The Rotterdam based practice Neutelings Riedijk Architecten recently unveiled the new Museum aan de Stroom in Antwerp, located in the centre of the old harbour district, the most important and biggest city renovation project in the centre of Antwerp. This district was originally called ‘Nieuwstad (New City)’, as it was the first city expansion constructed by land speculator and urban developer Gilbert van Schoonbeke (1519-1556) outside the Spanish fortress belt in the sixteenth century. Today, old warehouses are being converted into lofts everywhere, and new apartment buildings such as the Koninklijk Entrepot by Berlin architect Hans Kolhoff, the residential towers by Swiss architects Diener en Diener and the towers by David Chipperfield and Guyer en Gigon, as well as many projects yet to follow, are being erected.
The MAS was designed as a sixty-metre high tower. Ten gigantic natural stone trunks are piled up as a physical demonstration of the heaviness of history, full of historical objects that are the legacy of our ancestors. It is a storehouse of stacked history in the middle of the old harbour docks. Every storey of the tower has been rotated a quarter turn, creating a gigantic spiral staircase. This spiral space, in which a facade of corrugated glass is inserted, forms a public city gallery.
The spiral route:
A route of escalators leads the visitors up from the square up to the top of the tower. The story of the city, its harbour and inhabitants is told in the spiral tower. Visitors can enter a museum hall on every level and reflect on the history of the dead city, while on the way up breath-taking panoramas unfold above the living city. The top of the tower accommodates a restaurant, a party room and a panoramic terrace, where the present is celebrated and the future is planned.
Facades, floors, walls and ceilings of the tower are entirely covered with large panels of hand-cut red Indian sandstone, evoking the image of a monumental stone sculpture. The four-colour variation of the natural stone panels has been distributed over the facade on the basis of a computer-generated pattern. The spiral gallery is finished with a gigantic curtain of corrugated glass. Its play of light and shadow, of transparency and translucence turns this corrugated glass facade into a light counterweight to the heavy stone sculpture.
In order to soften the monumental tower volume, a pattern of metal ornaments has been attached to the facade as a veil. The ornaments have the shape of hands, the symbol of the City of Antwerp. This pattern is continued inside the building by means of metal medallions, cast according to a design by Tom Hautekiet with a text by Tom Lanoye.
The museum square:
The museum square at the base of the tower is an integral part of the design. The square has been designed in the same red natural stone as the tower and is surrounded by pavilions and terraces as an urban area for events and open-air exhibits. The central part of the plaza is sunken and forms a framework for the large mosaic by Luc Tuymans.
The ground floor includes the entrance hall with the information counter, the cafeteria and the departments for logistics, storage and transport.
Structural design: Bureau Bouwtechniek, Antwerp, Belgium
Constructive design: ABT België, Antwerp, Belgium
Building physics: Peutz bv ingenieuze adviseurs, Mook, The Netherlands
Installation design: Marcq & Roba, Brussels, Belgium
Fire safety: IFSET International Fire Safety Engineering Technology Asse, Belgium
to the Neutelings Riedijk Architecten profile @ Architonic