Due to be completed in 2015, the Port House will become Port Authority headquarters, home to all the port’s technical and administrative departments – some 500 employees.
The Port House will consist of the existing building that until recently was home to the port’s technical services and a new integrated construction. The location, near the Kattendijk dock, was strategically chosen; it marks the boundary between the city and the port. The new headquarters is the next in a line of new builds in the port area and the Eilandje neighbourhood, joining the MAS museum, the pilotage building and the future Red Star Line Museum.
The existing building, built by the city as a fire station 90 years ago, is a replica of the 16th-century Hanzehuis, which was located where the MAS is now. The fire station became a listed monument in 2000.
The design of the new Port House was awarded to London’s renowned Zaha Hadid Architects, responsible for such high-profile projects as Rome’s MAXXI National Museum, the Guangzhou Opera House in China and the London Aquatics Centre. Zaha Hadid, who was present at the launch of the building project, said that the challenge was “to combine old and new with an eye for the future”.
The new construction is designed as a two-part structure, attached to and set above the former fire station, which itself will undergo a complete renovation. The upper structure, with a ship-shaped, glass triangles façade, refers to both the port and diamond industry. Aside from glass, it will require 1,500 tons of steel construction.
Staff and visitors will enter into the existing building, which will house offices and meeting rooms. More offices, meeting rooms, an auditorium and a restaurant with panoramic views in the new extension will be accessible via lifts just off the central courtyard. The new Port House will also include two underground parking lots. Construction will make use of sustainable materials where possible, and construction is planned to maximise energy efficiency.
The cost of the new Port House is €50 million and is part of the investment plan worth €1.6 billion approved by the Port Authority in 2010. Construction will begin on 1 October. “This new Port House is to become a true beacon, enhancing the dialogue between the city and the port,” said Hilde Crevits, Flemish minister of public works. “The building will strengthen Antwerp’s position as the world’s leading port.”