The Groeningemuseum is not so much a building as it is a collection of linked objects within a garden set-up. The garden makes the Groeningemuseum into a potential public domain. Over the years this domain has grown organically, resulting in an undecipherable impression upon the museum’s visitors. The phased refurbishment of the 1930s Groeningemuseum is not merely focused on the creation of a new interior. It is an in-depth inquiry on the museum’s capacity as a public interior within the city layout.
The future of the Groeningemuseum could be two-fold: it could act as a museum and it could perform as a cocoon-like public domain. Hence we proposed maximizing these two aspects: creating an ‘expo route’ and a’ public route’. The combination of the two makes up the new Groeningemuseum.
In order to instil a hint of coherence, all available spaces are evaluated in a similar way – as a room – resulting in a series (or matrix) of 28 interior and exterior rooms. By proposing a phased master plan, rather than an architectural deus ex machina, the Groeningemuseum gets a chance to develop while growing towards its new destination. The new Groeningemuseum could be a unique chance to provide the exquisite collection (six centuries of art, starting with Flemish Primitives) with a new spatial arrangement, a space worthy of the collection.
Our first act was to clear the museum of all previous superficial additions. 70 years of museum use had left their mark on the original architecture.
The new chronological and univocal trajectory forms a homogeneous framework. Spatial diversity is obtained via the art’s density. An array of different settings (crystallization, massive concentration, densification, etc.) offers difference in experience, room after room. Magnifications, multiplications, synthesis and various connections come into being. Apart from the art, each room is designed with specific lighting, flooring and furniture.
As important as the collection is the public – the tourist, flaneur or expert. A new museum arrangement should also elicit new ways of viewing the art, as well as new ways of interaction: attentive, inclusive, bulimic, superficial, punctual…
In the middle of the parcours, a publicly accessible archive (a jammer) emphasizes the new identity of the museum. The system consists of mobile transparent metal screens, providing a “crash course” in six centuries of art. The strategic central position of the archive induces the visitor to view the art at a different pace.
Specifically chosen materials and colours maximize the collection. A new white mosaic tile floor reflects the light from above, sometimes sensuous, sometimes subtle, sometimes hard. Some rooms are also lined with luscious red carpets. The resulting floor rhythm (hard mosaic floor and soft carpet surface) underscores the rhythm of the art hanging on the walls. To finalize the spatial matrix, additional furniture (individual seats/massive tribunes) acts as an oxygenous surplus.