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Covid-19 pandemic delays Kanal's opening date

13:22 16/09/2020

Brussels’ Kanal museum, set to launch in its final and definitive Pompidou version in less than three years’ time, will now not open its doors until spring/summer 2024 at the earliest, the Kanal cultural project leader Yves Goldstein has announced.

For Goldstein, the one year-plus delay in converting the stunning Art Deco Citroen building, dating from 1935, to a modern contemporary art museum to house magnificent works from Paris’ Pompidou Centre collection, is due to the huge length of time required to obtain permits to carry out construction works. But the coronavirus crisis has been the main culprit.

"Covid has brought the country to a standstill, so clearly had an impact on the Kanal project," Goldstein told RTBF. "Our architects were kept at home and scattered throughout the world, rather than being able to work together. And our permit procedures, that were under way when the lockdown was announced in March, have been put on hold.”

Needless to say, the massive size and heritage of the Modernist site also played a part, Goldstein said. “Kanal is 40,000m². It’s transforming a former garage with immense architectural value into a museum. In short, there are many technical, administrative, urbanistic and environmental questions to consider.”

Launched more than two years ago, from May 2018 until June 2019 the museum already welcomed more than 400,000 people, including 250,000 Brussels residents.

Even in “brute” form, Kanal, while primarily a focus for the latest in contemporary art, also featured a bustling café, cinema and video club. And it was home to concerts, theatre performances, workshops and special events.

Goldstein is keen to keep Kanal as such an international cultural centre, rather than just an exhibition space and to give this steel and glass palace-like architectural gem the importance it deserves.

In the early 1930s, André Citroën bought the plot of land at Place de l’Yser for his new car factory. The garage’s glass showroom would be for years known as “the largest service station in Europe”.

In collaboration with the French architect Maurice-Jacques Ravazé, Belgian architects Alexis Dumont and Marcel Van Goethem designed the gargantuan 16,500m² complex. Mainly constructed in glass, steel and concrete, the architects’ aim of the curved ‘ocean-liner’ style, huge windowed building was to highlight the modernist spirit of the day.

Written by Liz Newmark