New Ventures for the Centre Pompidou: Platforms for Experimental Displays and Reshaping the Collection, the example of Kanal Pompidou in Brussels: Hélène Vassal and Sandrine Beaujard-Vallet, European Registrars Conference, London, 19 November 2018
The Centre Pompidou is undertaking increasingly more projects abroad. One of the most ambitious, Kanal Centre Pompidou, opened in May 2018 at the former Citroën factory in Brussels. 300 pieces of modern and contemporary art from the collection were displayed in this former 38,000m² industrial site – a challenging task! 
The building
The former Citroën garage is huge, filling an entire block and famous for its rounded curtain wall. It is made of steel and glass (yes lots of natural light) and used to have a massive 21m high showroom, with workshops next to the canal. The cars were made in the workshops before being displayed in the showroom. In January 2018 the garage activities on site started to be dismantled and the site was decontaminated. Amazingly, as soon as May 2018 cultural works were on display. 
Challenges for the project:
  • Art that had not been displayed before
  • Raw state building
  • Handling challenges
  • Need for specific skills for maintenance of works that included perishables and electrical components.
  • Natural light
  • No climate control
  • No hanging walls
  • Public circulation around the building
  • Unpacking and condition checking spaces
  • Delay due to the industrial decontamination of the space
  • Electro-mechanical workshop on site
  • Technical drawings for objects with electrical components
  • Site visits from Blackwall Green insurers
  • Transport done in two phases
  • Collection management records and documentation for each artwork
  • Facilities reports, emergency plan
  • Handling protocols in emergency
  • Weekly maintenance work on objects 

Next steps: ‘A Stage for Brussels’
However, this ambitious display was only the first step in a major long-term project to create a new cultural hub on the site. In April 2017 the Urban Development Corporation (SAU-MSI) of the Brussels-Capital Region, taken over by the KANAL Foundation, launched an international architectural competition that received 100 submissions. The prize was awarded in March 2018 to noArchitecten, Brussels, EM2N, Zurich and Sergison Bates Architects, London who were selected to develop a new centre opening in late 2022. The centre will showcase the iconic architecture of the building, whilst providing a range of cultural spaces.

Centre Pompidou will have a permanent museum of modern and contemporary art, with exhibition spaces across four floors. Varied heights and large column-free spaces will provide increased flexibility for displaying works. Sustainability is a key component of the project and so natural resources will be used: roof panels will provide heat and water from the neighbouring canal will be used for cooling. There will be black out options for light sensitive works. In addition to the museum there will also be stages for performance artists, concerts and an auditorium. The entire exterior of the building will have an electronic display sign that can be used to convey visitor information or for artistic installations and facades that open out into the surrounding area. A major new cultural centre that will definitely be on my cultural visit wish-list.

Katie Robson, Registrar, Royal Armouries, @KatieLRobson