ANTWERP (BE) - In 2000, a fire completely destroyed Antwerp's Stadsfeestzaal (Municipal Banquet Hall). The restoration of the 19th-century neo-classical building was tackled by a team of architectural firms. T+T Design, the in-house design agency of the client, Multi Development Belgium, and Danish architects Exners Tegnestue developed the concept for the Stadsfeestzaal. Belgian architect Romain Berteloot was responsible for preserving the historical character of the room and another Belgian, Ferre Verbaenen, was engaged as project architect.
With meticulous attention to historical details, including the decorative gold-leaf stucco, the Hall and the huge glass dome have been restored to their former glory. The building has been transformed into a shopping mall with over 20,000 m2 of retail floor space. The forty businesses that occupy retail spaces distributed over the building's four storeys can be reached from the ground floor and an all-round gallery on the second floor. The Stadsfeestzaal has acquired a second gateway so that two formerly separated shopping streets are now linked.
The Danish firm, Exners Tegnestue, designed the two gateways, all the shop facades and a smaller hall where the escalators are located. In the middle of the main hall, a new and modern interior forms an interesting contrast with the grandeur of the restored part. The interior architect responsible for this is the Dutch-Italian firm Graziosi Progetti. Beneath the imposing dome they erected a 7.5-metre-high platform shaped like a champagne glass that does duty as… a champagne bar. On the ground floor is a second bar with a faceted light object, and two semi-circular sitting areas where shoppers can stretch their legs for a moment. So, seven years after the fire, Antwerp not only has a much-loved heritage building back, but has also acquired a stylish retail hot spot and a new meeting place. (Hannah Schubert)