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A spaceship crashed to earth, a ship’s hull clad in glass, a glinting diamond or a Zaha Hadid masterpiece, however you see this incredible feat of engineering, The Port House makes a big impression.
Located in the port of Antwerp, the Havenhuis building becomes the new headquarters for the Antwerp Port Authority, collating over 500 staff to this innovative new site. At initial first glance it’s hard not to be dazzled by its shiny, glinting topper – multi-faceted in glass, it’s designed to refract light, and appears to ripple like the sea that surrounds it. Yet a closer look reveals the brilliance of this project – the merging of old and new. Below the modernist extension sits a classic renovation of the derelict fire station and listed building which follows a traditional shape. High on drama, engineering and architecture, this is a standout Zaha Hadid Architects design.
Not only does it look futuristic, it’s also a building for the future. With a classified ‘Very Good’ BREEAM rating, the structure has a borehouse energy storage system, minimal water consumption and optimal daylight control, plus add-ons like electric charging points and bicycle parking spaces.
Inside is just as impressive as its exterior. The old firehouse’s central courtyard is enclosed by a new glass ceiling creating a merged indoor-outdoor feel, and from this atrium you can access the restored library and reading room, open to public viewing. The upper levels of the fire station blending into the extension embrace a modern way of working with fixed spaces for ‘concentration’, ‘meeting’ or ‘phone’ so you can hot desk based on your preferred method of working. Staff members will find contemporary fixings such as trapezoid-shaped desks, curvaceous walls, open-sided auditoriums, walkways bathed in light plus enviable views of the international port.
And for anyone in the port of Antwerp, for business or pleasure, can’t help but be drawn to this symbol of the city’s famous diamond industry, beacon of architectural glory and clever fusion of old and new.