The Port Authority Building In Antwerp – Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
When you visit Antwerp, there are plenty of unusual things to do, with one of the more fun ones being seeing Den Deugniet– a statue of a young boy stuck in a forever mooning position.
Aside from that is checking out a very bold piece of modern architecture, the Port House or Port Authority building.
The Dramatic Addition To The Port Authority Building In Antwerp
The Port Authority building in Antwerp (Havenhuis) is an overpowering and dramatic Neo-futurist design by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadi. The 12,800 square meter building is the headquarters for the Antwerp Port Authority, housing their 500 employees.
With 12 kilometers of docks, Antwerp’s port is one of the busiest in Europe, handling 26% of the continent’s container shipping and employing around 60,000 people. Previously, Port Authority staff were housed in several locations around the city. The idea was to bring them to a new central location, with hopes that by being together in one place would result in better collaboration and improved ways of working.
With this in mind, the Port Authority opened a competition, calling on architects from around the globe to submit proposals. Plans called for adding an extension to the port’s 16th century fire station, ensuring that no matter what, the existing structure would be preserved. While there were 5 finalists who’d all submitted impressive designs, Zaha Hadi ultimately won. Hadi’s winning work featured a glass covered facade extension that would be built above the fire station, marrying a traditional piece of historical architecture with a bold new design.
Recommended reading: This commentary, War of the worlds: Port House headquarters, Antwerp, Belgium by ZHA where the author remarks: “With Antwerp Port House, Zaha Hadid Architects have staged the battle between old and new so straightforwardly that it becomes brutal.”
Planning for the building took place between 2009 – 2012, with actual construction starting in 2012. The Port Authority building in Antwerp finally opened to the public in September 2016.
The original 6,600 square meter fire station was restored to its former glory, with a public reading room and library being added. The 6,200 square meter diamond shaped extension is 100+ meters in length, has four distinct floors spanning 46 meters in height, and is supported by a large white column, several concrete pillars, and 900 tonnes of steel. Both structures are connected by a bridge that offers employees and visitors panoramic views of the surrounding area.
From a distance, you can see the extension resembles the hull of a sailing ship. The glass facade has a combination of transparent and opaque triangles in order to control how much sunlight enters the building. The glass facade, with it’s glazed surface, appears water-like and mirrors the tones and colours of the adjacent River Scheldt.
Another notable accomplishment from the architects was that the building was constructed with a green ethos in mind.
Sadly, Zaha Hadid passed away in 2016. To honour her memory, the building’s square Zaha Hadidplein was named after her.
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What do think about the Port Authority Building Antwerp? Would you visit this incredible piece of architecture? Tell us about in the comments.
Antwerp’s Port Authority Building Location
Where can you find the port authority building in Antwerp? Head to Zaha Hadidplein 1, 2030 Antwerpen, Belgium.
Port Authority Building FAQ
There are some key things to know before visiting the Port Authority building in Antwerp. We answer your most common questions:
1) How can I contact the Port Authority?
Visit their website or phone them at +32 3 205 20 1.
2) When is Havenhuis Antwerpen open?
Generally speaking, it’s open from 9:00 – 18:00 daily.
3) What is the nearest tram stop?
The nearest tram stop is Antwerpen Havenhuis, along route 24. From the city’s central station, the ride takes about 20 minutes.
4) Do I have to pay to enter the Port Authority building in Antwerp?
No, as it’s a public building, there is no entry fee.
5) Can I get a tour of the Port House?
You can book a tour with Experience Antwerp. Booking a 90 minute guided tour will get you access to parts of the building usually not open to the general public, including both the lower section and upper addition. You’ll also be treated to stories about the building’s history, learn about the unique architecture, and more.
Tours start at around €10 and are offered in English, French, German, and Dutch. Children must be at least six years old to take part.
A basic fitness level is also advised, as the tour involves navigating several staircases.
6) How much time do I need to visit the Port Authority building?
If you’re only taking photos from outside, at least 15 – 30 minutes. If you’re also checking out the interior, maybe 45 minutes. Note access to the the building’s extension is only available by guided tour, which lasts 90 minutes.
7) Can I take photos of Antwerp’s Port Authority building?
Naturally, you can take photos of the building’s exterior, as well as the lower part of the building that’s open to the public, including the main Atrium, reading room, and library.
If you want to take additional photos, get in touch with the Port Authority for more information or book a guided tour.
Transportation Options In Antwerp
We break down all of the available transportation options in Antwerp, Belgium:
1) To travel to Antwerp’s city center, you can go with a train, taxi, or bus:
- From the airport – Antwerp’s airport (ANR) is around 5 kilometers from the city center. Buses run frequently from the airport, taking you to Berchem train station which connects you to multiple lines that run into the city. The ride in should take around 20-30 minutes and a single fare ticket is approximately €3. If you’re driving from the airport, it will take you about 15 minutes to get into the middle of the city. A taxi will cost you about €10.
- From the main train station – The city’s main railway station, Antwerpen Centraal Station, is located in the middle of the city. Use public transit, walk, or take a taxi to get to your final destination.
- From the main bus stops – Eurolines has a location not far from the main train station at Van Stralenstraat 8 and Flixbus has two stops, Koningin Astridplein (also near Centraal Station) and Berchem. From any of these stops, use public transit, your own two feet, or a taxi.
2) Getting around Antwerp:
- Taxis – As with some countries, there’s not much need to worry about taxi scams in Antwerp. A popular local company is Taxivervoer Antwerpen.
- Ride sharing – Uber is available and offers an alternative to traditional taxi services.
- Bikes – You can rent bikes in Antwerp using Velo, the city’s bike sharing service.
- Public Transit – De Lijn has a network of buses, trams, and underground trams (the pre-metro). A single ticket journey is €3. If you’re planning on using public transit extensively, it’s cheaper to purchase in a day pass, a three day pass, or a 10 journeys pass. Download their app for even cheaper tickets and added convenience. Note, it’s not uncommon for buses and trams often run late during rush hours.
- Driving – If you want to drive in Antwerp, consider renting a car.
For more information about how to get around Antwerp, see Wikitravel.
Where To Stay In Antwerp
Find a place to stay in Antwerp with booking.com.
Paying For Things In Belgium
Our pro tips help you manage your finances when you’re travelling in Belgium:
1) Belgium uses the Euro:
- See xe.com to find out how your home currency compares to the Euro.
- Most places accept bank or credit cards. There also are bank machines throughout the city in case you need cash.
- When paying by card, you may be asked which currency you want to pay in – choose to pay in Euros to save money on the exchange rate.
2) Belgium is more expensive than other European destinations, so you may find yourself needing to budget when it comes to accommodation, eating out, and more.
3) If you can avoid doing, exchange your money in the city center, as exchange rates at the airport tends to be on the high side.
Good To Know About Antwerp
Other things to know about Antwerp:
1) To experience Antwerp in a unique way, tour the city with Get Your Guide:
2)Is the country safe for travellers? Generally speaking, Belgium is fairly safe and doesn’t have high levels of crime. That said, pickpocketing and other forms of theft are all too commonplace. So keep your belongings close by at all times, especially in tourist hotspots. During dinner one night in Brussels, I actually stopped a thief when he tried to steal my companion’s purse! Racism sadly exists everywhere, but if you’re a person of colour or of the Muslim faith, it’s also quite possible you’ll experience incidents of racism.
3) If you love travelling around Belgium, read some of my other top posts about this beer loving country:
- An Extreme Staircase, The Montagne De Bueren In Liège – Montagne De Bueren is one of the world’s most “extreme” staircases. With a 30% incline and 374 steps, scaling this staircase is no easy feat.
- Get Mooned By Den Deugniet In Antwerp – While visiting Antwerp, check out the comical Den Deugniet, a statue of a young boy pulling down his pants in a forever full moon pose.
- Queen For A Day At Belga Queen Brussels – Feel like a queen (or king) for a day and take a gastronomic trip through Belgian cuisine when eating and drinking at Belga Queen Brussels.
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