Architect Daniel Libeskind redesigns Antwerp’s skyline

Preparatory work has started in the Boerentoren in Antwerp since the summer of 2021. Specifically, the listed monument has been completely emptied and the steel skeleton will soon be cleaned up, all floors removed and replaced. According to Julie Jonckheer, project developer at ION, the work is completely according to plan.

Only the outer walls and the well-known steel structure are retained. Everything else is disappearing, mainly because asbestos-based materials were used back then. If all goes smoothly, the asbestos removal work will be fully completed in the fall of 2024 and construction of the renovated Boerentoren can then begin.

“It will be a complicated renovation with a complete reuse, where we, as interdisciplinary real estate experts, provide the necessary support. A balance will be found in a unique way between the tower’s heritage value and its new future: public space with a panoramic view, gastronomy and of course a good dose of culture,” says Kristof De Vleeschauwer from ION and project manager. of the Boerentoren.

To give the concept of the renovated Boerentoren the right shape, the customer Fernand Huts, managing director and chairman of the Katoen Natie Group, appointed the American architect Daniel Libeskind. Libeskind belongs to the world’s top in his field and has been awarded several times.

His curriculum vitae includes the fascinating Michael Lee-Chin Crystal in Ontario, the 192 m high skyscraper and landmark Zlota 44 in Warsaw, the striking ‘curved’ Torre Libeskind in Milan and the master plan for the reconstruction of the World Trade Center (WTC) in New York.

Fernand Huts is proud that he was able to get Daniel Libeskind. “In Antwerp, after Zaha Hadid with the new Port House and Richard Rogers with the new courthouse (the so-called ‘Butterfly Palace’), a new important international top architect is now at work”, says Huts. Davy Demuynck, co-CEO of ION, also considers it a privilege to be able to work with Libeskind. Demuynck expects that this ambitious project will help put ION on the world map. In other countries, the Boerentoren project is being watched with great attention.

New future

Together with Our Lady’s Cathedral, the Boerentoren dominates the skyline of Antwerp’s historic centre. The unique functional crown at the top of the nearly 100 m high skyscraper plays an important role in this. Stairs and lifts will also be placed in a new glass column. The addition offers several advantages: fantastic panoramic views, space to walk under and the possibility to eat something to drink. The tower will soon house numerous catering businesses: from tea rooms to rooftop terraces to (gastronomic) restaurants.

In the future, the Boerentoren will have a public space and a distinct cultural appeal. At least three floors of the monument are reserved for exhibitions. In the basement and two floors with parking there will also be an exhibition space which will be dedicated to the history and heritage of the port of Antwerp.

Cabins still need to obtain the necessary permits. The entrepreneur is aware that this first draft will create discussions, but does not shy away from debate. “At that time there was also protest against the construction of the Boerentoren, and even the Eiffel Tower in Paris provoked opposition,” says Huts laconically.

Flemish builder Erik Wieërs is certainly not happy with the design, which he describes as “a horror” and “glasses architecture from the 1980s”. According to Wieërs, the Boerentoren does not need any extra addition to be attractive. “I’ve seen other proposals that were much friendlier to the current building. Designs that were inspired by the existing Art Deco style and that didn’t opt ​​for the shock effect of that design. It’s really the wrong way to deal with these kinds of buildings,” said the Flemish government architect.

Historical figures Boerentoren

87.5 m was the original height in 1931

95.75 m is the height since the renovation of the top in 1975

the frame contains 3,500 tons of steel

500 tons of reinforcing steel

430,000 rivets

180,000 bolts

3,500,000 pieces of Boom Bricks

350,000 pieces of Schwenstein stone for the interior walls

3,550 tonnes of cement

5,000 m3 ring gravel

6,000 m3 of river sand

1,400 m3 of white Burgundian stone

The concept for the renovated Boerentoren by top architect Libeskind. (Photo: Katoen Natie Groep / Daniel Libeskind)

Architect Daniel Libeskind. (Photo: © Stefan Ruiz)

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