This summer, the renovated Antwerp City Hall is expected reopen. Several aldermen will have offices there.
It all started in 2014 with an Open Call. The actual renovation works started in August 2017 and April 2018.
According Antwerp‘s real estate agency AG VESPA the renovated city hall should be an open house and an icon of valuable immovable heritage on the Grote Markt or Grand Market Square. It will be a sustainable building in which a political policy will be shaped.
Erected between 1561 and 1565 after designs made by Cornelis Floris de Vriendt and several other architects and artists, this Renaissance building incorporates both Flemish and Italian influences. The City Hall is inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List along with the belfries of Belgium and France.
Over the centuries, obviously, the building was renovated and modernized. The last big works dated from the 1970-1980s.
Why this project?
The city hall was in need of restoration and renovation. Otherwise, it threatened to sustain irreparable damage. The valuable paintings were in poor condition, the gold leather wallpaper in the mayor’s office was coming loose and the building no longer met today’s comfort requirements.
The city hall will regain its original function. The building is the beating heart of Antwerp’s politics, where all aldermen and political employees are at home.
“But the town hall must also be part of the Grote Markt and be open to Antwerp residents and visitors”, AG VESPA says.
After the restoration, the ground floor will partially be accessible to the public. The big gates will literally being opened again. The central entrance hall, which is now located on the side of the Suikerrui, will once again be relocated to the Grote Markt.
By reopening the whole of the corridors and rooms on the ground floor, a central foyer is also created.
‘Enlightened Floor’ on the second floor
The most drastic changes take place on the second floor.
The cabinets that are not currently in the town hall will also be housed on the first or second floor after the restoration.
This second floor is renamed ‘t Verlicht Verdiep or Enlightened Floor by the design team. In the design, new, double-height spaces will be built on either side of the central dome, which spatially refer to the communal zones on the first floor and ‘t Schoon Verdiep (Bel Étage or Piano Nobile).
Thanks to these extra high spaces, a lot of daylight enters and the surrounding roofs and the campanile tower become visible again. The space between the protective dome and the historic stained-glass dome is reduced, so that the historic facades, their cornices and the tower are fully visible again.
Preservation of heritage value
‘t Schoon Verdiep is being restored as well. The exterior facade is also being restored.
The design team bases this on an engraving from 1565, which clearly shows the original color palette. Preserving the heritage value is the top priority in these interventions.
To prepare the city hall for the future, the city is resolutely drawing on a sustainability card.
BREEAM or Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method is chosen for this purpose, a method for measuring and improving the sustainability of the building.
“This is quite a challenge for a monumental building such as the city hall, but the method makes it possible to score very well in terms of sustainability through all kinds of interventions that take into account the heritage value of the building”, AG VESPA says.
A sustainable approach was also chosen for the exterior lighting of the city hall in 2015.
In line with the City’s Lighting Plan, City Hall and the Grote Markt were the first to be equipped with LED light. This results in an energy saving of about 50 percent, the life of the lamps is also longer, so that fewer lamps have to be replaced.
The lighting fixtures are also much less conspicuous, so that the appearance of the facades is preserved. By highlighting the most characteristic elements, the architectural and historical aspect of the buildings is also reflected.
Who is working on it?
The city organized a competition for a restoration concept via the Open Call procedure of the Vlaamse Bouwmeester or Flemish Master Builder. The ‘House of the City‘ design team, comprising of HUB architects, restoration architects Origin Architecture & Engineering, Bureau Bouwtechniek, Daidalos Peutz, RCR, BAS and FPC emerged as the winner.
Contractor group THV Monument Vandekerckhove nv – Monument Goedleven nv – Altritempi nv has been appointed to carry out the works on the historic building.
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