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)

Zaha Hadid - Fire Station

Vitra Fire Station – Zaha Hadid

The Vitra Campus is a spot which all architecture lovers should visit. So did I. In the “backlot” there is a small building that used to be the Vitra Fire Station designed by Zaha Hadid.

This was the first building designed by Zaha Hadid that was actually build full-scale. Before everybody regarded her designs as mere fantasy that could not be build.

Throughout the building, Zaha Hadid loves to play with the senses of visitors. When you are looking at the horizon from inside the building, it really is difficult to find the horizon as a straight line. It’s as if you loose connection with the world outside. Zaha Hadid carries this principle beyond its limits. It has been said that the fire fighters didn’t like the toilets because they got nauseous inside. Zaha Hadid practically told them to learn to live with it and wouldn’t compromise on her design. As a result, the building was used for only a very short period of time as an actual fire station. It wasn’t very practical. Now it is used to host events.

The design of the building really is simple, just look at this short video:

[vimeo w=600]

Viewed from the sky the building looks like this (thank you Google maps!):

Zaha Hadid - Fire Station

Near the Vitra Campus is another Zaha Hadid building: Land Formation One. I didn’t go there because I came to the Vitra Campus by bus and it was too far to walk (since it was getting darker). Some friends went there a few years later, reporting that the site was not a lovely place to see, neglected and thus in very bad shape. Sometimes time and the invasion by its natural environment can give buildings an extra glow. Maybe Zaha Hadid’s buildings only impress when they’re shiny and new? Time will tell…


Vitra Campus
Charles-Eames-Str. 2
Weil am Rhein (Germany)

You can access the building during the Architectural tour organised by the Vitra Museum.