Antwerp Royal Museum of Fine Arts reveals minimalist makeover

Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp (KMSKA) has just revealed its renovation, extension and new minimalist rooms by Dutch architecture office KAAN Architecten

Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp by KAAN Architecten minimalist gallery space
(Image credit: Stijn Bollaert)

Antwerp's majestic Royal Museum of Fine Arts – also known as KMSKA – is about to reopen its doors after a transformation and update by Dutch architecture practice KAAN Architecten. This includes a brand new wing with a series of minimalist rooms. Now, the building, a generous, historic late 19th century structure, has been thoroughly restored and extended, now offering more and better spaces to experience art. 

The venue, which was originally designed by Jacob Winders and Frans van Dyck, was conceived as a ‘daylight museum', explains the team at KAAN. This means, it was a building to be experienced as ‘a promenade surrounded by stunning artworks as well as the external landscape, witnessed through its multiple lookouts over the city and the inner patios.' 

Kmska kaan architected


(Image credit: Stijn Bollaert)

Respecting the existing structure's intention, the architects hid all alterations and extension within the existing volumes. So, from the outside, one would never anticipate the heritage building was ever changed at all. Once stepping inside though, visitors encounter KAAN's masterful, minimalist signature style, which has been adapted to fit the 19th century building. 

The museum's masterplan, the architects say, is now divided into three main areas. There is a public entrance area, the central exhibition spaces and offices (which the team dubs ‘feel, see and work' spaces, respectively). Old merges effortlessly with the new, respectfully blending periods and styles in a functional and appropriate manner. This allows the institution's rich art collection to take centre stage. 

A brand new 21st century gallery space is located at the building's heart, replacing four patios. It consists of a series of bright, white halls composed of sharp plastered surfaces and bespoke marble furniture. The contrast between this wing's minimalist rooms and the existing galleries makes the addition clear and signifies the contemporary work to be displayed there. It also highlights and celebrates the museum's heritage value through juxtaposition

Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp by KAAN Architecten vaulted lobby interior

(Image credit: Sebastian Van Damme)

Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp by KAAN Architecten historical interior

(Image credit: Sebastian Van Damme)

Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp by KAAN Architecten white gallery space

(Image credit: Sebastian Van Damme)

Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp by KAAN Architecten interior

(Image credit: Stijn Bollaert)

Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp by KAAN Architecten, minimalist staircase

(Image credit: Stijn Bollaert)

Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp by KAAN Architecten, minimalist interior

(Image credit: Sebastian Van Damme)

Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp by KAAN Architecten, interior mirror shot

(Image credit: Stijn Bollaert)

Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp by KAAN Architecten, marble furniture

(Image credit: Stijn Bollaert)

Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp by KAAN Architecten, vaults

(Image credit: Karin Borghouts)

Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp by KAAN Architecten view through galleries

(Image credit: Stijn Bollaert)

Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp by KAAN Architecten art storage

(Image credit: Karin Borghouts)

INFORMATION

kaanarchitecten.com (opens in new tab)

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture Editor at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018) and Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020).