Queen Elisabeth Concert Hall

SimpsonHaugh, Antwerp, 2017

 

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View from Astrid Square 

Jesse Willems     Download Original

  • View from Astrid Square    
  • View from the Zoo    
  • Atrium roof and external auditorium     
  • View of stage and auditorium     
  • Level 2 foyer    
  • The auditorium    
  • An internal street – nicknamed the ‘Lichtstraat’ – acts as mediator between past and present and is topped with a glass roof    
  • Detail of concrete portal    
  • Balustrade detail    
  • The atrium    
  • Site plan    
  • Ground floor plan    
  • Level 1 plan    
  • Level 2 plan    
  • Level 3 plan    
  • Mezzanine plan    
  • Section AA    
  • Marble Hall (before)    
  • Marble Hall (after)    
  • Loos Hall (before)     
  • Loos Hall (after)     
  • Auditorium (before)    
  • Auditorium (after)     
  • Balustrade detail    

SimpsonHaugh has created a new home for the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra.

Antwerp’s new Queen Elisabeth Hall and congress centre by SimpsonHaugh and Partners reinvigorates a lost connection to the adjacent zoo.

Concert halls are by nature hermetic spaces but, while the ’60s design had chosen to further isolate the hall from its surroundings and hide it in a network of concrete corridors, SimpsonHaugh sought to transform it into a legible form surrounded by public space. In this sense it is a project conceived from the inside-out.

Space was limited, so this meant drawing the auditorium away from the edges of the site boundary, narrowing the former fan-shaped hall to a more slender ‘shoebox’ format and giving the space saved over to circulation and orientation. The result is a series of layering: the auditorium floats above the entrance hall on concrete columns, wrapped on its northern edge by new ancillary and congress spaces and on its southern edge by the original 19th-century structure, where the crucial link through to the zoo has been reinstated.

An internal street – nicknamed the ‘Lichtstraat’ – acts as mediator between past and present and is topped with a glass roof, out of which the auditorium bursts to emerge just above the original roofline. Diamond-shaped shingles of copper, bronze and stainless steel move up the auditorium’s side and bend around its corners, graduating from a lighter shade internally to a darker one once they pass the glass roof. It is restrained, especially considering original designs saw it clad entirely in gold – but it also serves to bounce light down from the roof into spaces below.

To accommodate the level change between Astrid Square and the zoo, the stairs have been moved from the main entrance towards this internal street, and this main threshold leads seamlessly straight into a circulation hall that stretches towards a bar underneath the auditorium, the base of which has been covered in timber slats.

The acoustic engineering in the concert hall is the work of Chicago-based Kirkegaard Associates. The interior is clad in waved panels of oak formed from 11 layers of bent veneer with no parallel wall sections, to minimise flutter echo. Small circles, like shallow bowls, have been routed out of these sections at different sizes, revealing the veneer layers and creating a pattern that continues throughout the hall and is echoed by graphics on the upholstery. 

Data

  • Begun: 2013
  • Completed: 2017
  • Floor area: 23,915m2
  • Sector: Arts and culture
  • Total cost: £47.1M
  • Procurement: Belgian form, similar to Design and Build
  • Address: Koningin Astridplein 26, Antwerp, 2018 Antwerpen, Belgium

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