Antwerp’s City Theatre Stadsschouwburg to be demolished, new playhouse elsewhere 

The City of Antwerp plans to demolish Antwerp’s municipal theatre Stadsschouwburg as renovation works would be too expensive. Antwerp does need a municipal theatre, but a new playhouse is to be built elsewhere in town.

The Stadsschouwburg can accommodate 2,000 spectators and stages performances ranging from opera and ballet to musicals and comedy shows. 

The building, which some vigorously dislike, has gradually deteriorated in recent years. Not least due to concrete carbonation – a natural aging process. Removing the rotten concrete would cost millions of euros. 

Thus, the city government has decided that the the building should be demolished. The City of Antwerp will now look for a new location to erect a new modern theater complex.

The Stadsschouwburg is home to the Koninklijke Nederlandse Schouwburg (KNS) theatre group, the Royal Youth Theatre (HetPaleis) and the Royal Ballet School. Maintenance of ‘The Bunker‘ didn’t come cheap. Keeping the building compliant with fire safety regulations alone cost 5 million euro per year.  



On 28 October 1944, a V1 missile crashed on the Bonte Mantelstraat, killing 71 and wounding 80. The ravage was enormous. 

In 1969 the Bonte Mantelstraat and the Kanonstraat disappeared to make way for the construction of the Theaterplein. The city council decided to build the new Stadsschouwburg on this site. The reason was a fire in 1958 that took place in the cellars of the Bourla Theatre

As a result, several theaters were closed, including the Bourla Theater. New, stricter fire standards were also introduced. 

The modernist building, designed by architects Rie Haan, Renaat Verbruggen and Marc Appel, was inaugurated in 1980. There was soon resistance from Antwerp residents, who talked about ‘The Bunker’, but also from artists, who thought the theater was far too big for the limited number of seats. After all, the hall was immense, but could accommodate barely 800 spectators.

The hall was converted in the early 1990s. The KNS, now the Toneelhuis, then moved to the Bourla Theater and the Stadsschouwburg became vacant. The concession for the use of various parts of the theater was entrusted to Music Hall Group. The capacity was increased from 800 to 2,060 places. As a result, 200,000 visitors came per year instead of the 10,000 per year for the renovations.

In 2014, the day-to-day management of the Stadsschouwburg was taken over by the Sportpaleis Group, now called


In its place

If the playhouse disappears, what will be done with the freed space? The liberal coalition partners of Open Vld want a park. The green party Groen, in the opposition, does not want another fancy housing development project with homes unaffordable for people with a ‘normal’ income. 

Actually, Groen thinks the site should stay the home of a theatre complex. 

HetPaleis wants to turn the site into a centre for youth and art. The youth theatre, but also the youth section of the municipal library. 

No decision has been taken. Any demolition would only take place after 2024, when the next municipal elections are scheduled. 

Where to?

Where will a new playhouse be built? The Waagnatie at the Rijnkaai is tipped to be on the shortlist. Does the Waagnatie need to go. It would be a loss to Antwerp to lose this medium large event space in the centre. You can’t exile all festivals to outside the city centre. 

The Waagnatie is now used by the likes of Darklands, Antwerpen Proeft and interactive exhibitions. 

Antwerp city centre must not become a rich old people’s area. Real estate prices are skyrocketing and only wealthy pensioners and other rich entrepreneurs seem to be able to afford the nice areas in town. A dangerous evolution. 


On the look of Antwerp

35 Comments Add yours

  1. elvira797mx says:

    Wow! Wonderful, it is very interesting history. Thank you for share, Timothy.
    Have a nice day!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Timothy says:

      Thank you Elvira.

      Have a beautiful day.



      1. elvira797mx says:

        You are welcome, Timothy.
        You as well!

        Liked by 1 person

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