Constructing a new Icon

Today the construction site of the new Port House of Antwerp was open  for visitors. I was one of the lucky ones to explore the site, almost 2 years before it will be the new landmark for Antwerp. One of my favorite architects, Zaha Hadid, designed this beautiful ship in the sky.

The ‘ship’ that will be build on top of the old fire station will be an eye catcher in the Antwerp sky line for sure. It’s a celebration of two of its industries: diamonds and port activity.

Now, still a construction site, but in two years time Zaha Hadid’s ship will rise:

In 2010, the original Port House looked like this:

Port House

The central tower has been removed and in front of the house lies now a giant dig hole where the concrete bearer of the ‘ship’ will be raised:

Port House Antwerp

The inside of the old fire station is now stripped completely. All electricity and facilities are removed. Also brick walls have been cut out:

Port House Antwerp
These pipes are silent witnesses of times past and now small works of art:

Port House Antwerp

The stairs are carefully wrapped in wooden castings to protect them from harm by all those rough workers who are taking over the building. Banisters and original floor tiles will be preserved and renovated so the link with history is kept:

Port House Antwerp

I’m really looking forward to next year, when the giant steel construction will be visible. I hope the builders can keep to their time schedule. Since in 2009 the new Port House was announced to be finalised in 2013 (source — in Dutch).

More information on the building by Port of Antwerp and Zaha Hadid Architects.

Street address:
Siberiastraat 20
Antwerp (Belgium)

CC De Grote Post – a postal building with a new future

Third, altered design (July, 13th 1947)-- City Archives Ostend
Third, altered design (July, 13th 1947)
— City Archives Ostend

In December, 22nd 2012 the city of Ostend opened the new cultural center CC De Grote Post (The Great Post). It is located in a building designed by Gaston Eysselinck, a young modernist architect that only designed one public building.

De Grote Post was constructed in 1953 and was listed as a protected monument in 1981. It took a long time before renovations started. Last week I visited the site. I treated myself to a circus performance so I could also get into one of the auditoriums.

The building is restored by B-Architecten, who did a great job for the Felixarchief and Extra City in Antwerp. Click on “video” on the projectsite and walk around the building.

The auditoriums (both Grote Post and Kleine Post) are very clever constructed and made me feel a bit like being in a cocoon.

CC De Grote Post - auditorium

When I was ready to leave I discovered the most beautiful part of the interior. Above the phone booths, there are beautiful glass windows:

De Grote Post | Entrance

Just look more closely and you can discover this mermaid for example:

De Grote Post | Glass windows

At the opening weekend the crew of Cobra made this nice feature (in dutch, but you almost feel right in the building).

If you want to know all about the building, visit these sites (both in Dutch):

And was I impressed? To be honest: no. I’m sure it all looked wonderful during the opening weekend and when the camera crews came to visit. But a few months later, it looked like a construction site where the workers just had left. The concrete stairs were covered with dust, some even a bit loose. Maybe it was because the sun was hiding behind the clouds? Or maybe my expectations were set to high?

What I do know is that the site has potential, it must be great to watch a movie under the moonlit sky while seated at the courtyard. I can imagine going to an evening performance and entering the ticket hall filled with light and people all buzzing about and anxious to be dazzled. I only hope that the city of Ostend is willing to invest in it so it can become more than it’s architect ever imagined.

Street address
Hendrik Serruyslaan 18 a
8400 Oostende (Belgium)