The Museum Aan de Stroom (MAS) stands between the old docks in the heart of the old port area of Antwerp, a major urban renewal project that is developing into a vibrant new city district. The MAS is designed as a sixty-meter high tower.
Ten giant natural stone boxes, full of historical objects, are piled up as a physical demonstration of the gravity of history to form a storehouse in the heart of the old docks.
Each floor of the tower is twisted a quarter turn, creating a huge spiral staircase. This spiral space, which is bordered by a wall of corrugated glass, is a public gallery as a continuation of the city’s public domain, open at all times. An escalator route carries the people up from the museum square to the top of the spiral tower.
At each floor the visitor can enter a museum hall and immerse into the story of the dead city, while on his way to the top breath-taking panoramas of the living city unfold. At the top of the tower one finds a restaurant, a party room and a panoramic terrace, where the present is celebrated and the future is planned.
Façades, floors, walls and ceilings of the tower are completely covered with large slabs of hand cleaved red Indian sandstone that grant the building the impression of a monumental stone sculpture.
The four colours of the stone slabs are distributed on the façade based on a computerized random pattern. The spiral gallery is lined with a huge curtain of corrugated glass. The undulating glass façade with its play of light and shadow, transparency and translucency brings a light-hearted counterweight to the gravity of the stone sculpture.
To soften the monumental stone volume, the façade has been covered with a veil created out of a pattern of metal ornaments sculptured like hands, the logo of the City of Antwerp. Inside the building this pattern continues through metal medallions, moulded by a design of graphic designer Tom Hautekiet and a text of Belgian writer Tom Lanoye.
The Museum square at the foot of the tower is an integral part of the design. The square is decorated in the same red stone as the tower and surrounded by pavilions and terraces, as an urban space for events and outdoor exhibitions. The central part of the square is half sunken and forms a framework for a large mosaic of Belgian artist Luc Tuymans.