Header_nieuwhavenhuis_avondThe new Port House in Antwerp, Belgium, which opened in 2016, repurposed, renovated and extended a derelict fire station into a new headquarters for the port – and brought together the port’s staff that previously worked in separate buildings around the city.  Renowned architect, Zaha Hadid’s design of the Antwerp Port Authority’s head office puts the Port of Antwerp on the architectural world map. The structure is an amazing story of steel and glass working together to make a future-proof, sustainable architectural phenomenon.  Built between 2009 – 2016, the building will also be known as Zaha Hadid’s final project as she died unexpectedly soon after its completion. Antwerp is the 2nd busiest shipping port in Europe that serves 15,000 sea trade ships and 60,000 inland barges each year.  The port has an illustrious history dating back as far as the 12th Century.  At the threshold between the city and its vast port, Mexico Island in Antwerp’s Kattendijk dock on Quay 63 was selected as the site for the new head office.  The new Harbor House consists of two buildings including a restored former fire station along with an impressive beam-shaped construction that is by any standard—past or present—a truly remarkable sculptural form.  An external bridge integrates the existing building with the new expansion, which features a glass-covered façade that shimmers like waves and thus reflects the complex interaction of shades and colours in the air. This is a referral to the building’s exceptional location surrounded by water. The perception of a cut glass mass to give the new building a sparkling appearance refers to Antwerp, the diamond city.
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Like the bow of a ship, the new extension points towards the Scheldt River, connecting the building with the river on which Antwerp was founded.  The waterside site also offered significant sustainable construction benefits, allowing materials and building components to be transported by water, an important requirement to meet the port’s ecological targets.
Structural Engineer, Studieburo Mouton, explains that “construction consists of a torsion-free steel structure that enables a pointed and eccentric support. The underlying concept—necessary to achieve a stable construction—consists of two parts: a concrete element in the form of a trapezium-shaped ring encloses the south wing of the existing building in a vertical direction and a four-legged steel structure, bent rather like an opened paper clip.”
Victor Buyck Steel, located in Belgium, was used to create the steel structures.  They pre-assembled 6 pieces in their factory and transported them over water by pontoon to Antwerp. By doing so, Victor Buyck reduced the on-site installation time to a minimum.  Tata Steel provided a flooring solution by using ComFlor® 80 and ComFlor® 60 based on its light weight and cost. A flooring system that could easily be incorporated with the steel frame was vital to the design.  “The fact that a structural frame had to be placed over the existing Harbour House building was complicating factor which helped in making the decision to use Tata Steel’s ComFlor® composite floor deck system throughout.”
The Port of Antwerp remarks, “The entire Port House – with its eye-catching and extremely modern glass superstructure – is a metaphor for a 21st century port: a port that is ready for the future.”
Before her unexpected death, architect Zaha Hadid was at the forefront of contemporary world architecture in the late 20th century.  From the Riverside Museum in Glasgow, Scotland, to the MAXXI National Museum of the 21st Century Arts in Rome, Italy and the Guangzhou Opera House in Guangzhou, China, here is a list of the renowned architect’s top 10 must see buildings.
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