The site for the Law Courts in the Bolivarplaats, on the southern edge of Antwerp’s central area, where the urban fabric is broken by a massive motorway interchange which cuts off the boulevard leading into the city.
The building, designed with the collaboration of VK Studios, was conceived both as a gateway to the city and as a link across the motorway between the city centre and The Schelde River.
It houses eight distinct civil and criminal courts and includes 36 courtrooms plus offices, chambers for judges and lawyers, library and cafeteria, with a great public hall linking six radiating wings of accommodation.
This space is covered by a striking roof structure, crystalline in form, connecting the paraboloid roofs that cover the courtrooms. Unlike traditional institutional complex, the new scheme provides courts, hearing rooms and public space, all filled with natural light, as well as providing spectacular views across the city.
Highly transparent clear-glazed atria, lifts and stairwells provide instant legibility and respond to the initial brief to make the workings of justice more transparent. Coloured steel work also acts as an orientating device that is legible both in the broader context of the city and from within the building.
The complex, stradding a major highway, looks out to a large area of open land. The design creates “fingers” of landscaped parkland which extend right into the hearth of the building. The building’s design also focused a great deal of attention on the environmental aspects of this project and on the effective use of energy.
Natural light is used to optimum effect, natural ventilation is supplemented by low-velocity ventilation for the hearing rooms and rainwater is recycled.
The environmental strategy is based on utilizing the thermal mass of the pre-cast concrete frame, the reduction of solar gain by high performance glazing and the use of external glazed louvers.
Photo credits: Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners