What’s Happening: Belgian architectural firm B-architecten finishes a respectful revamp of MoMu, restoring some of the cultural institution’s original features, expanding the exhibition space, and introducing new lecture halls and a café.
The Download: Following its closure in 2018 for renovation purposes, MoMu’s reopening marks a marquee moment for Belgian fashion in Antwerp, a city renowned for its idiosyncratic design ethos. Synonymous with its 1980s renegade graduates known as the Antwerp Six, whose members included the likes of Dries van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester, the fashion department at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts has facilitated Belgium’s sartorial dialogue for decades, even more so after the opening of MoMu in 2001.
Situated beneath the fashion school, the museum’s geography plays a pivotal role in its revamped structure as it sits at the symbolic crossroads of Antwerp’s oldest and most stylish neighborhoods. B-architecten—whose body of work includes retail boutiques for brands such as Walter Van Beirendonck, Veronique, and Missoni, among others—took a measured approach akin more to a facelift than an overhaul, removing some of the interventions that had veered away from the building’s original blueprint by Ghent architect Marie-José Van Hee.
The central hall, for instance, has been returned to its spacious beginnings, with a new patio and redesigned entrance to boot. A system of portable glass display capsules decorate the overhauled gallery space with a modernized system that facilitates an easy swapping of pieces on show. MoMu is now equipped with its first scenographic chamber that exudes the essence of the city thanks to local designer Bob Verhelst.
The three new exhibition areas and two lecture halls honor the building’s original design language while providing extra room for MoMu’s permanent collection, on display as part of the museum’s inaugural programming, and rotating shows like this month’s “E/MOTION. Fashion in Transition,” an exploration of fashion’s ability to reflect society’s emotions, fears, and desires (through January 23, 2021).
In their own words: “We’ve made the building visible again and we’re delighted to be able to give it back to fashion,” says B-architecten co-founder Dirk Engelen.
Surface Says: Antwerp’s irreverent, avant-garde fashion heritage has turned the city into a fashion capital that punches far above its weight. As one of the biggest ambassadors of Flemish design, the new and improved MoMu is an essential part of the story.