The new Port House in Antwerp repurposes, renovates and extends a derelict fire station into a new headquarters for the port, bringing together the port’s 500 staff that previously worked in separate buildings around the city.
Following the construction of a new fire station, the old station – a listed replica of a Hanseatic residence – became redundant. This disused fire station had to be integrated into the new project. The design is informed by detailed historical research, and a thorough analysis of the site and the existing building. The historic analysis of the old fire station also highlighted the role of its originally intended tower, which was never realised.
The design is an elevated extension, rather than a neighbouring volume, which would have concealed the existing facades. Surrounded by water, the new extension’s facade is a glazed surface that ripples like waves, and reflects the changing tones and colours of the city’s sky.
The facade’s rippling quality is generated with flat facets to the south that gradually become more three-dimensional towards to the north. This perception of a transparent volume, cut to give the new building its sparkling appearance, reinterprets Antwerp’s moniker as the city of diamonds.
The old fire station’s central courtyard has been enclosed with a glass roof and transformed into the main reception area. From this central atrium, visitors access the historic public reading room and library within the disused fire truck hall. Panoramic lifts provide direct access to the new extension, with an external bridge between the existing building and new extension giving panoramic views of the city and port. The client requirements for an ‘activity-based office’ are integrated within the design, along with related areas such as the restaurant, meeting rooms and auditorium.
A sustainable and energy-efficient design was developed, reaching a ‘Very Good’ BREEAM environmental rating.
With constant references to the Scheldt, the city of Antwerp and the dynamics of its port, married with the successful renovation and reuse of a redundant fire station – integrating it as a fully fledged part of its headquarters – the new Port House will serve the port well through its planned expansion in the future.
“With the amazing variety and exceptional quality of submissions received this year from around the world that continue to demonstrate the fundamental values that architecture and interior design can provide in our daily lives, sometimes improving our health and wellbeing and often providing us with joy and admiration for the sheer beauty that many buildings imbue, the judges task in deciding an ‘overall winner’ for the 2018 ABB Leaf Awards was never going to be an easy one.
However, this year the judges have had the opportunity to appreciate and relish in three completed projects from a remarkable yet often divisive architect, sadly no longer with us, who has left an outstanding body of work around the world which her office continues to enrich our lives with.
All three of these projects are outright winners in their individual categories, each one infused with the distinctive style of their celebrated designer, with their fluid, flowing, kinetic, sculptured 21st century forms.
The winner this year, however, defiantly flaunts its dynamic, gravity defying, thrusting modern superstructure, suspended boldly above its historic counterpart, with its shimmering articulated boat like glass façade reflecting the surrounding waters during day and transforming into a glowing crystal during night. It is one of the most ambitious designs proposed by the architect, and as many great buildings do, it has put her client and the city firmly on the architectural world map.”
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