Brussels iconic concert Ancienne Belgique, known better as just AB, is planning a major renovation project, aimed at strengthening its ties with the neighbourhood and improving the building’s accessibility. The over €5 million project has received the necessary building permit from the Brussels Capital Region, with works scheduled to start this summer.
An accessible creative place will emerge, housing residencies, workshops, neighbourhood meetings, small concerts and, at the very top, a café-restaurant, roof terrace and its vegetable gardens will be perfect to connect with each other.Tom Bonte, general director AB
Over the centuries, the site of the current concert venue has served as a a guild, fortified bank vault, nursing home and banqueting hall. It was in 1979 that it was turned into a cultural institution for the Flemish community, meant to be an open house where all manner of initiatives could take place, training activities during the day, artistic activities and partying at night.
However, since then, it has been rather closed, literally, due to a series of renovations, and figuratively, especially to the neighbourhood. The only way to get in is with a ticket and after the concerts guests are kindly asked to leave the building. The new makeover plans to change that. Through its Culture, Youth and Media department, the Flemish Community is responsible for financing and monitoring the building project, which will offer the AB many new opportunities in the coming years. The initiatives to strengthen the ties with the neighbourhood and the city are essential to this.
To achieve this, there will be, among other things, a renovation project in Rue des Pierres, a side street of Boulevard Anspach, where the AB is located. With the building in Rue des Pierres, the AB opens up as a place where people can connect with each other. Its ambition is to turn the AB into an open house. The new and enlarged AB Salon will play an even more active and versatile public role: it will not only have room for intimate concerts, but also for musical and social reflection, exhibitions, workshops and neighbourhood meetings.
With this project, the Flemish Community invests in its art institutions, including in Brussels. Improving accessibility is a key priority of this renovation, so that anyone who wants to can enjoy the AB.Jan Jambon, Flemish Minister of Culture
The new café-restaurant at the top of the building should become one of the neighbourhood’s hotspots. With its roof gardens and large terrace offering a panoramic view of the city centre, it has all the assets to achieve it. In the restaurant, the AB wants to make its leading ecological policy tangible with local products, short chain, less food waste and vegetarian options. Here too, the AB wants to use the space not only for culinary purposes, but also for small-scale meeting projects. By integrating the counter of the current café on the ground floor into its concert operation, the AB wants to improve service to the public.
The accessibility of the main hall will also be improved. An additional passage will be created for access to the first balcony in the main hall, which will ensure that guests will no longer have to walk through the AB Club. These adjustments will be made in close cooperation with Inter, the Flemish accessibility expertise centre. There will also be an adapted lift that will take visitors to all floors without the need of guidance. In addition, extra sanitary facilities for disabled person will be added within this design.
“It will be a very open and accessible building where everyone will be able to enjoy performances, a tasty meal and stunning views from the roof terrace. Since we made the central avenues car-free, our city centre has completely revived. Cultural houses in the immediate surroundings of the Bourse such as the AB, Beursschouwburg and Cinema Palace play an important role in this”, Brussels State Secretary for Urbanism, Pascal Smet, commented on the renovation.