— Frame Magazine —

Zaha Hadid Architects transforms Antwerp's historical Port House into a shimmering sculpture

ANTWERP - Zaha Hadid Architects renovates and extends the Port House in Antwerp to house the port’s 500 staff. The repurposed building brings together a community of workers – who were once vastly spread throughout different buildings all over the city – under one roof.

Sustainability, a future-proof workplace, and design informed by detailed historical research were the key elements of the brief. The port's board explicitly insisted that the original architecture be preserved. ZHA’s design, therefore, is an elevated extension that doesn't conceal the existing façade. Maintaining the structure of the historic building while simultaneously creating high standards in sustainable design was a challenge. Nevertheless, the firm tackled the issue with a range of innovative solutions, such as optimal daylight control that minimizes artificial lighting.

The shimmering 21-m-tall addition works in harmony with the changing tones of the city’s skyscape. Its distinctive rippling quality is made possible by flat facets on the south of the building that become three-dimensional towards the north. The glittering façade also references Antwerp's moniker: the city of diamonds. 'The architectural style of the original building, a replica of the former Hansa House, recalls the 16th century, Antwerp's "golden century",' says Marc Van Peel, president of the Port of Antwerp. 'But now, above this original, a contemporary structure in shining glass has been built, which I am sure represents a new golden century for Antwerp.

'Inside, natural light pours into the open-plan space from every angle. To enliven the workspace, employees requested an ‘activities-based office’ to prompt socializing and provide spaces for meetings. As a result, facilities such as a restaurant and auditorium are integrated into the design. 


Photos Tim Fisher