Antwerp, the diamond city of Belgium is located on the banks of the river Scheldt. From Renaissance to Baroque, this city has an abundance of fascinating art and architecture. Being one of the important ports of the continent, the city is well developed in all the terms. It is also home to 3 major communities; Jewish, Jain and Armenian. Due to its global reach in diamonds and a major port, this city is the second largest metropolitan region after Brussels.
Here are 15 places every architect should visit when in Antwerp, Belgium.
1. PORT HOUSE
Designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, The Port House beautifully portrays city’s diamond image. The design was a winning entry to an open competition which had the main criteria of preserving the existing structure. It consists of areas such as meeting rooms, auditorium and restaurant at the bottom floors which adjoins the functions of the upper floors of the existing structure. The structure is a good example of sustainability and has received good ratings ‘BREEAM’ environmental rating. The automation in facades and other services has led to achieve the standards of sustainability.
2. CENTRAL STATION
This terminal station was constructed as a replacement for the first Brussels-Mechelen-Antwerp railway. The vast dome building with stone cladding was designed by Louis Delacenserie while the viaduct into the station was designed by Jan Van Asperen. It was titled as the most beautiful railway station in the world by American-British magazine Mashable. Recently, the station went under a huge renovation which has extended its capacity and enhanced its performance.
3. CATHEDRAL OF OUR LADY
Started with its construction in 1352, this structure took nearly 170 years to be constructed. This Gothic style church is home to significant works of Baroque painter Peter Paul Reubens and other artists like Otto Van Veen, Jacob de Backer and Marten de Vos. Apart from the exhibited paintings Reubens also contributed to the three major stained glass windows of the Cathedral.
4. St ANNA’S TUNNEL
St Anna’s Tunnel was open to the public in 1933. Constructed on the banks of the river Scheldt one can still access the tunnel by authentic wooden escalators. This 572 meter long tunnel is located 31.57 meters below ground level. The external diameter of the tunnel is 4.74 m while the internal diameter is 4.30m.
Located in the center of Antwerp, this monumental art-deco styled structured was the first skyscraper in the European continent. It is 87.5m high tower which was built in the year 1931.It was designed by mainly three architects Jan Vanhoenacker, Emiel Van Averbeke and Joseph Smolderen.
6. BUTCHER’S HALL
Known as one of the oldest surviving buildings in Antwerp, Butcher’s hall is 500 hundred year old Gothic building which is now converted into a museum. During the golden age of the city the population increased which demanded an expansion to the structure, meanwhile the old structure was about 250 years old. A new hall was constructed in 1504 in the same place but was twice then the existing one. Made of Red brick layers and white sandstone, this structure is 21 meters wide and 46 meters high.
7. CITY HALL
Included in UNESCO’S World Heritage site, is one of the finest examples of Renaissance architecture. The building facade is decorated with the flags of the 28 countries of the European Union including the flags of the countries that have a consulate in Antwerp. The centrally placed statue of Brabo was replaced by statue of Mary by the Jesuits in 1587.
8. St CHARLES BORROMEO CHURCH
This church was firstly made as a Jesuit church which was later dedicated to Saint Charles Borromeo in 1779. Apart from works of Peter Paul Reuben it also has works of Gerard Sehgers,Daniel Sehgers and Cornelis Schut. Due to several sculptures and wooden carvings it is considered as one of the finest Baroque Church.
9. COGELS OSYLEI
For a person admiring architecture, Cogels Osylei is surely no less than a wonderland. From Art Nouveau to Gothic style and Neo Renaissance to Byzantine it has a perfect display to all these styles of architecture. Built between 1894 and 1906 this street has a collection of structures made by some famous architects of that era.
Some believe that Peter Paul Rubens was not just an artist but also an architect. The Flemish artist when returned from Italy in 1608 had the fascination of classical and contemporary architecture. He along with his wife designed the space which consisted of Italian mansion accompanied by a semi circular gallery, studio and a garden.
11. PLANTIN-MORETEUS MUSEUM
Considered to be one of the finest examples of 17th – 18th century architecture, this building is a part of UNESCO’S World Heritage Site. Once a world class printing press is now turned into a museum which displays the history of printing.
12. STEEN CASTLE
Built in the 11th century, the castle is known as Het Steen amongst the people of Antwerp. From serving as residence to fish depot, it started serving as a museum in 1862. It also went through a renovation under Charles V which can be seen due to difference in colour of facade. In 2018 a renovation was carried out which is likely to end in the year 2020. After this refurbishment, it will be a gateway to Antwerp depicting the past and future of the city.
13. PALACE DE MEIR
The private residence of a wealthy merchant, this building was designed by Jan Pieter van Baurscheit. This Rococo style building has statues depicting Triumph of Trade and Triumph of War on the front facade. The ground floor is seen in Rococo style while the ceilings are decorated by the arm coats of Dutch kingdom which shows its impact of Dutch Kingdom.
14. St JAMES CHURCH
The church of St James is one of the lavish churches in Antwerp. It is also known as the tomb of artist P.P Reubens. Originally, the church was designed as a complete Gothic style structure but by the end of the completion of the Baroque style started influencing in the region. As a result the exterior of the church is in Gothic style while the interior is decorated in Baroque style.
15. ROYAL MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS
The Royal Museum of Fine Arts was designed by two Belgium architects Frans Van Dijk and Jacob Winders. This Neoclassical architecture style building houses a collection of paintings and sculptures from 14th to 20th century. It is decorated with Corinthian columns embellished with two large statues of angel of peace.