The new Port House in Antwerp, Belgium, is designed by Zaha Hadid Architects. The project, completed in 2016, gave a new life and extended an old abandoned fire station turning it into Europe’s second largest shipping port.
Now I’m sure you want to know which one is the first. Well it’s in Rotterdam. Its harbor was the largest in the world before Shanghai and Singapore overtook it.
There was only one requirement in the architectural competition for the realisation of the new Port of Antwerp headquarter: the original fire station building had to be preserved and integrated into the new project.
All the four facades have been considered equally important that’s why the choice of designing a modern elevated extension above the original building combining the new with the old.
Do you think the transparent volume looks like a diamond? The floating transparent volume is formed of triangular facets that combined together remind of a raw diamond. Well if you didn’t know it Antwerp has been a focus of the diamond trade for several centuries and still is.
This kaleidoscopic facade keeps changing its appearance with different daylight conditions. As usual it was dull grey when I visited it so I couldn’t see the beautiful grading effect photographers as Hélène Binet or Hufton+Crow captured.
The old fire station’s courtyard is now the main reception hall for the new Port House and a glass roof encloses it allowing plenty of natural light to come in.
Panoramic lifts provide access to the new extension with an external bridge in between the existing building and new glazed volume giving panoramic views of the city and port.
The upper floors, within the glazed extension, host the Port of Antwerp’s offices and communal areas such as he restaurant, meeting rooms and auditorium in which is very easy to read Zaha Hadid ‘s architectural style.
With this expansion, renovation and reuse of a historic fire station integrated into its headquarters, the new Port House definitely is a reflection of the city of Antwerp.
It can be quite tricky to get there as, of course, the Port House is located in the port area of the city but I highly recommend to see the building and join a guided tour.