Koningin Astridplein 26 2018 Antwerpen
Eclectism, Art Nouveau
Year of construction
Emile Thielens (1895) Rie Haan (1960)
Koninklijke Maatschappij voor Dierenkunde van Antwerpen
Temporary association: Ian Simpson Architects – Kirkegaard Associates – Bureau Bouwtechniek
TV Elisabeth: Heymans, Willemen, Verstraete & Vanhecke
The restoration of four different zones adjacent to the new Queen Elizabeth Hall forms a part of a larger whole. On the one hand, this restoration is closely linked to the creation of a new hall designed by Ian Simpon Architects. On the other hand, this restoration is part of a larger restoration project that involved the renovation and restoration of the entire administrative building of the Royal Society for Animal Science of Antwerp.
The qualities of the original ballroom complex, such as the link between the banquet hall, the Marble Hall and the zoo, as well as the incidence of light, had been lost due to the massive concrete architecture of the 1960s. In other areas around the Elisabeth Hall as well, spaces have been converted or extended over the years, so that the legibility of the original architecture had disappeared.
The interventions in the four different zones around the Elizabeth Hall have the common goal of restoring the former symmetry, light and grandeur that once characterised the façades and rooms.
This vision of restoration is supported by the creation of the new hall, in which the incidence of light is primal and the link between the new hall and the zoo, via the Marble Hall, is restored.
The atrium façade, between the banquet hall and the Marble Hall, forms an important link between the historical section and the new hall. This façade from 1895 will again be exposed and a high, light-filled atrium space will be created between the Marble Hall and the new hall. The murals that became visible during the preliminary studies on the atrium façade were partly uncovered. The other areas of the wall will have a neutral monochrome undertone, which matches the exposed murals and functions as a connecting background.
This restoration strategy is in line with the philosophy of preserving the original material. The uncovered paintings are only being restored, but not completed. This approach also offers the possibility of uncovering more surfaces at a later stage.
In the other zones, the later annexes and recent alterations to the façades and rooms were removed as well. The original concept was restored so that the various façades now constitute a coherent whole once more. In the new design for the Astridplein façade, the structure refers to the rhythm of the original façade, without being a copy of the old façade.
The project for the partial reconversion of the administration buildings and the ballroom complex is conceived with the aim of preserving, restoring and emphasising the historical qualities of the building. The removal of a number of additional walls and floors restored some of the spaces to their original condition. Based on the historical study and value assessment of the interior spaces, it was determined which rooms have a high heritage value and where bigger alterations are an option. For instance, an attempt was made to place the supporting functions as much as possible in less valuable areas that no longer have any historical finishes. Besides, because of the modifications regarding fire safety and ventilation, the building will meet the current standards and comfort requirements. Finally, the expansion of the office function to the currently vacant floors will benefit the preservation of the monument.
The former restoration philosophy was applied to the outer envelope as well, for example to the external windows. Here, systematically a balance was made between the heritage value and whether or not an element is original on the one hand, and the aesthetic coherence of the façades and functional requirements on the other. This approach extends to other alterations to the façades. If there was no programmatic or technical requirement to remove certain additions, they were retained because of their overall good condition. Finally, there is the conservation of the building by means of material-technical stability and durability. The restoration of natural stone façades and the reparation of all roof, balcony and canopy surfaces were envisaged in order to obtain a good watertightness so that the building as a whole is well preserved.
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