KAVA Conference Centre

extension and renovation of an administrative building into a conference centre
In a reimagining of a former garden pavilion by Georges Baines, POLO creates a conference and learning centre for the Royal Association of Pharmacists of Antwerp (KAVA). The interiors provide a clinically minimal backdrop that resonates with the pharmacists’ practice. Views of the lush garden outside remind us of nature as the foundation of medical knowledge.


Surface area
Koninklijke Apothekersvereniging Antwerp
Landscape design
  • Wirtz International Landscape Architects
Filip Dujardin

As the client had moved to a new building and their old headquarters had been demolished, the remaining garden pavilion stood orphaned inside the perimeter block. The condition of the existing building shell necessitated a complete overhaul by POLO, retaining and expanding the structure with an auditorium.

The resulting building capitalises on interaction with the surrounding garden, with its impressive collection of old trees. The interiors aim to be subdued, in reverence to the unexpectedly lush context in the middle of the city.

Polished concrete floors set the tone for this : sturdy and no-nonsense but, on closer inspection, displaying a subtly clouded texture and warmth. The expansive use of concrete and glass required the application of acoustic ceilings to mitigate noise. The predominant linear false ceiling system adds a directionality to the spaces which resonates with the linearity of the corrugated metal panels used as external cladding.

The use of textiles further helps to create acoustic comfort. Chairs in the auditoriums are upholstered in soothing green and blue fabrics. Carpets in strips of custom-designed colours create visual accents and bring a touch of whimsy and a domestic mood to some of the smaller meeting rooms. Dark blackout curtains block out sunlight; others are used to divide up the big auditoriums, making the space more flexible and adaptable to different uses; curtains in a broken white colour provide privacy in spaces that face the garden.

Furnishings to soothe and inspire

The interiors are dominated by clinical white. The linear stripes and micro perforations of acoustic panels add a finer texture to the spaces. The overall impression is of a light and airy architecture, flooded by copious natural light through the large windows and skylights. High-level windows in internal dividing walls add to this spatial transparency. The tactile matte reflections of the concrete floor further underline this ambience.

With this calm backdrop we create for ourselves the space to design accents which organise the space, render it intelligible and create different moods. Window frames in stark black articulate the views of the garden within interior spaces.  Structural columns in the auditorium are black, delineating the space and echoing the black verticality of the aforementioned curtains. Elsewhere columns are a sea green colour that references a medical context. The same cheerful colour recurs in the tiles, vanity counters and cubicles in the washrooms.

Timber is used for the bar, which sits as a large beached vessel in the expansive reception space. Wooden display cabinets house an extensive historical library of pharmaceutical reference works.

As a final decorative flourish, an old historical pharmacy is recreated in one of the meeting rooms, paying homage to the origins of this very special profession.

Associated themes