CLADmag issue1 2018

Page 36

CULTURE

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

T

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

Stuart Mills

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,

Complex constraints

Associates to alter the layout of

a 19th-century Art Nouveau cultural

Architectural practice

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

36 CLADGLOBAL.COM

The renovation has restored links with adjoining buildings, and with Antwerp Zoo

CLAD mag 2018 ISSUE 1