The City of Antwerp and its urban development agency AG Vespa have appointed a team to redesign the Droogdokkensite or Dry Docks Site just beyond ‘t Eilandje. The site will become the home of maritime experience area.
Origin Architecture & Engineering is responsible for the restoration work of the industrial heritage, LAND is responsible for the landscape design, Bollinger+Grohmann Ingenieure is responsible for the stability and Study 10 is responsible for the techniques. Together they turn the Droogdokkensite into a maritime experience site. If everything goes smoothly, a master plan will be ready this spring and work can start at the end of 2023.
The Droogdokkensite in the north of Antwerp consists of an exceptional landscape at the Kattendijkdok, close to the Scheldt, with a special industrial and architectural heritage. The scale of this historic dock landscape is unique in Europe. In addition to the nine historic, protected dry docks, there are two large building clusters (AWN01 and AWN02), several smaller scattered outbuildings and two pump stations. The two sheds on the west side of the Droogdokkenweg in the future Droogdokkenpark are also part of the site.
Antwerp’s maritime past and future
The Droogdokkensite will be an experience site where you can experience Antwerp’s maritime past, but also gain a view of the future. Visitors can see how historic ships are restored and get a glimpse of the Museum Aan de Stroom (MAS)’s national collection of maritime and industrial port heritage. In addition, various partners in maritime heritage, port infrastructure, social projects and Antwerp’s youth each have their own place in this unique, lively location.
Alderman for the Port of Antwerp and for Urban Development Annick De Ridder (N-VA): “As a maritime experience site, the new Droogdokken site will bring residents and visitors of our city even closer to the port and the Scheldt, the lifeblood of the city. This project, which pays special attention to port and maritime heritage and will house a dynamic Port Experience Center is also part of the bigger story that we as a city are writing with the redevelopment of the Scheldt quays. In short, it is a project that is close to my heart as alderman for port and urban development. design team has been selected, this project is starting to take shape.”
The site must become a meeting place aimed at experiencing maritime heritage, port heritage and port dynamics.
The aim is to preserve the heritage as best as possible, to stimulate knowledge transfer and to bring visitors closer to the port and the water. The APB Port Center of the Province of Antwerp is developing a Port Experience Center on the site in collaboration with the Port of Antwerp.
The outdoor space with ships and industrial heritage from the MAS collection will connect the different parts. With the development of the Droogdokkensite as a maritime experience site, the City of Antwerp underlines its identity as a port city and city on the river.
Alderman for Culture Nabilla Ait Daoud (N-VA): “The Droogdokkensite breathes port history. The vessel collection of the MAS is housed there. The collection is cherished and maintained there, and various foundations are restoring their heritage ships there. The Droogdokkensite is already a bustling place today, where culture can be experienced all year round, including circus, theater and dance. With the redevelopment of the site, the maritime heritage collection of the MAS can shine even more than before, which is a great thing for Antwerp residents and visitors alike!”
Alderman for Youth Jinnih Beels (Vooruit): “The site has been the home port of Stormkop for quite some time, which, in addition to being a unique place, has also developed a unique function for young people. For them, the new Droogdokkensite means an upgrade, but the redevelopment also offers space for our youth. For example, there are many possibilities for collaboration between the various partners in the context of maritime experience for young people. After all, it is important that they too can use and become acquainted with that aspect of their city.”
Dry Docks Park
For the development of the maritime experience site, a design assignment was launched in 2021 in three parts: the preparation of a master plan, a phasing plan and a design assignment for both the buildings and the outdoor space.
The master plan includes the various dry docks (1 to 10), as well as the two building clusters present on the site. This also includes the northern head of the screw pump pumping station at the Royers Lock and the sheds in the (future) Droogdokkenpark. In that master plan, a vision will be developed regarding matters such as image quality, design principles, access. Optimal visibility of the various docks is one of the starting points for the development.
A combination of renovation, restoration and new construction will be used for the buildings, with respect for the special and authentic character of the site. The historical industrial heritage, such as Pomphuis 1, is protected as a monument and will therefore also be preserved in its original state.
The new Port Experience Center will be located in the AWN02 building cluster. With its monumental, industrial look, this building exudes the maritime atmosphere.
Province of Antwerp Deputy Luk Lemmens (N-VA), responsible for the Port Experience Centre: “With this appointment, the Province of Antwerp, as the client, is also a step closer to the development and construction of the Port Experience Centre, in which the Province is investing 8.5 million euros and which will act as a gateway to the Port Experience Centre. underlying docks.”
“With this experience center we emphasize the role of the port as a place of possibilities and opportunities on a social and individual level. In addition, in collaboration with the port community, we also want to enthuse young people for promising studies and jobs so that it also becomes a gateway to a successful career. After all, the port has been the pre-eminent economic catalyst for the city and the province over the centuries. It not only determines the growth of the population and the economy, but is also the engine of innovative developments. Where all roads lead to Rome, I dare say that all roads in the province lead here.”
Multidisciplinary design team
The design competition took place in two phases. From three candidates, three teams were selected to give their vision for the Droogdokkensite. The team around Atelier Kempe Thill convinced the jury the most.
“They delivered a balanced design that fits into the coherence and historical layout of the site. Their restrained architecture respects and enhances the monumental appearance of the Droogdokkensite and creates a new facade towards the city. No height accents, but a harmonious combination. Fordable inner streets in the buildings lead the visitor through the site. The design of the outdoor space is sober, but with the necessary attention to greening and restoration. The rough, industrial character of the site remains”, the press release says.
About the Dry Dock Site
The Droogdokkensite is located in the north of Antwerp, between the Kattendijk Lock in the south and the Siberiëbrug or Siberia Bridge in the north. The site is part of the Droogdokkeneiland (Dry Docks Island), which is one of the seven sub-areas of the Scheldt Quays master plan. The (future) Droogdokkenpark is located on the Scheldt, including the already existing Belvédère, which is part of the Droogdokkeneiland.
Until the end of 2017, the Droogdokken site was in use by the Algemeen Werkhuis Noord (AWN), a department within Port of Antwerp that was responsible for the maintenance, renovation and repair of tugs, dredgers, raft cranes, and so on. At the end of 2017, AWN moved more to the north into the port and the entire Droogdokken site was transferred by Port of Antwerp to the city of Antwerp. The Dry Docks site, with its nine protected dry docks, is already used by various actors today:
- the MAS, to house part of the maritime collection;
- the Preservation and Management department, for the care of this collection;
- partners of the maritime heritage, to work on their own ships and those of the MAS collection;
- social employment organisations;
- the youth work of Stormkop, Piazza and Nest; and finally by the city port service.
MAS and the Dry Docks Site
Along the frayed fault line between the city and port lies a raw and rusty area. For many Antwerp residents, this represents a blind spot on the map. However, this area oozes history linked to the once bustling in-city port. Nine dry docks, two workshops for ship restorers, a pump house (which is a protected monument) … Ships came and went and landed in the dry dock for repairs. Until early 2018 …
Now, historical vessels are usually the only visitors. The MAS’ vessel collection moved from the Scheldt quays and found a new home at the museum’s site. The collection is treasured and lovingly maintained. Various foundations restore their heritage ship there: the oldest remaining Belgian Icelandic fishing vessel François Musin, the wooden minesweeper Oudenaarde, the lightship West-Hinder and others.
Stormkop organises activities for school children and family visits. From time to time, we also invite visitors during special events.
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