A celebration of art and architecture decades in the making
On Saturday, 24 September 2022, the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp (KMSKA) reopened its doors to the public after a thorough eleven-year-long closure for renovation of the historical museum and contemporary extension completely concealed within the existing structure.
After winning an international competition in 2003 commissioned by the Flemish Government, we have worked intensively on the complex masterplan, renovation and extension of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp (Belgium), also known as KMSKA (Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen), to bring contemporary allure to a glorious, overlooked beauty of the 19th century.
Guests can walk through an enfilade of exhibition rooms tinted in dark pink, green and red; oak doors, tall columns and ceiling ornaments in plasterwork convey a feeling of ancient grandeur.
Meanwhile, hidden in the heart of the old building, a new vertical museum arises as a completely autonomous entity built within the four original patios.
With bright white exhibition halls, hidden rooms, long staircases, far-reaching sightlines and varying gradations of daylight, the new museum charts a route full of surprising vertical experiences.
With the museum’s grand opening, the longest-running project of our office comes to a close. “The renovation was a unique experience, one that has not followed the usual paths of an architectural project in any way. A lot of people have contributed with their hands and head to a result we can now celebrate, and for which I owe everyone a lot of thanks,” says Dikkie Scipio, the founding partner in charge of guiding the masterplan of the renovation for the past two decades.
Following the recent opening of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp, we are proud to present ‘Bridging Time’ published by nai010 publishers. Scroll down to get your copy!
‘Bridging Time’ chronicles the making of one of Europe’s most exciting museums in recent history. The latest renovation work and new design combine a contemporary allure with the glorious but somewhat neglected beauty of the 19th-century landmark. The renovation and extension bring together the past, the present and the future in a layered ensemble of time, architecture, history and art.
Contributions by Inge Bertels and Frederik Vandyck, Melanie Bühler, Louis De Mey, and Dikkie Scipio unveil this palimpsest of influences that shaped the museum and its setting and eventually guided our architectural intervention.
The texts are richly illustrated with original drawings, archive material, unique images, and testimonies of designers, builders and craftsmen involved in the project over the past two decades.
Following the last week’s launch with the book contributors at a festive night at the museum, ‘Bridging Time’ is now available for purchase online and in specialised bookstores.
Texts: Inge Bertels, Melanie Bühler, Louis De Mey, Dikkie Scipio, Frederik Vandyck
Publisher: nai010 publishers, Rotterdam
Design: Alice Colombo
Cover photo: Sebastian van Damme
Photography: Stijn Bollaert, Karin Borghouts, Sebastian van Damme, Toon Grobet
Copy editing: John Kirkpatrick
Translations: John Kirkpatrick, Billy Nolan
Printing and lithography: Die Keure, Brugge
Paper: Magno Gloss 150 gr, Sirio Color Cherry 140 gr (interior), Wibalin Natural 565 Blueberry (cover material)
1st edition, 2022
22 x 31 cm
After winning the public vote earlier in October, our short film platform MINUTES has also won the Dezeen Award for the website of the year from the international panel of judges.
The website was designed by Samuel Gadea, Florian Casarin and Julien Bidoret to host the 12 short films directed by talented international filmmakers portraying projects designed by KAAN Architecten. The site’s graphic language draws from black-and-white contrasts, informed by the core visual identity of MINUTES originally designed by From Form.
“This website manages to be design-led without intruding on user experience. It does not sacrifice functionality for style, and showcases each project in a way that is clear, concise and comprehensive, while still being visually arresting and engaging,” said the judges. “It allows the user to dive further into each film, inviting them to explore the process and design thinking behind the projects,” they continued.” What first could appear to be simply a landing page evolves into a complete content experience.” Read more here!
Rooted in the essential belief that every building tells a story, MINUTES was first floated as a concept in 2017, when we started exploring the dialogue between architecture and cinema. Four years later, MINUTES evolved into a fully-fledged cinematic oeuvre consisting of 12 short films, each less than ten minutes long. Within the framework of this unique exploratory initiative, commissioned filmmakers were given creative freedom to realise their vision of our projects. Using narrative, reference and symbolism, each film takes a different approach to portray how architecture interacts with the world.
Kees Kaan and our BIM manager Javier Cuartero are joining the first international THE NEW OPEN (Minds) Talks & Workshop as featured speakers on 27 and 28 October.
As a dynamic platform with ongoing critical contributions from global thought leaders in architecture, design, climate, data science, art, culture, economics and politics, THE NEW OPEN rethinks the future foundations of design and its impact on our societies. Their first public conference will take place on 27 and 28 October at the TU Delft. The event includes keynote talks, interview-like conversations and panels from architects, designers and academics on climate, artificial intelligence, architecture, data-driven design and social and cultural change.
“If more accurate, complete and unbiased information is available, our ability to shape our habitat will be better too,” says Kees Kaan to introduce his keynote on the future of data-driven design set for 27 October. He advocates the need for “open data, impartial and fair”, calling it essential for the design process.
“Better design decision-making is based on reliable, clean, and approved data sources”, continues Javier Cuartero. He will give his insight as a data and tech support leader in a workshop on 28 October. For the first time, THE NEW OPEN [Minds] workshop will bring researchers from the fields of Open Science, Computational Design, Urbanism, Data Management and Artificial Intelligence together with architects and experts from internationally renowned design firms innovating architecture through the use of data.
Last Thursday, 06 October, we hosted a book launch for our monograph PORTRAITS in Paris at La Galerie d’architecture. This is our first monograph, published in June by Park Books and the first substantial publication offering a unique perspective on fifteen of our major built works to date. Have you gotten your copy yet?
The director of our French office, Marylene Gallon, welcomed the audience after which editor and graphic designer Alice Colombo presented the concept behind the book’s structure and design.
She explained the idea of selected projects being portrayed as different characters with distinctive physiognomies but belonging to the same family and sharing similar features, hence the book’s title.
The evening continued with a conversation between Kees Kaan, Vincent Panhuysen, architectural critic Pierre Chabard and architect Jean-Pierre Pranlas-Descours, both frequent collaborators of KAAN Architecten. Chabard is also one of the featured writers in the monograph. His essay Architecture as dialogue weaves through the book and elucidates framing, topology, geometry and craft as the hallmarks of our designs.
You can get your copy of PORTRAITS online and in specialised bookstores. The book is also available for purchase directly from Park Books.
Images by Sebastian van Damme. Featured image by Urte Baranauskaite.
We are proud to announce KAAN Architecten has been selected to design the new Courthouse in Nancy, following a competition launched by the APIJ, the leading real estate operator of the French Ministry of Justice.
The Courthouse in Nancy will bring together the penal, civic, social and trades courts on one site. Creating a singular hub for these legal entities aims to improve the conditions for welcoming the public and the functioning of all courts. The jury selected our design as it ensures a high-quality urban interpolation that highlights the remarkable industrial heritage of the site. Located on the site of the former Alstom factory in the northeast of Nancy’s historic core, the new judicial complex marks the first stage of the transformation of this historically industrial area into an up-and-coming ecological district.
Our project restores the architectural and spatial integrity of the former assembly hall, transforming it into various interconnected spaces. Facades and most portico frames are preserved and dialogue with the project’s different parts: the new judicial building and its logistics spaces, the forecourt, and a dense forest. The greenery is omnipresent and seeps into the building through a large patio, contributing to the image of serene and welcoming justice.
Demolition works carried out by the municipality of Nancy will begin in 2023, while delivery is expected by 2027. Find more information here (in French).
Architect: KAAN Architecten, Paris/Rotterdam
Local architect: Bagard & Luron, Nancy
Structural advisor: EVP Ingénierie, Paris
Installation and Sustainability advisor: INEX, Montreuil
Financial advisor: BMF, Paris/Apprieu
Acoustics advisor: META, Paris
Maintenance and operation: SINTEO, Paris
Landscape design: Territoires, Besançon
Images: ILULISSA, Nancy
Client: The Public Agency for Judicial Real Estate (APIJ)
GFA: 15.000 m2
Program: 10 public courtrooms, 21 cabinet courtrooms, 338 workplaces
Our first monograph, PORTRAITS, published by Park Books, has been released. This is the first substantial publication offering a unique perspective on fifteen of our major built works to date.
The selected projects are portrayed as different characters with distinctive physiognomies but belonging to the same family and sharing similar features, hence the book’s title. “Designs morph into characters, and then into buildings,” claims Kees Kaan. “Each project acquires its own identity through the narrative that is developed by the architect. This is a nurturing process that pulls people and stories together to build a powerful, simple, clearly formulated, and connective concept.”
The same idea runs throughout the book, which draws on rich visual documentation, including photographs, original illustrations, and detailed drawings, to explore the studio’s work using different lenses. The eponymous Portraits chapter retraces and unfolds the projects’ narratives, focusing on single pieces of a complex puzzle: a fragment of an image, a citation from an article, a detail. Meanwhile, Gallery, Drawings and Features simply hold up a mirror to the projects, reflecting them as they are, with no additional interpretation.
Original essays by architecture critics Pierre Chabard and Ruud Brouwers weave through the book, interpreting the common architectural themes evident in the firm’s work. Chabard’s Architecture as dialogue mainly elucidates framing, topology, geometry and craft as the hallmarks of KAAN Architecten designs. At the same time, Brouwers reflects on their strong contemporary identity, which is simultaneously rooted in history and future-proof.
The book is available for purchase online and in specialised bookstores, as well as directly from Park Books.
The iconic Aurora building on the corner of the Stadhouderskade and the Overtoom is heading towards a sustainable future. We are collaborating with Being, IMd Raadgevende Ingenieurs, DGMR and SkaaL to develop the striking corner building into a state-of-the-art office location with international allure.
The Aurora building is a prominent landmark at the intersection of Centrum, Zuid and West and is one of Amsterdam’s first modernist anchor points. It was designed by the renowned Dutch architect Piet Zanstra for the Aurora life insurance company in the 1960s. The elegant curvature of its facade is a characteristic feature, running almost parallel to the bend of the street corner. The building consists of a commercial plinth with spacious office floors of almost 1,000m2 above.
The renovation of Aurora combines character preservation with innovation. The ambition is to modernise and make the building more sustainable while respecting its history and unique features. Adding a new roof structure, green roof terraces, and a vertical greenhouse will create various outdoor spaces and meeting spots to strengthen the connection within the building and with the neighbourhood. The aim is to obtain an A++ energy label, BREEAM and WELL certification for the building. All sustainability measures contribute to a comfortable and healthy living environment. The focus is on social cohesion and achieving a pleasant living environment, with less noise, heat stress and air pollution.
Aurora will make an ideal new home for major national and international companies due partly to its good accessibility and location in relation to the centre of Amsterdam. First activities regarding renovation are expected at the end of 2023, after the departure of the current tenant, Booking.com.
To mark a year since we launched our MINUTES short film series we talked to Martina Margini, the initiator and curator of this unique project at the intersection of architecture and cinema. In a personal essay titled ‘Dust Motes Dancing in the Sunbeams’, Martina describes her fascination with moving images, the beauty of the unseen and the need for new ways of communicating architecture. Read more in the latest ‘Making of KAAN’ edition below!
Dust Motes Dancing in the Sunbeams
I’m not an architect, but I’ve always been attracted to the built environment: the spaces we occupy, what they represent and how we represent them.
Since I joined KAAN Architecten in 2015, I started working on how to illustrate architectural projects. First, I observed how architects describe their buildings, which supports they choose, which language they use and how their narratives come to life. I noticed how a bad presentation could ‘kill’ a well-thought project and how an intelligent presentation could uplift a project designed in just a couple of days.
Behind the scenes of ‘Today’ by Marcel Ijzerman (the real film director and DOP)
Working in communications, my job is to ‘curate’ the way we present the office’s projects to the broader public: journalists, students, clients, collaborators, social media followers, and so on. It’s complex work requiring understanding your audience and choosing an appropriate language and a suitable medium to spread your message. Because of the press standards in the architectural field, we usually follow a uniform procedure to document projects. This is a ready-to-use package that illustrates the projects at their best. Nevertheless, I felt something was missing, and more could be done to dig into the real essence of a building. Playfully, I imagined a situation where the story of the building is not told by the architect but by someone else who brings a very fresh view of the space.
Behind the scenes of ‘Crafted’ in Maputo with director Benitha Vlok and camera assistant Annalet Steenkamp
During the construction period, the organs and blood vessels of a building take shape; you can almost see the heartbeat. To me, visiting a construction site always felt like an intimate moment, like peeking into a pregnant woman’s belly. Once the machines are gone, the structure is free-standing, now free to roam. The creature (building) has its own life and voice. There is something cathartic about the moment a building is completed. Like the ‘passing of the baton’, the architect and the whole construction team offer a building to its users. From a hand-drawn sketch or 3D model representation, the building is now fully operative and gives room to other narrations outside the contractors’ meeting rooms.
‘Crafted’ behind the scenes at local workshops in Maputo
Thanks to my specific role in the company, I have access to most KAAN Architecten’s buildings. I manage press tours, accompany photographers during their photoshoots, and visit construction sites with our clients to plan a press strategy for upcoming buildings. While walking through these spaces, I was surprised about how many elements I could grasp from these buildings that don’t necessarily emerge through our standard press material. The building ‘lives’ its daily routines, it breathes, and people occupy places in an extraordinary way. There are so many stories to tell.
Erasmus MC Education Centre photoshoot, photo by Fernando Guerra
MINUTES is a way of counting time. It is a standard duration, notes from a meeting, generic and precise at the same time. I thought this name could work well for such an ambitious project. I proposed to launch a series of films. Web and TV series work really well. Series are the product of our times par excellence. Bits of information in a restricted length of time, a story diluted into chapters for better digestion.
MINUTES propose alternative stories about KAAN Architecten buildings. We established a standard set-up for the series, an opening sequence, a clear project identity, and a methodology to approach each movie in a structured way.
Behind the scenes of ‘The Letter H’ by Giulio Squillacciotti
We gave ‘open mic’ to 12 directors from different backgrounds and nationalities to experiment with a selected range of projects. In discussions with them, I always promoted the importance of creating their own vision of the building. The final objective was not to have a documentary of our built portfolio but rather a constellation of stories emerging from personal memories and emotions generated by these spaces.
Fragments of the reality of these buildings are eternalised on film. The buildings aren’t always the centrepieces of narration. Sometimes they serve as settings; other times, we barely see them, which is exactly what I wanted to achieve with MINUTES. Work with evocative images, a sensory experience of space.
Behind the scenes of ‘To become one’ by Romain Loiseau & Tristan Soreau
Our imagination works with images and needs them to operate. Architecture is a constellation of images, but I always thought they lacked the dynamics of how we experience spaces. The vibrating shadows, people’s gossip, the fact that some spaces are dull and others are soothing, dog’s footsteps in an empty space… Films can elevate spaces to places where situations happen.
The adventure of MINUTES was far from being an easy one. In constant conversation with the firm’s partners, I coordinated many directors with brilliant and original ideas while trying to keep the overall project looking like a coherent series. MINUTES touches a vulnerable spot; it is intended as a generous gesture where the architect offers the building to interpretations. It is not very common and, as far as I reckon, this has never been done by other architecture studios, at least not as a full series of movies.
Another significant challenge of MINUTES is offering additional documentation of architectural projects framed at a particular time. For example, I’m thinking about Floating Stillness, which Miguel C. Tavares shot in Lille during the Covid-19 pandemic. We were almost ready to shoot, but then the scenario had to change entirely and adapt to the constraints given by the limited activities in the building and the overall atmosphere of estrangement and loneliness at that moment. On the other hand, when Joana Colomar filmed Utopia, within the walls of a vibrant space filled with the most diverse kind of crowds, she decided to illustrate the building by filming the people occupying the space. Their presence is so significant and gives meaning to the whole architectural project. We can understand the project and how it socially resonates without the need to see the building.
Nowadays, we have the privilege of a fantastic variety of media to capture the essence of a building. Nevertheless, when I’m out of inspiration, I think about the sensibility of Vilhelm Hammershøi, who could evoke the feeling of dust particles dancing in the light that filters through a window with just a still life painting. We all know this precious yet tiny little event. A flat interior space gets inhabited by a small dance originating from the sun. It’s an invitation to discover a story where we thought there was just a dull corner of a building. Life is happening; it’s all about how attentive we are.
Every June, Rotterdam Architecture Month celebrates the diverse and unique architecture of the city. We are pleased to join the month’s festivities by launching an exciting new publication and opening our office to visitors. Scroll down for more information!
On June 21, we will present ‘Portraits‘, the first monograph on KAAN Architecten, recently published by Park Books. This is the first substantial publication offering a unique perspective on our major built works to date. The selected projects are portrayed as different characters with distinctive physiognomies but belonging to the same family and sharing similar features, hence the book’s title. Beyond being a project overview, ‘Portraits’ is a culmination of a research process aimed at interpreting a complex genealogy that reveals the fifteen buildings not as autonomous entities but as parts of a shared vision.
Join us on Tuesday evening, June 21, in a festive ceremony with a brief introduction by the authors and editors. The book will also be available for purchase during the event, courtesy of NAI Booksellers. The launch will take place at Baanhof, a unique and quirky venue located in a mid-century power station in the heart of Rotterdam. Spaces are limited, so get your tickets here!
Photo by Simone Bossi
We are also joining the Open Office Day initiative during the Rotterdam Architecture Month. On Saturday, June 25, we will open the doors of our office space located in the former premises of De Nederlandsche Bank. Come learn about the history of the mid-century landmark as well as about our work and projects. Guided tours in English will occur hourly, between 11.00 and 16.00 (the last visit starts at 15:00). Entry is free with registration. Book your time slot at the ticket link.
Opbouwdag (Construction Day) is a traditional Rotterdam event marked on and around 18 May that celebrates the (re)construction of the city after the Second World War. On that day, just days after the devastating bombing, city architect Willem Gerrit Witteveen was commissioned to develop a plan for a whole new city centre. The day offers an opportunity to look both back and forward to the ever-evolving image of the city. It highlights the importance of heritage, as well as sustainable city planning.
The Reconstruction era was an extremely fruitful period which yielded the city’s many landmarks. As a Rotterdam based studio, we are honoured to have contributed to several of them through renovations, extensions and retrofitting assignments. We dug into our archive to bring you a selected overview below!
Originally built in 1957 in central Rotterdam by renowned architects Van den Broek en Bakema, Galeries Modernes was a prime example of the Reconstruction era architecture of the city. Our new proposal refers to and respects the basic architectonic principles of the original design. Strong volumes with deep setbacks in a primarily horizontal composition and sharp canopies are original qualities that are reinterpreted and translated into a contemporary building.
The Lobby is a sustainable transformation of the current commercial venue Crystal House located in central Rotterdam. Although a part of the historic Lijnbaan ensemble, the building is not a protected monument because it was built later. As a part of the ongoing urban regeneration of the surrounding area, this outdated structure is getting a complete overhaul based on transparency, accessibility and a lively program. The modernist redesign of Crystal House gives the nod to the Rotterdam Reconstruction era yet radiates individuality simultaneously.
In 2013 we have renovated Dreamhouse, one of the monumental buildings by Van den Broek en Bakema from the 1950s in Rotterdam’s Lijnbaan area. While maintaining the existing concrete structure, rectangular volumes have been stacked in balanced proportions and masses similar to the original plan. They display a subtle differentiation of materials, window openings, colours and details, giving a contemporary feel to the traditional post-war architectural identity of Lijnbaan.
We are currently finishing the preliminary design for Lumière, a highrise project adjacent to the protected Lijnbaan ensemble that makes significant steps in the development and desired densification of the city centre and brings to it a qualitative programmatic diversity in line with Rotterdam’s metropolitan ambition.
Central Post is a listed national monument that we transformed into a contemporary and multifunctional office building in 2009. A 90% increase in floor area was achieved through exterior restoration and interior transformation, and the building was granted a Class A Energy Label. The original Louis van Roode art piece on its façade and other integrated art pieces were also restored.
The Education Center is part of the Rotterdam academic hospital Erasmus MC, originally designed in 1965 by Arie Hagoort (OD205) in collaboration with Jean Prouvé. A neglected paved courtyard and an existing low-rise building have been converted into a much-used atrium that connects various new educational spaces.
Recently, we have been collaborating on several projects with the Groot Handelsgebouw (GHG), the icon of the 1950s reconstruction. GHG is located in the centre of Rotterdam, right next to the city’s Central Station.