SimpsonHaugh’s restored Antwerp concert hall opens next to city zoo Architecture studio SimpsonHaugh have completed a renovation of one of Belgium’s most important cultural landmarks, the Queen Elisabeth Hall in Antwerp
he Belgian concert venue
It’s a privilege to have completed a scheme of such importance to the cultural identity of Antwerp
In 2009, the society that owns
site is a historic monument, there are
had its soft launch over a year
both the zoo and the wider complex
important interfaces with other cultural
ago – and has since picked
announced plans to breathe new
activities, and a fixed budget and tight
up a nomination for Cultural
life into the site, creating a concert
construction programme were set.
Building of the Year – but has
hall “to rival the best in the world”.
only just officially opened. It
The studio collaborated with acoustic specialists Kirkegaard
is located within the Elisabeth Centre,
Associates to alter the layout of
a 19th-century Art Nouveau cultural
the interiors, improving sound
complex that includes Antwerp Zoo,
SimpsonHaugh were commissioned
quality and circulation.
one of Europe’s oldest attractions.
to improve comfort levels and
“While the overall boundaries of
Before its transformation, the hall
acoustic quality, bring in more
the hall were defined by its location
had become known for its poor sound
natural light and forge a more
at the heart of the existing historic
quality and separation from the zoo
harmonious relationship with the
buildings, the design team explored
– a result of a previous conversion in
historic adjoining buildings.
various configurations for the new
the 1950s repairing damage inflicted
The constraints facing the
during the Second World War.
architectural team were complex: the
room within this envelope,” said Anthony McCreery, collaborating consultant at Kirkegaard. “We employed a variety of techniques, including physical and computer modelling to optimise and refine the room geometry and finishes.” Stuart Mills, partner at SimpsonHaugh, added: “We chose a ‘shoebox’ configuration, as that allowed us to insert a dramatic atrium between the new and existing structures. “An innovative concrete frame reconciles the very high acoustic mass necessary for the hall with the
PHOTO: JESSE WILLEMS
need for column-free space below. By
The renovation has restored links with adjoining buildings, and with Antwerp Zoo
CLAD mag 2018 ISSUE 1