WDT hangar conversion, Antwerp

Verbouwing WDT-loods

The WDT hangar forms part of Park Spoor Noord in Antwerp, a bold design by Studio Associato Secchi-Viganò that was laid out in 2009 on the site of a 1.6 kilometre long and 150 metre wide former railway yard. These less well-off and densely built-up districts, which had long been in desperate need of a socio-economic and spatial upgrade, are now linked by the elongated ‘garden’ of Park Spoor Noord.

Carl Verdickt describes, with great enthusiasm, the all-out effort that his office made to reuse the WDT hangar. He calls the new building the ‘face of the park’, an unassuming icon. This former train repair shop now houses the offices of the Neighbourhood Sports Department, an impressive hall for public events, catering facilities and sports infrastructure consisting of a neighbourhood sports hall and another for use by Antwerp’s Artesis Plantijn University College.

The design is closely related to the character of the industrial heritage. The designer’s credo is: ‘Let the building speak for itself as much as possible, and keep the architectural input to a minimum.’ The old building was never architecture with a capital A and was entirely the product of its former function: its form geared to the railways and the length and height of trains. Verdickt & Verdickt architects did not want to adopt a polarising position between old and new: ‘The relationship between old and new is a broad spectrum of gradations in which small, gradual differences are not to be underestimated as parameters.’

It was vital, for instance, to respect the characteristic façade of the hangar. The architects retained more than was requested and also left the rear wall standing. At the same time, they introduced an important new entity. Between these two sturdy façades they inserted a white box in ‘kalwall’, a material that, according to the designer, had never previously been used on this scale in Europe. The box, in its turn, also incorporates the typical industrial gables and contains the majority of the sports infrastructure. Bathed in an agreeable rather than blinding light, the large sports hall immediately ing. The kalwall box allows daylight to enter but diffuses it – meaning that no additional lighting is required during the day. The white steel structures and the wooden trusses enhance the pleasant atmosphere and together form a counterpoint to the industrial past.

Author: Ruth Soenen. This text has been published in the Architecture Review Flanders N°11. Embedded Architecture.

Project details


Sport, Youth, Public Building, Culture, Offices-Company, mixed use


Park Spoor Noord

2000 Antwerpen





More buildings from the same category: