The glistening Port House in Antwerp is Zaha Hadid's latest project to be completed posthumously. But the glass building isn't mere folly. Built atop a disused historic fire station, the striking landmark operates as the new headquarters for the Port of Antwerp, Europe's second largest port.
ZHA was selected to design the new extension following a competition, in which the main objective was to preserve the original fire station, according to Port of Antwerp president Marc Van Peel. All five shortlisted competitors proposed a new structure above the building, but the Port deemed Zaha's design as “the most brilliant”.
At 111 meters long and 21 meters high, the new glass extension “floats” above the old fire station. “Like the bow of a ship, the new extension points towards the Scheldt, connecting the building with the river on which Antwerp was founded,” ZHA describes.
The building also shows off a glazed facade of transparent and opaque triangular facets that allow sufficient natural light into the building, as well as provide enclosure and offer panoramic views of the Scheldt, the Port, and the surrounding city.
ZHA enclosed the original central courtyard with a glass roof and converted the space into a new reception area. From here, visitors can explore the historic public reading room and library within the carefully restored firetruck hall, and access the new extension via panoramic lifts. An external bridge links the existing building to the new structure.
Responding to the Port's requirements for an “activity-based office”, ZHA integrated new meeting rooms, a 90-seat auditorium, and a restaurant into the upper levels of the existing building and the bottom floors of the new glass extension. Open-plan offices occupy the remaining floors.
All images courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects.
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