Last weekend, I head over to Antwerp, north and more Dutch area of Belgium, just 2 hours bus ride from Amsterdam. I took the earliest bus available to maximize my time in Belgium. However, I found out that the bus station was 15 km away. Well, just gotta bike like the dutch..
The first building I noticed in Antwerp is this gorgeous Antwerp central station, arguably the best station in the entire Belgium. Did I say I got here by bus?
The beauty of this station made it to the movie stage for the musical The Sound of Music, featuring the song "do-re-mi". The space where the scene was performed is almost 4-5 stories tall, very grand and such an eclectic way to celebrate the experience of departure or arrival back in the day.
Belgium is situated in a bit peculiar location in Western Europe. It was once part of the kingdom of Netherlands; it lies in the border of Netherland, Germany, and France. And no wonder that there are three official languages corresponding to its location; on top of that, most of the Belgians speak proper English. Kudos to the bus driver who had been trying to make a point on this matter out to a group of Asian backpackers along our super early bus ride from Amsterdam.
That kind of cultural mashup is super interesting to me although it might be normal for European to have this condition. The cultural influence is reflected in cities in Belgium in accordance to its proximity to the neighboring country, and Antwerp to me isa Dutch-influenced port city with a good amount of French ingredients.
Europe's Second Largest Sea Ports
Port of Antwerp is just north of the central station and it is considerably one of the biggest and busiest in Central Europe. The history of the city itself was built upon the progression of the port.
The port area is pretty intense and industrialized, reminds me of Rotterdam. The scene of the port was so cool and happened to be such a perfect setting for shooting car commercials. I stumbled upon these two which happen to be 'staged' and ready for some actions.
Port of Antwerp is undergoing a major improvement initiated in 2010 for the span of 15 years. A portion of the land was bought from General Motors which no longer has its factory in Antwerp. One of the most significant development is to revitalize the old fire brigade building.
Zaha Hadid, Port House
Construction start early September 2011, Port House, Zaha Hadid's building in Antwerp. Some say the design is endearing, some say its irritating and disrespectful. Anyhow I must admit that I was amazed by the sheer boldness of its structure. To define what's happening here, the new building is a steel post and beam slab structure almost two times bigger than the original building sitting on stilts over the old historical firehouse. Yeah, over the old building...
This design gesture reminds me of Alsop's Ontario College of Art & Design, a massive floating box in Toronto. Similar approach, except Alsop has certain intention to shade the space below the box to provide public space in order to animate the street life of the city. In Port house project however, the floating volume has nothing to do to provide shaded space underneath as most of the space is taken away by the massive super-column.
What I found pretty interesting of this project apart from the structure is the facade. It starts with flat triangulated panels from the front of the building to resemble a sleek pointy crystalline form and gradually undulates back and forth as it goes to the back of the building. This gesture adds another layer of geometrical complexity to the surface of the facade, creating shimmering effect as one glance by the facade.
Here to find detailed coverage on the earlier construction phase.
Museum Aan de Stroom
Not far from the new Port House project, another interesting building is MAS, Museum aan de Stroom by Neutelings Riedijk Architects. As you might notice from the curved glass, Neutelings Riedijk is one of the prominent one among the first generation of baby Rem Koolhaas. Yes the curved glass indeed remind me of OMA's Casa de Musica in Porto, yet another great project that I have not visit.
As I was approaching the building, I noticed something unusual of what I thought was a lighting element of the facade. Unexpectedly it is an iron cast piece of a right hand. Yes, it does sound really random. Why hand???
Antwerp New Court
I set out to the south area of the city to check one of Richard Roger's masterpiece with its iconic sails-like roof. The project is really well engineered throughout, I can feel the desire of Pompidou-esque obsession to design every building elements. I am in favor for the neon yellow accent painted on steel beams. The project suddenly does not feel too cold and robotic anymore. It is subtle but it gives an element of color or freshness to the atmosphere of the space. Unfortunately, apart from the entry not much to check further, the building is closed, and I am guessing not open to public.
Buildings Around Downtown
Amazing interior space of Antwerp cathedral.
Dag Antwerp! Heading to Brussels, lets go!