It hurts the eyes a little. Anyone who occasionally walks through the Vleeshouwersstraat cannot ignore the fact that the Vleeshuis is suffering greatly. Parts of the facade are crumbling. And mesh nets must ensure that those stones do not land on the head of an unsuspecting stroller.
Inside, on the ground floor, everything seems fine at first glance. But appearances are deceiving. Moisture and mold are ubiquitous on the walls. The many wooden and historic beams groan under the weight and other inconveniences.
It has been more than a hundred years since then city architect Alexis Van Mechelen restored the building, which has been protected as a monument since 1936. “The environmental permit will be applied for next year and the restoration will start the following year,” says Nabilla Ait Daoud.
That restoration involves quite a bit. The stability of the Vleeshuis, which has been a museum for decades, is assured and both the facade and the interior are being tackled. At the same time, the main entrance, a wooden gate along the Vleeshouwersstraat side, will be moved to the Burchtgracht. With a welcome center like the one under construction at the Rubens House.
Better view of the Steen
Bart De Wever dreams of visually better connecting the Steen and the Vleeshuis and refers to the intention to create a square on the quays at the same stone.
With a tunnel for traffic underneath. “But there is not exactly unanimity about this within the council,” the mayor adds drily. But that’s a worry for later. Perhaps after the municipal elections in October next year.
The eye-catcher of the restoration, although not everyone will agree with it, is, in addition to an elevator, a central stairwell in the heart of the Vleeshuis. “Both of these must ensure that visitors can visit the seven floors of the Vleeshuis comfortably and safely. The current elevator, from 1957, in one of the towers and the narrow stairs do not currently allow many people to be received safely,” explains Nabilla Ait Daoud.
The heart of the building will be the City Hall on the ground floor. The hall connects the street and the neighborhood with the monument. It will be a place for small concerts and open rehearsals, lectures, exhibitions and other cultural activities. The collection of historical musical instruments and objects is displayed on the other floors. Wannes Van de Velde’s study will also once again have a place in the museum. Together with, among other things, a research library and music studios.
Hoping for Flemish money
The restoration of the Vleeshuis is estimated to cost 35 million euros. More or less the same amount that was allocated for the restoration of the town hall. “We are counting on subsidies from Flanders, but have decided not to wait for that. In the worst case, we will pay for the restoration with our own resources. Because if we wait any longer, it will be too late,” says Bart De Wever.
The restoration of the Butcher’s House means that the museum will close for a longer period of time in 2025 at the latest. “We expect the job to be completed in the course of 2029. Until then, we will store the collection in our depot in the Hessenhuis,” says Nabilla Ait Daoud.