Architects: Robbrecht en Daem     Photography: Jeremy Piret     Construction Period:  2023     Location:  Brussels, Belgium

Xavier Hufkens – a leading contemporary art gallery in Europe – reopened its Sint-Jorisstraat gallery in Brussels in the summer of 2022, following a spatial reformulation of the existing flagship gallery with an important new extension by Robbrecht en Daem architecten. The project holds a special connection to the building’s history: thirty years ago, Robbrecht en Daem – in collaboration with Marie-José Van Hee architecten – converted the classical mansion into the gallery’s first home. The design combined the everyday with the artistic experience. That story continues with a new statement in the city of Brussels.

The new building stands apart as a monolithic figure with one side of the building completely detached from its neighbour. This disconnection creates a transition between street and garden, between outside and inside. The interstice allows a flash of light to mark the visual start of (a visit to) the gallery. The rue St-Georges façade, with its single opening, manifests itself as a one-eyed stela and symbolizes ‘the expectation of art’.

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The design is an interplay between two houses in which the floor levels are aligned so that a ‘promenade architecturale’ can run through both sides of the building. The interaction between the new and the existing building creates a Pleiades of different spaces with museum-like proportions in the new building and room-like dimensions in the mansion. This array of scales corresponds to the multiplicity of manifestations in art. A rough, concrete staircase works as a counterpoint to the purity of the gallery spaces. A variety of natural light incidences throughout the gallery creates a wide range of experiences. Consequently, art always relates to the space in a new way.

Text provided by the architect.