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.
In 2007, when the former 1990s offices of the Port of Antwerp had become too small, the port determined that relocation would enable its technical and administrative services to be housed together, providing new accommodation for about 500 staff. The port required a sustainable and future-proof workplace for its employees, representing its ethos and values in an ever-expanding local and international arena.
Zaha Hadid Architects' design is informed by detailed historical research and a thorough analysis of both the site and the existing building.
Working with Origin, leading heritage consultants in the restoration and renovation of historic monuments, ZHA’s studies of the site’s history and heritage are the foundations of the design which firstly emphasises the north-south site axis parallel with the Kattendijkdok linking the city centre to the port. Secondly, due to its location surrounded by water, the building's four elevations are considered of equal importance with no principal facade. ZHA’s design is an elevated extension, rather than a neighbouring volume which would have concealed at least one of the existing facades. ZHA and Origin’s historic analysis of the old fire station also highlighted the role of its originally intended tower - a grand, imposing component of the fire station's Hanseatic design. Its bold vertical statement, intended to crown the imposing volume of the building below, was never realised.
These three key principles define the design’s composition of new and old: a new volume that ‘floats’ above the old building, respecting each of the old facades and completing the verticality of the original design’s unrealised tower.
Like the bow of a ship, the new extension points towards the Scheldt, connecting the building with the river on which Antwerp was founded.
Photo credits: Helen Binet, Hufton + Crow, Luc Boegly + Sergio Grazia.