KAAN Architecten approached the Antwerp Royal Museum of Fine Arts in two distinctly different ways. The 19th century building was restored to its former grandeur as much as possible and the new extension, inserted into four former patios, adds a clean hyper modern spatiality to the Fine Arts experience.
The new addition is held up by a 1-million-kilo steel skeleton. Its cleanness, asymmetry and verticality contrasts with the ornamentality, symmetry and horizontal nature of the existing 19th century neoclassical building.
“Both the 21st and the 19th century museum couldn’t be more different and more intense. They embody an emblematic contrast in dimensions, light and atmosphere, while being designed as flexible spaces to welcome future exhibitions.”
Dikkie Scipio, architect and co-founder of KAAN Architecten
KAAN Architecten finished the new volumes with white plasterboard walls, false ceilings, cast floors and polished concrete steps. 198 triangular cutouts in the steel roof flood the galleries with natural northern light. Subtle marble accents are visual nods to the original building.
The architects chose to completely conceal the extension within the building's inner structure. The new addition is not visible from the outside in order to highlight the heritage of the 19th-century building, designed by architects Jacob Winders and Frans van Dyck.
The originally intended route was conceived as a cultural promenade surrounded by stunning artworks with multiple lookouts over the city and inner patios. During the 20th century the original circulation and connection with the city were modified.
KAAN Architecten’s intervention restores the original route and reinstates original colours and materials. Visitors can walk through an enfilade of exhibition rooms tinted from Pompeii red to olive green.