September 27, 2022

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the ghent altarpiece takes center stage in belgium cathedral restoration by bressers architects


bringing the world-famous ghent altarpiece forward

 

the world-famous ghent altarpiece by the van eyck brothers has been restored in all its splendor, after years of meticulous, scientific restoration. to give this splendor back to the public it has been relocated to a central place within the gothic saint-bavo cathedral. for this, the team of bressers architects, specialized in restoration architecture, has worked on a new circulation plan for the building. the public can now visit the cathedral, the crypt, as well as the impressive van eyck altarpiece. to achieve this, they have designed a new staircase that leans against the sidewall of the cathedral without touching the structure. the volume is realized in glass and brass, communicating perfectly with the gothic architecture.

 

the restoration campaign of the ghent altarpiece, which involved the re-exposure of the original layers of paint by the van eyck brothers, commenced in october 2012, while the first two phases of the project were completed in spring 2020. the last phase, the upper register of the inner panels, will follow between 2022 and 2025.


the ghent altarpiece takes center stage in belgium cathedral restoration by bressers architects

all images © tim van de velde

 

 

an eye-catching brass entrance and an intuitive promenade 

 

the ghent altarpiece has been installed in the villa chapel since the 1980s. from a religious and cultural-tourist point of view, the commissioners decided to provide a new location for the altarpiece. this new location became the sacrament chapel, the central and largest apsidal chapel of the high choir. at the same time, a new visitor center was built in the crypt and the choir from the cathedral.

the entire project by bressers architects (find more here) took place within the framework of the leverage project on the theme of flemish masters (period 2018-2020). upon entering the cathedral, you immediately notice the greatness of the whole. the brass entrance to the visitor center in the northern transept was intended to blend in with the cathedral as a whole, but at the same time to attract attention. by using materials already present in the church (wood, subtle brass infills), the lockers blend into the whole and function as a paneling. meanwhile, on the site of the cathedral and chapter house, a readable and intuitive ‘promenade’ has been designed to open up and link the public, semi-public and private spaces. the area around the cathedral slopes down towards the reep. as a result, the different zones to be visited are on different levels. by applying slopes and creating new openings in the building envelope, this ‘promenade’ connects all spaces smoothly.

bressers architects gives van eycks brothers altarpiece a central place again saint bavo cathedral in ghent 10
the ghent altarpiece takes center stage in belgium cathedral restoration by bressers architects

 

 

brass, wood and concrete complete the materiality

 

the various spaces were linked together by integrating a recurring, unambiguous architecture, characterized by simplicity in detailing and a thoroughly homogeneous choice of materials. the recurring elements act as a guide in the fragmented site. the brass material forms the golden thread that embroiders the new interventions in the historical framework (ramps, doors, counter, stairs, railings, etc.). it guides the visitor through the project. the wooden furniture (lockers, cabinets, …) play second fiddle. where brass clearly claims its presence, the wooden interventions rather subtly shape the furniture, which is necessary for the functioning of the visitor center.

because brass and wooden elements are already frequently present in the cathedral, the new infills, in the same material, again contribute to the creation of a continuous whole. finally, the concrete as the overall support for the route in which it itself never dominates but always supports (floors in polyconcrete, the cast-in-place lift shaft in exposed concrete, …). the soft gray of the concrete keeps the visitor’s attention on the natural stone elements of the cathedral. light gray cement tiles, in the same color tonality as the polyconcrete in the circulation areas, form the flooring in the crypt.

bressers architects gives van eycks brothers altarpiece a central place again saint bavo cathedral in ghent 2
the ghent altarpiece takes center stage in belgium cathedral restoration by bressers architects

bressers architects gives van eycks brothers altarpiece a central place again saint bavo cathedral in ghent 3
the ghent altarpiece takes center stage in belgium cathedral restoration by bressers architects

bressers architects gives van eycks brothers altarpiece a central place again saint bavo cathedral in ghent 5

bressers architects gives van eycks brothers altarpiece a central place again saint bavo cathedral in ghent 6
bressers architects gives van eycks brothers altarpiece a central place again saint bavo cathedral in ghent 7

project info:

 

 

name: saint bavo cathedral visitors centre
designer: bressers architects

 

 

designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.

 

edited by: myrto katsikopoulou | designboom



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