One of Belgium’s most distinguished music venues, the Ancienne Belgique (AB) is to receive a makeover, including a new roof terrace, management said.
The Flemish government lists the AB among its prime arts venues, along with the Bruges Concertgebouw, the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra and deSingel, the Vooruit cultural centre in Ghent, Opera Ballet Vlaanderen, divided between Ghent and Antwerp and the Brussels-based orchestra Brussels Philharmonic and the associated Flemish Radio Choir.
The venue is also revered among artists for its comparatively intimate size and the fervour of the fans it attracts. The restaurant reserved for visiting performers is renowned all over the world, and no doubt plays a role in the decision to play there.
The new works will be extensive, but will only affect the annexe on the Steenstraat side of the building (photo), and not the main concert hall itself. Into the building comes a new restaurant with an equally new kitchen. AB Salon, a smaller, more intimate venue for smaller concerts, moves from its current place on the second floor to the first floor, closer to the other halls. Unused offices and a meeting room on the third and fourth floors will go, while a VIP space will be created.
“The idea is to make the building more open,” AB director Dirk De Clippeleir told Bruzz. “It needs to become a place where you can go at any time of day, just to eat or drink something, or for a small lecture or a film.”
The most attractive new feature is bound to be the roof terrace – an idea lifted from the play-book of the nearby Beursschouwburg, another iconic Flemish cultural venue – which will, as the spirit of the times demands, also include a vegetable garden growing vegetables and herbs for use in the restaurant.
An invitation has gone out to the design world to submit proposals with an emphasis on sustainability and accessibility, and De Clippeleir said he expected the works to begin next year, and to take about a year to complete. During that time the venue will be open as usual, though some parts of the building will from time to time be inaccessible. The Flemish government has allocated a budget of 1.3 million euros for the work.