In Europe’s second largest shipping port, Zaha Hadid Architects' design refurbished the 6,600m2 former fire station preserving its historical Hanseatic design on Mexico Island in Kattendijk dock, while adding a new, bold 6,200m2 structure floating above it.
Surrounded by water, the new extension's façade is a glazed surface that ripples like waves and reflects the changing tones and colours of the city’s sky. Triangular facets allow the apparently smooth curves at either end of the building to be formed with flat sheets of glass. They also facilitate the gradual transition from a flat façade at the south end of the building to a rippling surface at the north.
While most of the triangular facets are transparent, some are opaque, ensuring sufficient sunlight within the building for optimal working conditions. This alternation helps to break down the volume of the new extension, giving panoramic views of the Scheldt, the city and the Port as well as providing enclosure.
The old fire station’s central courtyard, enclosed with a glass roof, is transformed into the main reception area for the new Port House. From this central atrium, visitors access the historic public reading room and library within the disused fire truck hall which has been carefully restored and preserved.
A restaurant, meeting rooms and auditorium are located at the centre of the upper levels of the existing building and the bottom floors of the new extension. Remaining floors, more remote from the centre, comprise open plan offices.
Panoramic lifts provide direct access to the new extension with an external bridge between the existing building and new extension giving panoramic views of the city and port.
This perception of a transparent volume, cut to give the new building its sparkling appearance, reinterprets Antwerp’s moniker as the city of diamonds. The new extension , 111m long, 24m wide and 21m high, appears as a carefully cut form which changes its appearance with the shifting intensity of daylight, like light reflecting ripples on the surface of the water.
Design by: Zaha Hadid Architects, Zaha Hadid and Patrik Schumacher
Photos by: Hufton+Crow, Tim Fisher, Helene Binet