Celebrating the old: La Boverie breathes new life to Liège’s Fine Arts Museum

Exterior view of Liège’s Fine Arts Museum and the new concrete and glass La Boverie wing under a clear blue sky
The latest addition to Liège’s cultural and urban scene is a concrete and glass extension to a Fine Arts Palace named La Boverie and designed by Rudy Ricciotti with local firm p.HD
(Image credit: Marc Verpoorten)

A new urban axis has been taking shape in the Southern Belgian city of Liège, starting at the Santiago Calatrava-designed train station, via a pedestrian bridge, and up until a shopping and audio-visual centre designed by Ron Arad. The latest addition to this route is a concrete and glass extension to a Fine Arts Palace from 1905, named La Boverie (referencing the erewhile bovine grazers of the region) and situated in the green lung of this formerly heavily industrial city – on an island even, created by the river Meuse and its Derivation canal.

A competition six years ago, set up to refresh the historical building, gave the green light to Rudy Ricciotti who, in collaboration with local firm p.HD, founded by Paul Hautecler & Pascal Dumont, decided not to demolish the original building. 'I wanted to sublimate it, give it renewed energy, restore it and give its quality back,' said Ricciotti, stressing vigorously his allegiance to the ancient masters of architecture.

The new wing is a discrete, almost self-effacing expansion, connecting the museum with its surroundings. Ricciotti and p.HD employed local skilled workers in order to build the concrete structure, an element of much importance to Ricciotti. 'This is a project that utilises local resources and shares the work with real professionals. That’s the role of architecture,' he says.

The restored museum hosts its first temporary exhibition 'En Plein Air' ('In the open air'), in close collaboration with the Louvre, on the ground-floor level. The permanent collections are housed on the lower level and include a ‘Black Gallery’, a darkened space with fragile works on paper: from Matisse to Magritte and Hergé’s early Tin Tin’s.

With its almost Egyptian style HPC concrete pillars, La Boverie is a characteristic Ricciotti building, in which, he said, he 'excuses himself for being there.' The main focus remains on the museum’s Mannerist architecture: 'I find this building very attractive,' he added, 'so I wanted to create an embrace of beauty.'

Exterior view of the new concrete and glass La Boverie wing at Liège’s Fine Arts Museum under a clear blue sky. There are a number of trees near the wing

When the team won the competition to breathe new life to the museum, they decided not to demolish it, but instead create a modern expansion for it

(Image credit: Marc Verpoorten)

Wide view of Liège’s Fine Arts Museum and the new concrete and glass La Boverie wing under a cloudy sky. There are stones and greenery on the ground outside

The new wing connects the museum with its surroundings and was named ‘La Boverie’, after the bovine grazers formerly found in the region

(Image credit: Marc Verpoorten)

Interior view of the new La Boverie wing at Liège’s Fine Arts Museum featuring pillars and floor-to-ceiling glass windows offering a view of the trees, grass and nearby buildings outside

The architects employed local skilled workers in order to build the new concrete structure

(Image credit: Marc Verpoorten)

Interior view of Liège’s Fine Arts Museum featuring white curved walls, wall columns, a recessed arch in the wall, white doors and grey floors

The old elements were also carefully restored. Ricciotti wanted the main focus to remain with the existing building

(Image credit: Marc Verpoorten)

View of the 'En Plein Air' ('In the open air') show on the ground floor at Liège’s Fine Arts Museum featuring white and green walls with art, wall columns and grey floors with a low black platform running around the edges

Now, the ground floor level houses the museum’s opening show, ’En Plein Air’ (’In the open air’)...

(Image credit: Marc Verpoorten)

Interior view of the lower level at Liège’s Fine Arts Museum featuring white walls, columns, rectangle arches and grey floors

...while the permanent collections are housed on the structure’s lower level

(Image credit: Marc Verpoorten)

INFORMATION

For more information on the design visit the Rudy Ricciotti website (opens in new tab)

Photography: Marc Verpoorten