Antwerp’s renewed Scheldt Quays at Loodswezen to get World War II victims memorial 

Antwerp‘s real estate and urban development agency AG Vespa has appointed a design team for the Loodswezensite at the Scheldt Quays, near ‘t Eilandje and the Museum Aan de Stroom (Museum At the Stream, MAS). An eyecatcher wil be a Wall of Names, a memorial for victims of World War II

Google Translate translates ‘Loodswezen’ as ‘Pilotage’. The Loodswezen is the organisation behind these river shipping pilots. The Loodswezen is also a listed building in eclectic style in Antwerp.

Bureau Bas Smets has been assigned with redesigning the area. The design team foresees the redevelopment of the public domain and the integration of a monument to commemorate the deceased Antwerp victims of the World War II. 

If everything goes smoothly, the reconstruction of the public domain will start at the beginning of 2024.

The Loodswezensite is one of the seven sub-areas that are part of the Scheldt Quays master plan. The project area borders the Scheldt in the west and the Tavernierkaai and Van Meterenkaai in the east. In the north and south it connects to the other sub-areas of the Scheldt Quays.

Multidisciplinary design team

At the end of 2020, AG Vespa was looking for a talented multidisciplinary design team with capabilities in areas such as landscape, public domain, flood defense, archaeology, heritage, ecology, architecture and art. 

The design brief for the area around the Loodswezen consisted of two important parts: 

  1. The redevelopment of the public domain as provided for in the Scheldt quays master plan with integration of the raised flood defense wall. 
  2. The realization of an ambitious monument to commemorate the Antwerp victims of the Second World War. 

The design team led by Bureau Bas Smets convinced with an integrated design in response to these questions and with respect for the historical value of the site. 

The team consists of Bureau Bas Smets from Gijs Van Vaerenbergh bvba, Atelier Ruimtelijk Advies bv, Steenmeijer Architecten bvba, Antea Belgium nv, UTIL cv, Endeavor nvdr cvba, and Plant en Houtgoed bvba.

Green design with gardens and a monument with a view of the Scheldt

In the design, the quay is greened as a park with various gardens and the former fleets (Brouwersvliet, Sint-Pietersvliet and Koolvliet) are visually redeveloped as a connection between city and stream. 

The Names Monument will be integrated along both sides of the former fleets. On the city side, the fleet gardens form the ‘entrances’ to the project area, each with its own identity. 

Various zones are visible in the design along these fleet gardens: a zone with pocket parks around the Loodswezen Building and the Boeienloods (Buoy Shed), a zone with a large stairway and a zone with a sunbathing area. The wet side, the floodable part, the quay along the Scheldt, forms an uninterrupted walk from north to south along the Blauwe Steen.

With and against water

The pocket park zone around the Loodswezengebouw and the Boeienloods distinguishes itself from the rest of the quays due to its remarkable heritage value and the strong relationship with the water. 

  • A retaining wall with sitting steps protects the Loodswezen monument from the rising water level. On the city side there will be a sloping, walled city garden that connects to the city. The Boeienloods will form part of the flood defense, in a subtle way and with respect for the heritage.
  • The zone with the so-called ‘Scheldt steps’, a stairway, can be used as a place to sit and rest, but can also occasionally be used for smaller events or ceremonies. 
  • The zone with sunbathing area is unique and inviting with a view of the Scheldt. The design can also be clearly read from the Scheldt with a lower part with an extensive lawn and a higher landscape with tall greenery.

Greens 

The design also has an outspoken and clear climate ambition. For example, cool places are being designed and a lot of attention is paid to the choices of planting. 

The types of planting are tailored to the individuality of the place (local growing conditions, available root space, location, degree of sunlight and humidity), so that the planting varies according to the zone. It will be different in the wetter Vliettuinen (Fleet Gardens) gardens than in the pocket parks or in the raised sunbathing area. The design also pays attention to intelligent water management with, for example, wadis in the Vliettuinen with water-loving plants.

A wadi is the Arabic term traditionally referring to a valley. In some instances, it may refer to a wet(ephemeral) riverbed that contains water only when heavy rain occurs.

The entire park landscape contributes to the peace and serenity that the monument requires, as a kind of quiet place. Nevertheless, the urban space is designed in such a way that it also creates space for relaxation, with a high-quality, green public domain close to the center of the city.

Names Monument

The design competition also included the realization of an ambitious monument to commemorate the deceased Antwerp victims of the Second World War. The ambition is to draw up an integrated design for the Loodswezen site that combines the objectives of the Scheldt quays master plan with those for the monument to names.

The Memorial of Names commemorates all victims of the Second World War in Antwerp and includes an inclusive list of names of all victims, divided into the four different victim groups: the victims of the Holocaust, the civilian victims of Nazi violence, the civilian victims of military violence, and the military victims . 

These names will show the impressive numbers and the size of the different victim groups.

Noorderterras

The site between the Noorderterras and the Bonapartesluis is characterized by its unique location along the Scheldt on the one hand and the historic rivers that cut through it on the other. These former inner-city ports are still visible in the current street pattern. 

Noorderterras.

The team around Bureau Bas Smets took the fleet walls as the basis for the design of the monument.

For example, three large connections are made where the water used to flow. The city center will be connected to the quays as much as possible via these corridors. 

The three fleets are perpendicular to the Scheldt quays and demarcate the various sub-zones where the flood defenses will be erected: the pocket parks, the Scheldt steps and the sunbathing area. 

Where the flood defense is not realized by fixed structures, such as in the fleet structures, mobile retaining walls will be used. The fleet, which used to draw the water in the historic city for trade, thus become the basis for the future city, which protects itself against the rising water while the design frees up space for more greenery and recreation on the Scheldt quays. 

The memory of the city is thus revealed, restored and renewed.

Monument of names with six memorial walls between three memorial gardens

The six linear walls that will be located on the site of the former fleets are the ideal place to create a monument to names. 

The fleets bear witness to the city’s past and can anchor the memory of the deceased victims of the Second World War in the history of Antwerp. The fleet walls are used as an identity carrier to both spatially strengthen the relationship between the city and the Scheldt, and to symbolically commemorate the war victims.

The memorial walls along the rivers demarcate three more intimate memorial gardens. These memorial gardens bring different communities and generations together and thus stimulate their use as a small-scale meeting space and quiet place on the quay.  

The memorial walls are designed as an expression of both the individuality of each victim and the collectivity of the victim groups. 

The name of each victim is engraved on a separate natural stone to emphasize the individuality of each victim. The different stones are placed along the fleet walls per victim group. The large number of individual stones, and thus casualties, will be impressive and will help to better understand the drama of the Second World War.

The intention is to use a similar material depending on the number of decades the victim has lived. This makes it clear how many people of each age were victims. Moreover, a kinship arises across the different victim groups.

The placement of the names in the fleet walls invites visitors to take a walk along the memorial gardens. In total, the memorial walls will be 336 meters long and consist of more than 25,000 memorial stones.

Rendering of the future Loodswezensite (AG Vespa).

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