Entrepreneur, innovator and visionary; Rubens was all of these things and four hundred years after his death, the master painter continues to inspire and the Rubens House is incredibly popular. Ever-increasing visitor numbers in the century-old building, however, present the museum with major challenges. How can as many people as possible experience Rubens's life and work without the building and collection suffering?
The infrastructure is not suited to accommodating that many visitors. The current reception pavilion is too cramped, the historic house is not accessible to all and the facilities are limited. A thorough, sustainable renovation is required. But how do we make the museum visit accessible, complete and memorable for everyone? And how do we unite the museum with the international research centre Rubenianum, its collections and libraries?
Connecting overall concept
In 2016, with financial support from Tourism Flanders, the City of Antwerp commissioned the Flemish Master Builder to develop a new vision for the Rubens House. On this basis, Robbrecht en Daem architecten drew up a master plan for the new museum in 2021. The ambitious overall concept provides an answer to all challenges.
The new Rubens House will double in size. A brand new building is emerging to the side of Rubens's historic home, garden and studio. This will accommodate the reception area, the new museum café, the research centre and the internationally acclaimed Rubens Library: the place to be for any research on Rubens and his contemporaries. The new entrance is the starting point of a re-imagined, accessible visitor route through the renovated museum.
The historic building and baroque garden are also being carefully restored, with great respect for the past and the future, so that Rubens's house, garden and living world are preserved in all their splendour and continue to inspire generations to come.
Contemporary Rubensian palace
When Rubens designed his palazzo in the early 17th century, he added innovative Italian elements to the existing Flemish building. The architects are building on this. The new building, six stories high, is based on Rubens' vision but is also highly contemporary. Old and new come together, just as they did back then.
- The horizontal lines and many vertical columns on the facade allude to the rich building tradition of historic Italian palazzos.
- The multiple rows of columns are also reminiscent of well-built torsos and bodies. Just like Rubens' paintings.
- The large spiral staircases inside and the constant play of light from the columns outside suggest movement, Rubens's other speciality.
- The rear façade is designed as a garden frontage, similar to the existing historic building. Thus, both buildings are connected through the garden.
- Two enormous, full-height bookcases which face each other add a homely, historical and scientific touch to each floor.
This new building lies to the side of the original artist's home, along Hopland Street. It is discreet and yet has a prominent presence. This preserves the historic view of the courtyard garden from the majestic portico.
View of front facade, rear facade and reception area © Robbrecht en Daem architecten
Restored artist's home
The historic artist's home, Rubens's greatest masterpiece, is undergoing a thorough restoration. Visitors of all ages will soon enjoy a much more comfortable experience. Space will be added for bathrooms and other facilities, for presentations and for international exhibitions. A new climate control system in the rooms will protect the valuable collections.
Under the winter corridor, there will be a storage area and a modest professional art depot. In a new basement under the garden, new technology will protect the museum from fire and water damage. Even the gardener's cottage will be accessible after the works have been completed.
The interior is also being restored for a more robust historical experience. Irritating technical elements are being eliminated and a subtly built-in elevator makes the museum largely accessible to everyone. We are also making the building more sustainable, safe and energy efficient.
Contemporary baroque garden
Even back in Rubens' time, the Baroque garden was a beautiful green oasis. Again, you could clearly see the hand of the master. The magisterial combination of flowers, colours and plants created peace and movement. As such, the inspiring garden provides the backdrop for several paintings and family portraits. Some by other artists of the time.
The courtyard garden connected the various private quarters, guest rooms and the painter's studio. This sense of connection is also central to the new concept. The new baroque garden blends the past and present. Visitors wander through the garden from the new reception building to the historic building and back again. The contemporary garden design by Ars Horti, together with the Heritage Agency, harks back to classic baroque gardens from Rubens' time. The flowerbeds will soon be filled with historic plant families, following contemporary colour advice from fashion designer Dries Van Noten.
Help plant Rubens' new garden! Starting at 10 euros, you can purchase flower bulbs, perennials, shrubs and trees. This could be your contribution to a living masterpiece. Become a supplier to Rubens' garden and discover the benefits!
The future in figures
With the renovation of the Rubens House, the museum has grand ambitions, just as the master did in his time. A look to the future in a few figures.
- 2,600 m² surface area
- 4,000 m³ of soil to be excavated
- 8 stories
- the foundations are 28 metres deep
- the basement is 10 metres deep
- 1,400 m³ in-situ concrete; approx. 9 m³ per concrete mixer
- 350 tons of reinforcing steel: 200 tons are to be braided on site and 150 tons will be in precast concrete elements
- 20 geothermal drillings at a depth of 150 m
- 456 columns with a diameter of 18 cm and a height of 420 cm on the ground floor and 340 cm on the upper floors
- 800 m² of glass
- 48 solar panels
- 700 litres of paint
New Rubens Garden
- 8,835 new plants in total
- 39 trees
- 4,170 perennials
- 612 climbing plants
- 3,150 flower bulbs and exotics
- 346 shrubs
- 438 hedge plants
- 30 orangery plants
- 50 aquatic plants
- 30 May 2016: contract for development of new vision
- 2019: completion of restoration of porch and garden pavilion
- 2021: presentation of master plan by Robbrecht en Daem architecten
- Spring 2022: start construction work on new building
- Autumn 2022: start reconstruction of Ruben garden
- 8 January 2023: closure of museum, start of renovation of Rubens House
- 2024: estimated opening of new building and garden
- 2027: estimated opening of renovated Rubens House to mark 450 years of Rubens
- City of Antwerp: 22.7 million euros
- Tourism Flanders: 3 million euro