Restoration and new housing
The two previous phases:
The restoration was combined with works that adapted the building complex to its new function. This included renovation, climate regulation and security for the three altarpieces that will be returned to their original place, the Augustine cycle, and other art works.
The renovation was an excellent opportunity to conduct archeological research. Several interesting discoveries were made.
The building and restoration project was divided in three different phases, of which two have been finished.
The third phase is partially completed. The restoration of artworks, woodwork and murals will start in 2007, if the government commission approves the project.
The first phase is comprised of renovating the interior of the buildings on Everdijstraat, acoustic glazing of the church windows and conducting scientific research of the church’s interior.
The renovated buildings that can be reached via Everdijstraat 12 temporarily offers space for four offices, one finance office and a restroom for the administration of the AMUZ. The splendid stained glass was repaired and fitted into new wooden frames with double glass. The façade will be cleaned in the third phase.
On the outside of the church, soundproofing windows were installed. They are made as follows: a metal frame is fitted over the original window frame. Within this metal frame fits a very thick glass panel coated with a special acoustic foil. The stained glass with the existing soundproofing windows from the 1970s combined layers of glass form a triple glass system with air vents. This guarantees that traffic noise will not penetrate within the church walls.
The materials used in the interior of the church were examined in the summer of 1999. The finishing layers of the central vault were studied in depth, specifically the image groups, arched alcoves, arches and pillars. At the same time a study was conducted in regard to the finishing layers of the gate and the Augustine altar in the northernmost vault, the wainscots at the height of the nave and the choir, and the wainscots on the doors in the choir. Finally, the pedestals on the altars were renovated.
The following was deduced from the study: All the statues and arched niches had been covered in monochrome layers of chalk. The backgrounds of the medallions were covered with layers of black chalk. Only a few attributes had originally been finished with polychrome layers. On the rosettes, which each differ from each other, they discovered beneath the present gilded layer only layers of white chalk. This does not mean however that they were never gilded in the first place. On the pillars, arches, keystone and the capital they found vague remnants of a khaki grey layer.
The doorframe beneath the northern vault showed successive layers of imitation marble. The visible layer of white marble imitation on the side altar with a black frame around it and other visible layers are similar to other layers of paint found in the church. Because of the few layers of paint found on the altar we can conclude that this is a recent addition to the church. The main altar has more finishing layers than the wainscot, the cornice and other parts of the choir.
A second study focused on the walls and arches. On the walls of the side aisle we can find under the present yellow finishing layer a brown wood imitation which possibly continues behind all of the wall covering. The same wood imitation was found on all the parts of the portal. The wall above the cornice of the aisle does not hide any older layers, only a white plaster finish. The surface of these walls had at one time been covered with sixteen paintings of the Saint Augustine cycle. As mentioned before, these will return to their original place after the restoration is completed.
The choir vault of 1718 and the vault of the nave (1721) do not only have different stucco ornaments but also have a different color of finishing layer. Except for the penultimate layer, the profiles, mirror surfaces, and wall surfaces of the nave arch had always been painted in the same color. On the choir arch less paint layers had been found. In the oldest finishing paint layer there is a difference in tint between the profiles and the mirror surfaces. The stars in the medallions had originally been gilded.
The conclusions from this scientific study of the materials used will be used in the third phase of the restoration.
Before the beginning of the third phase the flat and sloped roofs of the winter chapel and the annexes had been renovated. The sloped surfaces were covered with natural slate. Moreover, the outer walls were cleaned thoroughly and equipped with smooth façade plaster.
Another aspect of the second phase was placing a doubly insulated floor on the nave arch, in other words the attic of the church. Together with the soundproofing windows this aspect helps to insulate the concert hall acoustically speaking.
The last straight line
The third phase consists partially of building with new material, and partially redesigning.
The new building consists of an entrance hall for the public of the Kammenstraat; an artists entrance, and guestrooms on the side of the police tower; an extension of the foyer beside the winter chapel; the redesigning of the chapel basement as bathroom for visitors and a technical space.
The redesigning focuses especially on the church interior, the Holy Sacrament and the winter chapel. Several annexes will be redesigned slightly.
The redesigning of the concert hall
Under the church floor, floor heating and central heating have been installed. The floor had been removed temporarily, and while it was gone archeologists took the opportunity to examine the area (see further down).
The church is equipped with removable chairs and a removable podium. This allows for flexible use of the area.
The public, which enters via the new building on the Kammenstraat 81, reaches the concert hall via the foyer. Between the hall and the foyer there is a small space with doors on each side to stop the sound from entering the hall. The church doors will be automated for practical reasons.
The original main entrance on the Kammenstraat will be the emergency exit and can be used as a second exit during big events. The portal in the northern aisle is an emergency exit as well, but this one exits in the Everdijstraat.
The Holy Sacrament and the upstairs
The restored Holy Sacrament of the down stairs area will be a rehearsal space for the musicians. It is easily accessible from the guestrooms and the artist’s entrance.
The stairs behind the Holy Sacrament and the entrance at number 14 of the Everdijstraat will be preserved. They will be used by the church’s technical staff and radio workers. From the studio on the first floor several things can be made; music recording for radio and CD’s.
On the first floor beside the recording studio and the offices are the kitchen and a conference room. The previously mentioned staircase will be extended to the second floor above the Holy Sacrament. The attic will serve as a technical area.
New building on the east side
On the side of the police tower is a new building. This building consists of a lower floor, which consists of not only the artist’s and delivery entrance, but also of space not used by AMUZ, but by the police. They had given part of their property in order for the new building to be built.
On the first floor there is an accommodation for the artists. Above the guestrooms is a technical space for heating kettles, and cooling equipment.
New building on Kammenstraat
A completely new building was erected on number 81 of the Kammenstraat. This is where the public entrance is. The ground floor of this building has a sloping floor to accommodate the different floor levels of the winter chapel. This makes access easy to the foyer and concert hall for people in wheelchairs. The vestibule ‘floats’ as a separate area in the entrance hall. The ticket sales and reception are at the front of this space.
The areas above are designed as a ticket shop and several extra offices.
What had been the winter chapel is now the foyer of AMUZ. The climate control of this space, just as in the church, is achieved by using forced air. This is not new since the chapel had originally been heated by a coal-burning stove in the basement from which hot air was forced up through grids in the floor.
The evening coordinator uses areas on several floors. The kitchen, the storage area for the drinks, storage area for the instruments, and the office can be found around the foyer and on several different floors.
The kitchen connects to the foyer counter. There is easy access to the storage area of the drinks via the delivery entrance. The counter has been built around the communion pews and the altar.
The public restroom is located in the basement under the foyer, but wheelchair users have access to a toilet on the main floor.
On the ground floor a new hall has been built beneath the kitchen and the VIP area for the artists. On the first floor a preparation area for receptions has been built, above which is a personal space.
Future plans for the building
The restoration of the murals in the winter chapel and the wood work and art work in the church is scheduled to start in 2007. For the church organ a separate dossier has to be prepared.
Thanks to all these works the winter chapel will have her Neo-Byzantine look back. The murals will be restored and fixated selectively. The areas where repetitive abstract motives are missing will be repaired. Missing elements in non repetitive images will be filled in with color surface suggestive of the original shape.
The design and finishing of the church will be done in the original baroque style. The ornaments and art work will give the area a feeling of sacredness as originally intended.
The middle aisle will be finished in a monochrome light color. The choice will be based on the scientific research of used materials mentioned before. The statues that had a polychrome finish will preserve their colorfulness. The gilding on ornaments will be exposed and restored. The pillars, frames and the capital will get a new layer of chalk finish. Doors and other woodwork will be restored, and the side aisles will be finished in the same style as the main aisle.
The marble and wood imitations on the altars and porches will be preserved. Likewise, the restoration options for the altars, confession chairs, etc will be based on the scientific research mentioned before. Where necessary, parts will be painted over with new marble or wood imitations.
The baptismal chapel will be preserved as well as the pulpit of Hendrik Frans Verbruggen. It will stay in its original place even though it limits the number of seats in the concert hall.
Future plans for the art works
Everything has been planned for the three original art works to return to the church for which they were originally intended. The same goes for the sculpted angels that belong above Rubens’ painting
The return of the sixteen paintings depicting the Augustine cycle is certain. After they will have been restored they will return to their place in the main aisle. The cycle had been designed especially for this spot.
Before the restoration a report had been made of the condition of each of these paintings. One painting which is representational of the state of their preservation will be completely restored. The other paintings will be restored after that one. The paintings from the choir area will go back to their original place once they have been restored.
We are talking about two paintings by Pieter Spierinckx (1635-1719): The Holy Wilhelmus of Aquitaine doing penitence in the desert and the Holy Wilhelmus of Aquitaine pursued by two horsemen. By restoring and re-allocation we strive for a balance between care for the monument and the comfort of the users. The result is a contemporary complex in a magnificent historical setting. It’s not only a modern concert hall with all the amenities for the public and the musicians but also a location for concerts with the best possible conditions.