The winning architects in the competition to design a renovation of the Jewish Museum in the Sablon district of Brussels have been named.
The award goes to a temporary consortium of Ghent-based Tab Architects, independent architect Barbara Van der Wee and Barozzi Veiga from Barcelona.
Following the deadly terrorist attack on the museum in 2014 in which four people died, the museum closed for a time, and on its return announced it would undergo a full renovation.
At the time, the museum fabric was old and run-down. There was no proper control over the level of humidity – an important factor for artworks and documents. There was no anti-theft protection and no internal workshop.
Overall, said the brief for the renovation, the building on the Rue des Minimes “lacks the qualities to fully assume the role of a museum. For example, it is not always possible to properly preserve the objects presented to the public (archives, textiles, precious books, works of art, Judaica, and so on).”
A Europe-wide competition for architects was announced, and five candidates selected by the Brussels region’s buildings agency Beliris and the city architect.
Now the decision on the winner of the contract has been announced, and some detail of the plans revealed.
The facade of the neo-Gothic building will be retained, while the five upper floors are entirely renovated. On the ground floor, the entrance hall, at a height of 26m, will be kept but renovated.
On the five other floors, each of an area of 270-300 square metres, will come spaces for permanent and temporary exhibitions, a ticket office and gift shop, a cafeteria, an events space for 150 people, a teaching space (the museum is a frequent site for school visits) and a documentation centre.
One particularity of the winning entry is the belvedere on the uppermost floor, which has a somewhat Middle Eastern aspect, and gives a view on the bustling Minimes quarter six floors below, as well as a view of the Justice Palace up the hill, framed in one of the arches of the belvedere.
The belvedere on the top floor, with a view of the Justice Palade. Click to enlarge
“Located in the heart of Brussels’ Sablon district, this museum offers an innovative look at Jewish history and culture through exhibitions that focus on sharing, discovery and accessibility for all,” the competition organisers said.