Designing a new building for a historic site is not a matter to be undertaken lightly. It takes vision and imagination to bring past and future together on one site without compromising either the one or the other. Peter Paul Rubens did it 400 years before Robbrecht and Daem, when he flamboyantly combined an existing house in the Flemish style with stunning new architecture inspired by Italy. Robbrecht and Daem have pursued that balance just as ingeniously in 2021.
"The portico with the arcade has a very strong presence leading into the courtyard, and beyond it you experience the garden pavilion, which acts as a kind of focus. Our building is entirely off to one side. It’s there, but it’s not explicitly in the middle or in the background."
An easy readable reception building
13 Hopland will be an easily ‘readable’ and very accessible reception building, equipped with all necessary facilities. Two monumental spiral staircases will begin from the ground floor. The stairs to the underground level will provide access to a multimedia experience centre on Rubens and the locale where he lived and worked. The stairs leading up will take visitors to the museum café where they can relax. From this level, a third staircase will wind its way up to the research institute’s public reading room, where interested museum-goers, library users and researchers can immerse themselves in the world of Rubens and his contemporaries. The back-office functions will be located above these three public building layers.
"What’s really special is that Rubens’ house – which is a double house, actually – expresses itself through a portico and then through a garden and through a pavilion. A total site is already present so it’s very unusual to be adding something new."