked beauty of the 19th century. 

Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp  / KAAN Architecten - Interior Photography, Windows
© Stijn Bollaert

In addition to being one of the last examples of bold neoclassical architecture in the city of Antwerp, the museum houses a rich art collection that embraces seven centuries of art: from Flemish Primitives to expressionists, from paintings to drawings and sculptures. The Department of Culture, Youth, and Media of the Flemish Government has invested approximately 100 million euros in the overall renovation of the building.

Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp  / KAAN Architecten - Interior Photography
© Sebastian van Damme

Rising above the remains of the 16th-century citadel and intertwined within the remarkable star-shaped urban fabric, the museum was originally designed in the 19th century by architects Jacob Winders and Frans van Dyck. It opened to the public in 1890. KMSKA was conceived as a daylight museum, where visitors would enjoy a promenade surrounded by stunning artworks as well as the external landscape, witnessed through its multiple lookouts over the city and the inner patios. During the 20th century, new developments in exhibition design and museum distribution brought fundamental changes to the building's layout, modifying the original circulation route and the connection with the city.

Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp  / KAAN Architecten - Chair
© Stijn Bollaert

In the early 2000s, while KAAN Architecten started working on the museum’s masterplan, renovation, and extension, the southern neighbourhood of Antwerp began to progressively gain greater value through public investments and urban transformation. One of the architect's most intrepid initiatives was to completely conceal the extension of the museum within its existing inner structure, the new addition is not visible from the outside, in order to highlight the heritage value and the resilience of the outstanding 19th-century building, nestled in this fast-changing district.

Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp  / KAAN Architecten - Interior Photography, Bench, Column
© Stijn Bollaert

The extension co-exists with the powerful historical structure without diluting its monumental character.  KMSKA is now divided into three realms: a public entrance area (feel), central exhibition spaces (see), and offices (work) at the rear side of the building.

Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp  / KAAN Architecten - Interior Photography, Windows
© Sebastian van Damme
Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp  / KAAN Architecten - Image 39 of 44
Floor plan level 3
Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp  / KAAN Architecten - Interior Photography, Column, Arch
© Stijn Bollaert

From Leopold de Wael square, a grand staircase grants access to the museum: large restored oak doors open onto the entrance hall, which features several museum facilities such as an interactive information zone, a café, an auditorium, a bookshop with a coffee corner and a circular staircase to the street floor level where a library, a cloakroom and a second entrance for large groups are located.

Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp  / KAAN Architecten - Interior Photography, Stairs
© Stijn Bollaert

The entrance hall leads to the majestic de Keyserzaal (named after artist Nicaise de Keyser), which serves the pivotal role of introducing the visitors to ​two different routes and experiences: one, going up the grand staircase, leads to the main floor of the renovated 19t​ h​ century museum; the other, continuing straight ahead, leads visitors to the new 21s​ t​ century museum.

Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp  / KAAN Architecten - Interior Photography, Windows
© Stijn Bollaert

While visiting the historical museum, guests walk through an enfilade of exhibition rooms tinted in dark pink, green and red; oak doors, tall columns, and ceiling ornaments in plasterwork collectively convey a feeling of ancient grandeur. The colour palette chosen during the renovation process directly relates to the museum's original colours.  On the first floor, large windows visually connect the bright yet modest interiors with the surroundings, while on the second floor, the main halls are lit by wide glass canopies and equipped with elegant sofas for those enjoying the art masters.

Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp  / KAAN Architecten - Interior Photography, Door
© Sebastian van Damme

The collection depot has been relocated inside the original location of the air-raid shelter bunker underneath the two main exhibition halls, at the street level. Extra-large paintings, taller than the high doors, can travel from the depot through one of the original 19th-century hatches to the upper floors. From this position and following a specific route, a track of slender vertical hatches can deliver the paintings to the contiguous halls.

Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp  / KAAN Architecten - Interior Photography, Column
© Stijn Bollaert

KAAN Architecten has created an architectural concept for KMSKA that takes the form of an enchanting journey where visitors explore the two contrasting and dialoguing museums, which unveil themselves little by little. The experience is never predictable yet always in balance: both routes are challenging and designed to serve the art.

Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp  / KAAN Architecten - Interior Photography, Column, Arcade, Arch
© Sebastian van Damme

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Project location

Address:Leopold de Waelplaats 2, 2000 Antwerpen, Belgium

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Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address.
About this office
Cite: "Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp / KAAN Architecten" 04 Mar 2021. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/957954/royal-museum-of-fine-arts-antwerp-kaan-architecten> ISSN 0719-8884

© Sebastian van Damme

安特卫普皇家美术博物馆 / KAAN Architecten

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