Antwerp Central Station

Louis Maraite


Rue de France 85/S.26-1, 1060 Bruxelles

Antwerp, Belgium
European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Award 2011 - Conservation (Grand Prix)


Antwerp Central Station is linking history and future !


"This project's award recognizes the exceptional achievement of turning a terminal station -typical for 19th century railway architecture - into a through station, a bare necessity in the 21 st century - while returning the monumental railway station building to its former  glory. The jury appreciated the immense quality of the work executed in all its elements, from the outstanding conservation of the station building with its huge canopy, to the creation of the three level railway underpass. New and old, contemporary and historical, are found to be in perfect symbiosis with each other. The positive interaction of the refurbished station with its surrounding urban landscape proves that the preservation of the existing station was the only option and that the technical challenge of creating an effective thoroughfare had to be surmounted. Demolition would have been too easy and would only have resulted in the destruction of the urban landscape".

This was the conclusion of the Jury of  the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage /Europa Nostra Awards 2011, decerned in Amsterdam by European Commissioner for Culture,  Androulla Vassiliou, and by President of Europa Nostra, Placido Domingo. The SNCB-Holding, for the Belgian Railways, received for the station of Antwerp-Central  the Grand Prix in the major category "Conservation".

Jannie Haek, CEO of the SNCB-Holding, was very satisfied with this award. He dedicated it to the 50.000 passengers using the station every day, the 38.000 people working in the SNCB Group and to the architect Jacques Voncke who made all this possible. "The society is separating people. The stations are bringing them together, linking people. Antwerp Central  Station is linking generations, history and future,  culture and nature, heritage and modernityhellip;".

He didn't tell that, in the early seventies, authorities decided the demolition of the station. After WW II, the station was neglected, as all the railways during this period of "all for the car". The 1905 station and his canopy were hopefully listed as protected in 1975. And saved. But conservation work only began in 1986 with the repairs to the cast iron canopy over the railway tracks.

The original station building was constructed between 1895 and 1905 as a replacement for the original terminus of the Brussels-Mechelen-Antwerp Railway. The stone clad terminus buildings, with a vast dome above the waiting room hall, were designed by Louis Delacenserie and the vast (185 metres long and 44 metres high) iron and glass trainshed by Clement van Bogaert. The viaduct into the station is also a notable structure designed by local architect Jan Van Asperen.

The station is now widely regarded as the finest example of railway architecture in Belgium, although the extraordinary eclecticism of the influences on Delacenserie''s design had led to a difficulty in assigning it to a particular architectural style.

Antwerp Central Station has been the "Railway Cathedral" for one century. The SNCB-Holding, Belgian National Railway Company, took up the challenge to transform the 1905 station, built under King Leopold II,  into one meeting 2010 technological requirements and social needs, while still respecting its cultural heritage. The monumental architecture of the station has been painstakingly restored and integrated within a new structure by the architects, creating a dynamic blend of old and new, of stone, glass brick and concrete. Three underground levels of platforms, visible and day lit from above, link travelers between their 21st century trains and the Art Nouveau  train hall.  The 3,8 km tunnel drilled 20 meters under the existing station allowing high speed trains to travel between  Brussels and Amsterdam took eleven years of work without traffic interruption. A technical challenge. The ultramodern High Speed Trains gave Belgian most prestigious station a future !    Costs ? 750 millions euro;. The station is now prepared for a new century !

In 2009 the American magazine Newsweek judged Antwerpen-Centraal the world''s fourth greatest train station.


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