The Grauwzusters Cloister in Antwerp’s Lange Sint-Annastraat has a rich history.
Long ago, nuns cared for victims of the plague within the cloister’s gloomy, grey walls. But when the last ‘Grey Sister’ left the cloister in 1999, the Flemish Government sought a new purpose for this building. The condition was that the new occupants should continue the building’s great tradition of providing services to society. It was the ideal place for the University of Antwerp, which was looking for premises in the city centre at that time.
Symbiosis of historic and modern architecture
The façade of the Grauwzusters Cloister has remained almost unchanged, and its interior has also retained its authentic intimacy. This doesn’t mean, however, that architects Van Broeck and Meuwissen didn’t manage to find a balance between historic and modern architecture: the courtyard, with its glass roof, is now a stylish reception and catering space.
Around the patio run criss-crossing galleries, formed by removing the glass in high window arches. Walking through the highest corridor, you come across a number of strange grey blocks lined with bright red cushions. Even further up, we see that the architects have envisioned the wooden roof structures as decorations, cheering up the convention rooms below.
The cellars way down in the bottom of the building have been transformed into an ultramodern auditorium (Graduation Hall) and an extra space for catering at conventions. The Chapel has been restored to its original state and now serves as a deconsecrated convention room and concert hall with a piano.