ANTWERP | Museum Vleeshuis up for restoration

The Museum Vleeshuis located in Antwerp‘s former Butchers’ HallVleeshuis literally means Meet House or Hall – is getting for a renovation. 

The restoration will be undertaken by Origin Architecture & Engineering and FVWW architects, in collaboration with HP engineers. “Iconnects the rich past of the Vleeshuis with the future. Maximum accessibility of the entire building coupled with great respect for the heritage are central to the design”, Antwerp’s real estate agency AG Vespa says. 

Adjustments for the future

During the restoration of the Vleeshuis, the focus is not only on preserving and restoring the protected monument. Taking into account the limitations imposed by the heritage, sustainable building physics improvements are foreseen. These include roof insulation, gutters and techniques for heating, ventilation and cooling.

In addition to the restoration of the outer shell of the building, the preliminary design also provides for sustainable adjustments to the inside. Among other things, these must ensure that visitors can explore the entire building safely and comfortably.

An overview of the most important interventions

  • The entrance: The Vleeshuis overlooks the Steen and the Scheldt, the place where Antwerp was born, along the west side. The main entrance will therefore be moved to the Scheldt side and will provide easy-to-read and findable access to the monument and museum.
  • The market hall: The former market hall of the butchers is a monumental space with cross vaults and stained glass windows. In the restored Vleeshuis, this hall is once again the heart of the building. This market hall connects the street and the neighborhood with the monument. It will be a place where people come together for small concerts and open rehearsals (whether or not played on the unique collection of historical instruments of Museum Vleeshuis), lectures, exhibitions and other cultural activities. Receptions and receptions are also possible. It is a flexible and inviting space.
  • Visitors enter the City Hall from the vaulted cellar, via a new staircase or elevator. Or from the street, via a moon-shaped public platform and an entrance, on the east side.
  • A mezzanine will be built along three sides of the marlet hall. On this mezzanine, visitors can admire the stained glass windows and vaults up close and get a beautiful view of the city hall on the one hand and the city on the other. Under the mezzanine, masterpieces of the museum collection are safely displayed.

Seven floors

The Vleeshuis has seven floors, from basement to attic. Each floor has its own character. The barrel-vaulted cellar is stony and dark. The city hall on the ground floor is majestic, high and bright. The more intimate first floor, with its round arches and three historic, protected period rooms, will become the core of the museum.

The second floor, which is the start of the enormous roof structure, will be the shop floor for the museum, including offices, a library and a living studio. In the triple-height attic space, the enormous wooden roof truss is the eye-catcher, and the fourth and fifth floors offer an impressive view over the city and the Scheldt. 

The floors provide space for the museum and for the story of the monument itself. Numerous voids are being restored and provide beautiful views up and down, as architect and city architect Alexis van Mechelen already intended in 1913.

In the preliminary design, the individuality of these different spaces and levels is reinforced and connected to each other.

Maximum accessibility

New stairs and an elevator connect the floors and prepare the building for a future intensification of use. This way as many people as possible can enjoy the monument. To preserve the view of the iconic exterior, it was decided to integrate the elevator and stairs on the inside of the building.


About the Vleeshuis

The Vleeshuis was erected in 1503 and was (is?) a symbol of Antwerp’s economic self-confidence and the flourishing of guilds at the beginning of a period often referred to as Antwerp’s Golden Age

It is said the layers of brick, interchanging between red and white, are symbolic for bacon, with the meat and the fat. 

After the abolition of guilds in 1795, the Vleeshuis was sold to the public. A collective of 29 members of the old butcher’s guild bought the building back and used it again as a meat hall. The upper floors housed artists and an opera company, among others. 

In 1841 the butchers sold the Vleeshuis to a wine merchant who mainly used the immense building for storage. He in turn sold the building to the city of Antwerp in 1899.

From 1904 to 1913, the Vleeshuis was completely restored by city architect Alexis Van Mechelen to house a museum. That museum evolved into Museum Vleeshuis in 2006.

Sound of the City

Today, the Museum Vleeshuis brings 800 years of Antwerp music culture to life, in the district where that music originated.

The Vleeshuis was protected as a monument in 1936, together with the City Hall, the Rubens House and the Hendrik Conscience Heritage Library, among others. 

Art and museums in Antwerp

31 Comments Add yours

  1. elvira797mx says:

    Great post and photos! Thank’s Timothy.
    Wonderful week!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Timothy says:

      Thank you Elvira. Have a great week as well.


      1. elvira797mx says:

        You are welcome, Timothy.

        Liked by 1 person

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