On 1 December 2013 the Royal Museum for Central Africa (RMCA) closed its doors for nearly four years of renovation works. When the museum reopens in autumn 2017, it will have drastically changed in appearance. Remodelling will not be limited simply to the building and access points, but will extend to the contents of this place of memory, where Belgium’s colonial past will be addressed capably and openly. All aspects of the museum will put in perspective. It works with researchers from the African communities in Belgium and will serve as a dynamic platform for research, encounters and dialogue between visitors from different generations and cultures.
This renovation was urgently needed. The museum building dates from 1910 and, despite his unique charm, the infrastructure was no longer suited to the needs of a modern museum. The last major alterations date back to the 1958 World Exhibition in Brussels, more than 50 years ago now.
The permanent exhibition had also become extremely dated, in sharp contrast with the temporary exhibitions which tended to concentrate on scientific research and the topicality of the collections. The presentation also did not take a critical enough eye of the colonial image that reigned in the 20th century. All in all it was high time for a drastic renovation and modernisation.
The renovated museum building and the new welcome pavilion will be the first visible changes on the site. A master plan for the whole site is planned for the buildings currently housing the scientific departments. This challenging project is expected to be completed after 2020.
The entire renovation takes place under the authority of the Belgian Buildings Agency in close collaboration with the museum. Following a public call for tender in 2007 the assignment was awarded to the temporary partnership Stéphane Beel Architects (TV SBA). This temporary partnership is made up of Stéphane Beel Architects, Origin Architecture and Engineering, Niek Kortekaas, Michel Desvigne, Arup, RCR Studiebureau and Daidalos Peutz.