The new headquarters with a usable area of 23,500 m² replaces a complex of modernist building volumes that used to occupy the entire site and could not be adapted to today’s sustainability standards. As the Antwerp city centre has few public green surfaces, the transformation of the site from a merely private, mineral and infrastructural area into a public garden was a crucial requirement of the competition brief. Surrounded by fragments of public green space, the parcel is key to the formation of a larger coherent park. Another demand was to maintain a more recent Congress pavilion, which was positioned as an obstacle in between the fragments.
By situating the full program in a compact volume across the pavilion, the frontage is cut, and the main entrance is brought closer to the street. This large volume, however, divides the park into a front and back garden. Finally, by rotating the plan around one of its corners as it climbs up, the building shifts towards the centre; existing neighbouring buildings are respected and a sculptural form emerges. During the design process, the pavilion building is replaced by a glazed volume to house the congress and exhibition part of the program.
The building is conceived as a bridge structure above the pavilion. At the centre of the plan, one large steel truss spans from one core to the other. Two more trusses are integrated into the concrete sidewalls and their triangulation defines the form of the window openings. In the next step, this window form is applied all over the building as a computer-aided algorithm process optimized the geometry of the façade nodes.