A sneak peek into Antwerp’s renovated City Hall

It was that time of the year again: Antwerp Pride and Antwerp Queer Arts Festival. Pride focused on the second weekend of August: from Wednesday 10 to Sunday 14. AQAF runs from 5 to 28 August. In 2022, Antwerp Pride turned 15 and looked 15 years into the future under the banner of ‘Queertopia‘. AQAF hadn’t communicated a specific theme.

Antwerp City Hall.

Every Antwerp Pride features an opening reception for partners and stakeholders of the event. This year, the reception returned to Antwerp City Hall, a UNESCO World Heritage Site ,which has been renovated. We were told this reception was the first on the Schoon Verdiep (Bel Étage or Piano Nobile).

Such as reception ideal for networking and mingling. Usually, it’s an activity I dread. I’m a bit too socially awkward to excel at it and I often feel the odd one out… because I am. 

But this time, it was fun. I had the chance to catch up with some people including Bram Bierkens of Mister Gay Belgium and Trinxx; Mark Sergeant, programme director Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) at Sensoa and a few politicians as well, for instance former General rapporteur on the rights of LGBTI people for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Piet De Bruyn (N-VA). 

But it was also an opportunity to take a peek at the renovated city hall.

Reopened

The City Hall reopened in June.

“After more than four years of intensive restoration and renovation works, the Antwerp city hall is ready”, a press release at the time said.

Since April 2018, the town hall has closed its doors for thorough renovation and restoration works for four years, with the support of the Flemish Government. The Renaissance building no longer met the current comfort and sustainability requirements and the paintings and other heritage in the building also needed a thorough maintenance. 

Today the building has been renamed an open house for all Antwerp residents, ready for the reopening and for the future.

Mayor Bart De Wever (N-VA): “After years of hard work, the town hall is ready for the future. The perseverance, dedication and craftsmanship of everyone who helped make this possible deserves praise. As a stone witness, the town hall also symbolizes the Antwerp spirit: open, tolerant, entrepreneurial, innovative, rebellious and self-confident. Antwerp residents can be proud of the result. They are, like all visitors, also invited to become acquainted with the new town hall. I am sure that a visit will leave a sensitive chord will touch everyone who loves our city.”

Flemish Minister for Real Estate Heritage Matthias Diependaele (N-VA) is particularly pleased with the restoration of this heritage gem: “The restoration of the Antwerp City Hall has achieved a magnificent result and is once again a place for all Antwerp residents. It is just one of many metamorphoses in about 460 years of history of this heritage gem. These stones tell our Flemish history, they have withstood the Spanish fury and various other invasions and the Iconoclasts have also passed in review here. It is therefore our task to prepare the monument for future generations, and we are happy to contribute to that.”

A sneak peek

Unfortunately, I hoped to see more of the premises. The Schoon Verdiep hasn’t really changed. It’s just incredibly cleaned up. 

On the look of Antwerp

Antwerp Pride 2022 & Antwerp Queer Arts Festival 2022

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