MoMu’s renovation by B-architecten brings the building up to international museum standards

The Antwerp Fashion Museum is facing a new future. Not only is the entrance to the world-famous museum now more visible, various extensions make the building what it was meant to be: an international museum with an international appeal.


ICON magazine: “In a world of dwindling resources and climate crisis, MoMu’s renovation offers a more realistic near future for museum architecture. No more ‘signature’ buildings, no more demolition where retention is possible, and instead exploring subtle, thoughtful solutions for real challenges, making old buildings work harder, do more – centring the public experience, flexibility and functionality over style.”

The Antwerp Fashion Museum is housed within the 19th century ModeNatie building, a true landmark in the city’s architectural heritage, and one which was in need of a thorough renovation and redesign. B-architecten chose to look at Marie-José Van Hee's original design with a great deal of respect and to work in synergy with her vision by optimising the building with the right interventions.

In response to MoMu’s desire to open all year around, the public ground floor was reorganised with a new and bright entrance hall, a new permanent exhibition space, an enlarged and adapted temporary gallery, a multi-purpose conference room and completed with a new museum café and shop.

Aligned with the entrance of the existing bookstore, the new public entrance offers a direct interaction with the bustling street life of the Nationalestraat. The museum’s luminous new logo welcomes visitors in a bright-lit entrance, and then further to the renovated atrium with its new build-in reception desk. The new patio has a bold green roof and is surrounded by an extra exhibition space. The museum becomes more visible on the ground floor by the new café and museum shop along the Nationalestraat.

Dirk Engelen, architect and co-founder of B-architecten: “We have looked into the original plans again, because often buildings get polluted over time. I attended the opening of MoMu at the time: in the beginning, the ground floor was an enormous clean and open space. Over the years, this concept has faded somewhat due to all kinds of interventions. For us, the central atrium had to become a beautiful spatial lobby again, extended by the shop and café zone. We reactivated the MoMu façades and made the museum visible from all sides again. An important question in the competition was to redesign the entrance of the building and to find a solution for the deep outside tunnel that was experienced as negative. The light ceiling with the MoMu logo gives a strong new identity to the museum.”

The Depot building on the Drukkerijstraat was extended with a double high auditorium and a photo studio on the roof. The underground floor was redesigned and equipped with a gender-neutral toilet.

The second floor temporary exhibition space was conceived as a ‘black box’. It was substantially renovated to meet the latest technical standards for climate control and the strict environmental requirements for museums. Its flexible character is partly determined by the façade shutters, which offer the possibility to add daylight.

Kim Vanthienen, engineer-architect and project leader at B-architecten: “The spaces have been designed to be much clearer and more discrete, so that it will be easier to build new exhibitions in different settings each time. A number of other spaces in the building also respond to this flexibility. An auditorium has been designed to bring out more educational aspects and the double high designed antechamber of the large exhibition space can be used for better introductions, with an open view to the new green roof.”

The offices were reinvented as open workstations with flexible and warm meeting places in the middle. The library was expanded and equipped with a welcoming new entrance desk. Even the refectory, which is accessible to other users of the building as well, was redesigned to allow more daylight in.

The renovated MoMu opened its doors during the weekend of 4 and 5 September, during a city festival that will continue until the beginning of 2022.

Learn more about the MoMu renovation here.