Antwerp Central Railway Station

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Antwerpen-Centraal

Designed by Louis Delacenserie, inaugurated in the summer of 1905

W G Sebald in the opening passage of Austerlitz recounts a chance encounter and the consequent conversations that took place within the Station. He describes in detail the enormity and magnificence of the surroundings and explains its foundation…

 “The model Leopold had recommended to his architects was the new railway station of Lucerne, where he had been particularly struck by the concept of the dome, so dramatically exceeding the usual modest height of railway buildings, a concept realized by Delacenserie in his own design, which was inspired by the Pantheon in Rome, in such stupendous fashion that even today, said Austerlitz, exactly as the architect intended, when we step into the entrance hall we are seized by a sense of being beyond the profane, in a cathedral consecrated to international traffic and trade.”

Over the last twenty years the station has undergone extensive restoration and massive expansion, and so now contains four layers of tracks, the lowest of which accommodate the Thalys high-speed inter-city trains.

The Aeronauts go to Ronchamp

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Three Mirage 2000 jets of L’armée de l’air fly north towards the Franche Comte/Lorraine border in this odd postcard from Ronchamp*. The aerial view is not particularly flattering to a building that was designed to be approached from the slopes below. The previous chapel on the site was bombed by the Luftwaffe during the Second World War and the remains were used as building materials in the new building. I suppose the chapel is being protected rather than threatened by the jets but what is the meaning of the title on the postcard back: flagrant delit?**

Mirage fighters were a feature of motorway travel in France in the ‘seventies and, flying in formation above the Autoroute near Dijon, evoked the over-dubbed delights of The Aeronauts*** a Saturday morning TV programme shown alongside Robinson Crusoe and The Flashing Blade.

*bought in the early ‘nineties and found in ‘the bottom drawer’
** in flagrante delicto
*** Les Chevaliers du Ciel in France (link)

the City: the Building: the Room

Sally Stone has just returned from the Winter School at the University of Antwerp. This important annual event invites academics and architects to run projects upon a specific theme, this years was Transformer.

 Antwerp, an important city in northern Belgium, in the north of Europe, has been sought after and fought over for centuries thanks to its sheltered position on the estuary of the River Scheldt, the mild climate and the tolerant people. The legacy is a patchwork of ancient and modern architecture in which baroque rubs up against art deco, the traditional adjacent to the contemporary and the scarified next to the ephemeral

Look, said the voice … “A vacant lot at dusk” … “Long blurry beach” … “Sometimes you’d think he’d never use a camera before” … “Crumbling walls, dirty terrace, gravel path, a sign that says Office” … “A cement box by the side of the road” … “Restaurant windows, out of focus” … I don’t know what the hell he’s trying to get at.”

Antwerp

 by 
Roberto Bolaño

 

the City: the Building: the Room

“One could look from the campiello through openings, balustrades, screens, and discern the garden at the other side … and behold something at once a mystery and reality.”*

Architecture is the mediator between the City and the Room. An act of translation occurs at the point where the outside meets the inside. The window, door or threshold transforms the nature of the exterior and moderates it to accommodate the interior. When viewed from the hostile environment of the outside, the interior can possess qualities that are perhaps ethereal, enchanting or reassuring.

Imagine a crowd gathering in the Grote Markt, the quality of the light in the square, the coldness of the damp and windswept space, look through those twinkling windows of the tall imposing buildings, envisage what would be happening in these spaces, picture the character of the rooms behind the facades, create this interior.

*Carlo Scarpa talking about the Fondazione Querini Stampalia

 

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The City: We examined the particular qualities and characteristics of routes from the Grote Markt to the edge of the central area, and then back again. This analysis led us to create proposals for the transformation of the journey into a narrative; that is a collection of forms and spaces that communicated the essence of this excursion.

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The Building: We analysed the particular qualities and character of the Guild-Houses that face the Grote Mark. We looked at the size, scale, materials, construction, occupation and most importantly the quality of the light.

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The Room: We translated the ideas that were developed for the abstract space into a real proposal for the interior design of a space or collection of spaces within the Guild-houses.