Wiel Arets Architects (WAA) progress construction on the Antwerp Tower in Antwerp, Belgium
In 1907, in Antwerp, Belgium, a new opera house was completed in the then fashionable Beaux-Arts style that was sweeping through Europe as a reaction to the numerous unifications of nations, which had taken place at the end of the nineteenth century. The Flemish Opera, as the building is currently called, is situated, about 300 m from Antwerp's Central Train Station; the latter being completed just two years later, in 1909, in a similar yet more eclectic manner, due to its idiosyncratic use of ornamentation. The most direct manner of routing between these two buildings, for automobiles, trams, as well as pedestrians, is a boulevard serving as the western, and secondary entrance to the station–the so-named Keyserlei. This boulevard is one of the most trafficked streets in the city, giving direct access to the city center from the station; the Keyserlei is c. 300 m long, and received even more impetus as a major thoroughfare for the city when the premetro was opened in 1975, with the dedicated and adjacent stop–Opera. At the western end of the Keyserlei–which is its terminus–is the Antwerp Tower.
Constructed in the 1970s, when the premetro was nearing its completion; the Antwerp Tower was built on the site of a former dance hall that was demolished in early 1900s and replaced by a grand city hotel, typical of the period–also built in a Beaux-Arts manner. The hotel next to the Flemish Opera, would, in the mid-century, stand empty for decades–until it was demolished in the 1960s. Today the Keyserlei–anchored at each end by Antwerp Central Station and the Flemish Opera–is, due to the demolition and repurposing of buildings, which resulted in a mix of buildings from the 1800s to the 2000s, therefore a case study in the recent history of Flemish architecture. The Antwerp Tower, when completed in 1974, was a building consisting of office towers for international corporations, which then accumulated unprecedented global reach due to capitalist communications. Unilever was, for a long time, one of the tower's primary tenants; but occupancy tended to fluctuate over the years, with the 1990s seeing its final, steady decline.
During the end of the early-2000s, and the first decades of the 2010s, the tower's base continued to house programming, while the roof of its base proved popular as a spot for creating a temporary roof terrace. In 2012 the tower was sold to a Belgian company specialized in repurposing, via redeveloping, existing though underutilized urban properties–with the intention of creating a housing tower. The tower originally stood at a height of 87 m, and consisted of a square-shaped base spanning the first several floors, atop of which is the tower, which was and will remain, marquise diamond-like in the shape of its floorplan. The renovation of the Antwerp Tower will extend the height of the building to just over 100 m, making it the second tallest building in the city, after the Cathedral of Our Lady– which dates from the mid-1500s, and stands at a height of 127 m. In addition to the vertical extension, the tower's floorplan will also be widened by about 10 m.
Upon completion, the building's base will house retail, restaurants, and office space, while the tower itself will contain a total of 240 apartments. The tower's extended floorplan allows for the creation of loggias in every apartment, thus enabling outdoor living in the center of the city–for instance, an intimate dinner party with a group of friends, on the loggia. The building's façade will be finished with enormous, custom produced, polished concrete components, which in some places, will measure up to 9 m in length, to minimize visual façade patterning. In contrast to the building at the time of its completion in 1974–with its gold-hued, reflective windows and its repeating bands of exposed concrete spandrels; the tower's new iteration is outfit in transparent, non-mirrored, non-tinted windows that are much larger in scale than those previously used, which are mullion-free.
The main entrance for the tower's residents is adjacent to the Flemish Opera, directly to the right of its main entrance, which opens onto a lobby that spans half the width of the building's base, and is outfit with generous seating as well as a concierge desk–for such use as laundry and reception services, for residents. A massive, four story void climbs up through the lobby, allowing natural daylight to spill down below. The building's base contains retail on its first two floors, offices on the next two, and a restaurant atop the base–with a large roof terrace. These spaces in the building share the same entrance used by the owners of the apartments in the tower, which explains the lobby's numerous areas for sitting. The building contains a four-storey underground parking garage, with space for 214 automobiles, and space for 700 bicycles. With the opening of the renovated Opera premetro station in November 2019; this area of Antwerp, will be reborn.
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