“Extra-large paintings, taller than the already high doors, can travel from the depot through one of the original 19th-century hatches to the upper floors”. Photo: Karin Borghouts.
19th-century museum exhibition halls. Photo: Stijn Bollaert.
Extra-large paintings travel from the depot through an original 19th-century hatch to the upper floors. From this position and following a specific route, a track of slender vertical hatches can bring the paintings to the contiguous halls. Photo: Stijn Bollaert.
After winning an international competition in 2003 commissioned by the Flemish Government, Dutch architecture office
In addition to being one of the last examples of bold neoclassical architecture in the city of
KMSKA was conceived as a daylight museum, where visitors would enjoy a promenade surrounded by stunning artworks as well as the external landscape. One of KAAN Architecten’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. The extension co-exists with the powerful historical structure without diluting its monumental character.
21st-century museum exhibition halls. Photo: 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. Photo: Stijn Bollaert.
One of the lightwells seen from the first level. Photo: Stijn Bollaert.
The lightwell as seen from the dark cabinets. This space will be dedicated to the display of delicate artworks. Photo: Stijn Bollaert.
21st-century museum exhibition hall. Photo: Stijn Bollaert.
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.
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 19th-century museum; the other, continuing straight ahead, leads visitors to the new 21st-century museum.
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. The impressive Rubens and Van Dyck halls will host some of the highlights of the collection and are therefore positioned at the very core of the building.
21st-century museum, detail of one of the lightwells. Photo: 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”. Photo: Stijn Bollaert.
Continuing their journey through the museum, visitors approach the new 21st-century exhibition space, a completely autonomous venue, built within the four original patios and wisely unfolding at the heart of the museum’s structure. These spaces consist of bright white exhibition halls, where daylight beams in from 198 triple triangulated north-facing roof elements located on the top hall and flooding through four large light wells, measuring up to 23 metres floor-to-ceiling.
Where the new extension ‘cuts’ the museum’s solid mass, subtle marble inlays have been added, echoing the elegant 19th-century museum’s materiality. A long, impressive linear staircase connects the new exhibition halls on the first floor to those located on the top floor.
KAAN Architecten’s architectural concept for KMSKA takes the form of an enchanting journey where visitors explore the two contrasting museums in dialogue, 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.
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