Kammenstraat / Oudaan
The place under discussion is the area around the Police Tower designed by Renaat Braem, one of Belgium’s most important post-war modernists. In the 1960s, Braem designed the new Administrative Centre of Antwerp on the spot where a shopping gallery and market hall had stood since 1841. However, the ambitious plans never came to fruition. Only the Police Tower was built. The raw scar left by the demolitions was later covered by a prosaic shopping centre. The gaping hole torn in the urban fabric by the modernist intervention was never repaired.
An opportunity then arose to restore at least a fragment of the block.
The city sold an orphaned plot on the corner of Oudaan and Kammenstraat to a real estate developer. The design for the apartment building with shops alleviates the discrepancy in scale between the medieval city and the modernist heritage. The location dictates the design. The building seeks to attain harmony with its neighbours. The spiral movement of the helix arose from that logical train of thought. Departing from the narrow, medieval Kammenstraat, the facade bends towards the stately townhouses on Oudaan, finally reaching towards the imposing Police Tower. The cornice rises gradually, culminating in a sharp roof volume. All the facades present themselves as if they were the front. The building has no back.
The facades are clad in lead panels. This unconventional choice reflects the ambition to make the building stand out, while at the same time enabling its surroundings to absorb it. On the one hand, lead is a traditional building material that was used for such things as the roof tiles on the nearby baroque Church of St Augustine. On the other hand, it is a unique, almost iconic facade material. Lead looks different every time, depending on the angle and the weather conditions. Sometimes it looks dark and dull; at other moments, it glimmers in the sunlight.
The building’s ground floor has a space that can be subdivided for retail purposes. Above, thirteen apartments unfold around a core with a lift and staircase, suffused with natural light thanks to the large windows at the top of the building. The changing facades of the helix bring a playful dynamic and intense living experience to the layout of the apartments.