Royal Museum of Fine Arts · Antwerp, Belgium

Royal Museum of Fine Arts

Antwerp’s Royal Museum of Fine Arts (KMSKA), founded in 1810, is a museum housing collections of historical art from the fourteenth to the twentieth centuries. The grand cultural venue has had a contemporary renovation and extension thanks to Dutch firm KAAN Architecten.

Visitors can enjoy a promenade surrounded by art, as well as the exterior landscape experienced through multiple lookouts over the city and inner patios. KAAN Architecten has been working on the 100 million euro renovation since the early 2000s, which includes hiding a minimalist wing within the existing 19th-century structure. Only visible from the inside, the new building aims to preserve the integrity of the original building, and is made up of a sequence of bright white exhibition halls with glossy floors and marble details. Guests can either walk through the original exhibition rooms tinted in dark pink, green and red; with oak doors, tall columns, and ceiling ornaments conveying a grandeur—or head the other direction, straight towards the new wing. “The experience is never predictable yet always in balance: both routes are challenging and designed to serve the art,” explains a statement from the firm. In addition to being one of the last examples of bold neoclassical architecture in the city, the museum’s collections embrace seven centuries of art: from Flemish Primitives and expressionists, to paintings, sculptures, and drawings.


21st-century museum exhibition hall. The lightwell vertically diffuses the light coming from the 3rd level © Stijn Bollaert


The circular staircase seen from the ground floor, the mosaic on the floor is a contemporary interpretation of the original one located in the entrance hall, right above © Stijn Bollaert


The Rubens hall will host some of the highlights of the collection and is therefore positioned at the very core of the building © Sebastian van Damme


A detail from the central exhibition hall: the original ornaments have been finely renovated, subtly integrating a new climate system © Sebastian van Damme


19th-century museum exhibition halls © Stijn Bollaert


19th-century museum exhibition halls © Stijn Bollaert


21st-century museum exhibition halls © Stijn Bollaert


21st-century exhibition hall featuring a monumental staircase leading to the upper exhibition spaces. Above, one of the four large lightwells vertically connecting the space to the 3rd level and the skylights © Stijn Bollaert


The lightwell as seen from the dark cabinets, this space will be dedicated to the display of delicate artworks © Stijn Bollaert


The dark cabinets exhibition space, part of the 21st-century museum © Stijn Bollaert


21st-century museum exhibition hall © Sebastian van Damme


21st-century museum, detail of one of the lightwells © Stijn Bollaert


“The 5,5 x 9 meters pivoting wall on the first floor can rotate to facilitate logistic flows and to allow artworks or large objects to access the wide art-elevator” © Stijn Bollaert

All images © KAAN Architecten

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