New Port House, Atwerp, Belgium


published in l'Arca International n. 134


New Port House, Atwerp, Belgium, project: Zaha Hadid Architects



Project: Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA); Design: Zaha Hadid and Patrik Schumacher; ZHA Project Director: Joris Pauwels; ZHA Project Architect: Jinmi Lee; ZHA Project Team: Florian Goscheff, Monica Noguero, Kristof Crolla, Naomi Fritz, Sandra Riess, Muriel Boselli, Susanne Lettau; ZHA Competition Team: Kristof Crolla, Sebastien Delagrange, Paulo Flores, Jimena Araiza, Sofia Daniilidou, Andres Schenker, Evan Erlebacher, Lulu Aldihani; Executive Architect: Bureau Bouwtechniek; Structural Engineers: Studieburo Mouton Bvba; Services Engineers: Ingenium Nv; Acoustic Engineers: Daidalos Peutz; Restoration Consultants: Origin; Fire Protection: Fpc; Client: Port of Antwerp; Photos: Hufton+Crow, Tim Fisher, Hélène Binet



The new Port House in Antwerp repurposes, renovates and extends a derelict fire station into a new headquarters for the port. As the threshold between the city and its vast port, Mexico Island in the Kattendijk dock on Quay 63 was selected as the site for the new head office.



The old fire station – a listed replica of a Hanseatic residence – had to be integrated into the new project. ZHA’s design is an elevated extension, rather than a neighbouring volume which would have concealed at least one of the existing facades. Like the bow of a ship, the new “floating” extension points towards the Scheldt, connecting the building with the river on which Antwerp was founded.



The new extension’s façade is a glazed surface that ripples like waves and reflects the changing tones and colours of the city’s sky. Triangular facets allow the apparently smooth curves at either end of the building to be formed with flat sheets of glass.



While most of the triangular facets are transparent, some are opaque. This calibrated mix ensures sufficient sunlight within the building, while also controlling solar load to guarantee optimal working conditions. At the same time, the alternation of transparent and opaque facade panels breaks down the volume of the new extension, giving panoramic views of the Scheldt, the city and the Port. The façade’s rippling quality is generated with flat facets to the south that gradually become more three-dimensional towards to the north.



The old fire station’s central courtyard has been enclosed with a glass roof and is transformed into the main reception area for the new Port House. From here, visitors access the historic public reading room and library within the disused fire truck hall which has been carefully restored and preserved.



Panoramic lifts provide direct access to the new extension with an external bridge between the existing building and new extension.



The client requirements for an “activity based office” are integrated within the design, with related areas such as the restaurant, meeting rooms and auditorium located at the centre of the upper levels of the existing building and the bottom floors of the new extension.



The remaining floors more remote from the centre comprise open plan offices. Despite the challenges of integrating with a protected historic building, high standards in sustainable design were achieved by implementing effective strategies at each stage of construction.




A borehole energy system pumps water to a depth of 80 m below grade in over 100 locations around the building to provide heating and cooling. In the existing building, this system uses chilled beams. In the new extension, it uses chilled ceilings. Waterless lavatory fittings and motion detectors minimise water consumption while building automation and optimal daylight controls minimise artificial lighting.