The Port House – Antwerp’s latest architectural jewel – is a visual reminder of the ports’ rich past and shows it is ready for the future. We’ve visited the “Havenhuis,” so here is its history and how to reach it.
About Antwerp’s Port House
Antwerp’s latest architectural jewel is hidden at the extreme point of its port: the Port House. It’s a funky and innovative building with various (hidden) design references to Antwerp’s key features: the building’s shape refers to a diamond.
Antwerp’s port has 12 kilometers of docking and handles 26% of Europe’s container shipping: This makes Antwerp Europe’s second-largest shipping port, making it one of the most important and busiest port areas in Europe.
In 2007, the Port of Antwerp commissioned the construction of its new headquarters, intending to house their technical and administrative offices. The Port House was ultimately designed by a world-famous Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, also known as the “Queen of the curve.” She created numerous major projects like Baku’s Heydar Aliyev Center and MMM Corones in the Dolomites. Zaha renovated the former fire station and added a contemporary structure shaped like a diamond. The design shows that the Port of Antwerp has a rich past but is also ready for the future. The building finally opened in 2016, the year of Zaha’s death, making it the only government building designed by Hadid.
The building is also known for its sustainability and multifunctionality: it contains a public reading room, a library, a restaurant, meeting rooms, and an auditorium in the same building. This led them to receive a “Very Good” BREEAM environmental rating and win various design awards.
Basic facts about Antwerp’s Port House
As one of the eye-catchers of the Antwerp skyline, the Port House has rapidly reached the top of the “must-see”-list for tourists visiting the city of Antwerp …
|Adress||Zaha Hadidplein 1, 2030 Antwerp|
|Names||Havenhuis (Dutch), Port House (En)|
|GPS coordinates||51°14′28″N 4°24′26″E|
Antwerp’s Port House architecture
The new Port House is a combination of new construction and an old – and protected – fire station designed in 1922 by architect Emiel Van Averbeke. Between 2009 and 2016, a new building was set up around and on this fire station that nowadays provides the workplace for 500 employees.
The new version of this Port House was ultimately designed by Zaha “Queen of the curve” Hadid. She renovated the former fire station and added a contemporary structure shaped like a diamond. With a bit of imagination, one can see a sailboat in the entire construction of the building.
The Port House finally opened in 2016, the year of Zaha’s death, making it the only government building designed by Hadid. In tribute to the architect, the square in front of the Port House is called Zaha Hadidplein.
Since 2016, the Port House has been awarded several prizes, such as the MIPIM (Marché International des Professionnels de l’IMmobilier) in Cannes and the “best-refurbished building.”
Antwerp’s Port House, a breeding ground for art
The Port House in Antwerp and the Zaha Hadidsquare are also known as breeding grounds for art because there are various temporary exhibitions and various permanent exhibitions.
For example, you can find the “Resurrection of Antigoon” (2012) by Bruno Kristo near the monumental bow of the Port House, which reminds the people of Antwerp that the battle for a navigable Scheldt was never over.
How to reach Havenhuis
The Zaha Hadid Square is located relatively close to the city center since the port plays a significant role in Antwerp’s history. This makes the landmark reasonably accessible by car or public transport.
|By Bus||There is a bus stop called ‘Ferdinanduspolder’ located 350 meters from the Port House. |
Alternatively, you could take bus 620 to 776 to Kinepolis Antwerp. From there, it is a fifteen-minute walk to the Havenhuis.
|By Tram||Tram line 24 (Silsburg-Havenhuis) stops at the Havenhuis.|
|By Train||Antwerp Central is the nearest major train station. Opposite the station, you can take tram 24 to the Havenhuis.|
|By Bike||Calculate the shortest route using Google Maps.|
You can park your bicycle in the underground parking garage of the Havenhuis. There are charging points for electric bikes.
|By Car||Calculate the shortest route using Google Maps.|
The Port House has two private car parks where visitors can park: the underground parking garage of the Port House and Parking ‘Strasbourg’.
Please note, since 1 February 2017, the entire Antwerp city center has been a Low Emission Zone (LEZ). The most polluting vehicles are no longer allowed into the city.
Our visit with the brand new Audi Q5
For this road trip, we partnered up with Audi Belgium to try out their new Audi Q5 S line 45 TFSI quattro 265 hp S tronic. Its clean design actually reminded us of Antwerp’s Port House and is the main reason why we decided to visit it.
Additionally, it was a great way to see how the Audi Q5 navigates in the city and how accessible the Port House actually is by car!
When to visit Havenhuis
The Port House is located in a public square, so you can continue to visit it day and night. Usually, guided tours are also given (mainly on Tuesdays and Saturdays) in the new Port House, but this is currently not possible due to the COVID measures.
Other attractions near Havenhuis
The story of Antwerp features a long history, dating beyond the middle ages. Having the second biggest port in Europe, Antwerp developed a long and important history that impacted Belgium’s cultural and economic success – resulting in some architectural treasures.
We’ve listed our favorite tourist attractions and architectural buildings in Antwerp below; make sure to admire them when visiting the Port House.
- MAS. As a museum and monument, MAS (“Museum aan de Stroom”) the 60-meter-high landmark celebrates the city of Antwerp. The museum offers a variety of interesting permanent and temporary exhibitions, and at the top of MAS, you’ll find a free-viewpoint over Antwerp that you’ll want to check out.
- Cathedral of Our Lady. The Cathedral of Our Lady is a prominent feature of Antwerp’s skyline, and one of the most beautiful places in Antwerp to visit. The church – reportedly the largest one in the Benelux area – took over 170 years to build, and is very hard to miss; you should be able to see the Cathedral towers over Groenplaats and the nearby Grote Markt.
- Plantin-Moretus Museum. The Plantin-Moretus Museum is a printing museum that focuses on the work of the 16th-century printers Christophe Plantin and Jan Moretus. The museum is the only museum in the world that’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is located in Christophe Plantin and Jan Moretus their former residence and printing establishment, the Plantin Press.
- Rubens’ House. The Rubens House – Rubenshuis in Dutch – is the former house and workshop of Peter Paul Rubens, the famous Baroque painter. The building is now a museum dedicated mainly to the work of Rubens and his contemporaries
- Royal Museum of Fine Arts. The Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp is a museum founded in 1810 and houses a collection of paintings, sculptures, and drawings from the fourteenth to the twentieth centuries.
- Red Star Line Museum. The Red Star Line was a shipping line founded in 1871, with Antwerp’s main ports in Belgium, Liverpool, and Southampton in the United Kingdom and New York City and Philadelphia in the United States. The Red Star Line Museum retraces the steps of the millions of migrants who left everything behind in Europe and crossed the Atlantic Ocean to start a new life in America.
- Antwerp Central Station. Antwerp Central Railway Station is the city’s main railway station built between 1895 and 1905 but suffered massive destruction during World War II. The destruction was so bad that the city even considered demolishing it for safety reasons. Luckily the renovation started a little later, making it the most beautiful railway station in the world (according to Mashable magazine).
- Steen Castle. Het Steen is a medieval fortress, built after the Viking incursions in the early Middle Ages as the first stone fortress of Antwerp. Het Steen is Antwerp’s oldest building and used to be its oldest urban center.
Photographing Havenhuis Antwerp
City photography might seem like black magic for some of our adventurous readers and aspiring photographers; that’s why we decided to break down some of the technical details behind this shot.
Since the 1st of january 2021, prior permission is required from the port authorities to ensure security in the port and to assist in preventing conflicts with other drones.
As an experienced and published photographer, my camera bag grew throughout the years. It currently contains various cameras and lenses, each with its function and use – We’ve listed all of them below.
|Fujifilm X-S10||The Fujifilm X-S10 is the newest addition to our camera bag. This 16-megapixel lightweight makes it the perfect camera for discovering the City of Antwerp.|
|Fujifilm 35mm F1.4 lens||My all-time favorite lens. I always have it mounted on my X-E2 camera. I have a polarizing filter screwed on as standard, which captures the sky more beautifully.|
|Fujifilm 18-55mm F2.8-4 lens||The 18-55m is the regular FujiFilm kit lens, perfect for creating video content.|
For aspiring photographers, landscape photography might seem like black magic. This is why we decided to break down the technical details behind this shot.
Post-production is the process of editing your picture in software such as Lightroom and Photoshop. This process helps you to improve the quality of your photos drastically.