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Race begins to design Antwerp's new contemporary art museum
Architects at home and abroad have been invited to submit ideas for re-housing M HKA, Antwerp's museum of contemporary art. The Flemish government and the City agreed in February that the museum should relocate to the site of the present Court of Appeal, just two-minutes walk away along Waalsekaai. The question now is how that can be achieved.
The open call announced on Wednesday is a two-stage procedure. In the first stage, design teams can submit a broad idea for the museum. This will lead to a shortlist of five teams, who will be asked to develop full proposals in the second stage. A winning bid should be selected by the end of 2019.
The main challenge the architects will face is how the new building can make a connection between the former docks, now a huge open space at the heart of the Zuid neighbourhood, and the river Scheldt. The designated site beneath the Court of Appeal (which will be demolished) used to be the Zuidersluis, a lock that connected the river with the docks, until both were filled in at the end of the 1960s. Its entrance can still be seen on the river bank, and could be included in the design.
"The new M HKA will form a unique connection between the Scheldt and the city, with a contemporary museum function that features high-profile architecture and broad public accessibility," said Bart De Baere, the museum's general and artistic director, when the site was announced in February. "In this way Antwerp will gain a new architectural landmark that stands for openness, change, internationality and diversity."
M HKA needs to move because its present location on Leuvenstraat (pictured) does not allow it to fulfil the international ambitions the government and the City of Antwerp have for it. At the same time, the authorities do not want it to leave the Zuid district, where it is close to other art institutions, such as the Fotomuseum and the Royal Museum of Fine Arts (KMSKA).
The new museum will be twice the size of the present M HKA, with more possibilities for displaying its permanent collection and hosting temporary exhibitions. The budget for the project is currently estimated at €65.5 million.
M HKA will continue to operate at its current location until its new home is ready. After that, the building will be demolished to make way for a residential development.
Photo: Courtesy M HKA