Culture

Queen Elizabeth Hall

Architecture studio SimpsonHaugh have completed a renovation of one of Belgium’s most important cultural landmarks, the Queen Elisabeth Hall in Antwerp


Read on turning pages | Download PDF | sign up to CLAD

The Belgian concert venue had its soft launch over a year ago – and has since picked up a nomination for Cultural Building of the Year – but has only just officially opened. It is located within the Elisabeth Centre, a 19th-century Art Nouveau cultural complex that includes Antwerp Zoo, one of Europe’s oldest attractions.

Before its transformation, the hall had become known for its poor sound quality and separation from the zoo – a result of a previous conversion in the 1950s repairing damage inflicted during the Second World War.

In 2009, the society that owns both the zoo and the wider complex announced plans to breathe new life into the site, creating a concert hall “to rival the best in the world”.

Complex constraints
Architectural practice SimpsonHaugh were commissioned to improve comfort levels and acoustic quality, bring in more natural light and forge a more harmonious relationship with the historic adjoining buildings.

The constraints facing the architectural team were complex: the site is a historic monument, there are important interfaces with other cultural activities, and a fixed budget and tight construction programme were set.

The studio collaborated with acoustic specialists Kirkegaard Associates to alter the layout of the interiors, improving sound quality and circulation.

“While the overall boundaries of the hall were defined by its location at the heart of the existing historic buildings, the design team explored various configurations for the new room within this envelope,” said Anthony McCreery, collaborating consultant at Kirkegaard.

“We employed a variety of techniques, including physical and computer modelling to optimise and refine the room geometry and finishes.”

Stuart Mills, partner at SimpsonHaugh, added: “We chose a ‘shoebox’ configuration, as that allowed us to insert a dramatic atrium between the new and existing structures.

“An innovative concrete frame reconciles the very high acoustic mass necessary for the hall with the need for column-free space below. By contrast, a lightweight steel structure spans between the auditorium and a carefully restored Art Nouveau façade, allowing sunlight to flood the foyers.”

A focus on the sound
To improve the acoustics of the space, an acoustically transparent bronze mesh has been installed across the ceiling and balconies.

Rather than being reflected, sound energy is allowed to pass through the mesh to reach the hall’s walls, engaging with the full volume of the space. The mesh also forms a cladding for the reflectors, which can be adjusted to fine-tune the room’s acoustics, and is complemented by retractable fabric banners that can be deployed to vary the reverberation time in the room. Visually, it serves as a shimmering backdrop to the orchestra, with its appearance changing according to the lighting conditions.

In the rest of the building, a new public space has been created on the ground floor that connects the site’s different cultural activities, restoring the lost link with the zoo. Original 19th-century murals have been restored, and the new-look foyers have been designed to complement the hall’s aesthetics with natural finishes such as timber, travertine and bronze.

The Queen Elisabeth concert hall now provides a home for the resident Antwerp Symphony Orchestra and visiting international orchestras.

SimpsonHaugh have worked on numerous residential and cultural projects across Europe, most notably on the one million sq ft first phase of London’s Battersea Power Station.

Gallery
Click on an image to open the image gallery
latest jobs
company profile
Company profile: FORREC Ltd
FORREC is an entertainment design company that creates places of escape and destinations of distinction. Our creative house leads in the design of theme parks, waterparks, mixed-use and entertainment developments, resorts and visitor attractions globally.
Try cladmag for free!
Sign up with CLAD to receive our regular ezine, instant news alerts, free digital subscriptions to CLADweek, CLADmag and CLADbook and to request a free sample of the next issue of CLADmag.
sign up
features
The club features two studios for boxing, with a range of classes developed by George Foreman III
DMAC’s Dwayne MacEwen
"The hotel concept came late in the game, but it was an inspired idea"

The newly renovated Chicago Midtown Athletic Club features a boutique hotel, a pool-come-ice rink and spaces designed by Venus Williams

The Grade I listed building housing The Ned was designed by Edwin ‘Ned’ Lutyens
Lund has worked as a designer for Soho House since 2014. She co-led the design of The Ned
"My favourite part of the building is the original bank vault, in the belly of the building. It once stored gold bullion deposits of £335m"

On the challenges of creating The Ned

Three raised white stone volumes will be constructed
Theoni Xanthi Partner XZA Architects
"The design concept is to create a museum that evokes a transition in time, in space, in memory"

The vision for the New Cyprus Musuem

Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
To advertise in our catalogue gallery: call +44(0)1462 431385
Vera Iconica recently merged with Longhi Architects, launched by Luis Longhi
Schreibeis Smith set up Vera Iconica Architecture in 2010
"Wellness is essentially an insurance policy to promote physical and mental long term health"

Raising the profile of wellness architecture

features
"It’s a privilege to have completed a scheme of such importance to the cultural identity of Antwerp - Stuart Mills"

SimsponHaugh’s latest project

The MACRO contemporary art museum, Rome
Decq has been recognised for raising the profile of women in architecture
"Things have improved, but not enough"

On women in architecture

The final phase of the Governors Island park project opened in July 2016, with sloping landscapes offering views of New York Harbor
Adriaan Geuze
"The profile of landscape architecture has been raised by international cities competing with one another"

How the West 8 founder is using the healing power of nature on a Korean site with a turbulent history

cladkit product news
Parkside opens flagship Chelsea showroom
The showroom is designed to inspire its clients
Lauren Heath-Jones
Parkside, a designer of contemporary porcelain and ceramic tiles, has opened its first showroom in the UK. Located in Chelsea ...
Hotel Crescent Court opens new spa following multi-million-dollar renovation
Hotel Crescent Court has reopened its spa after a multi-million dollar refurbishment
Lauren Heath-Jones
Hotel Crescent Court, a luxury hotel in Dallas, Texas, has reopened its spa and fitness centre after completing a multi-million-dollar ...
Bright Buildings to create UK's first 'open sky' swimming pool
Bright Buildings will create the retractable roof for the Open Sky pool at Ivybridge Leisure Centre
Lauren Heath-Jones
Leisure operator Fusion Lifestyle has announced that it will invest millions of pounds over the course of the next three ...
cladkit product news
London's new pollution-eating living wall has air purifying power of 275 trees
CityTree is a living wall that reduces particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide in the air by 30 per cent
Lauren Heath-Jones
The Crown Estate, a London-based commercial real estate company, has partnered with Westminster City Council and cleantech specialist Evergen Systems ...
Ben van Berkel launches UNSense startup to boost health and wellbeing in built environments
Kim Megson
Dutch architect Ben van Berkel and his design firm UNStudio have launched a tech startup to “improve the health and ...
Empex Watertoys partners with Singapore architecture firm on new splash park
Buds is a new splash park that caters to children aged 12 and under
Lauren Heath-Jones
Empex Watertoys has partnered with Singapore landscape architecture firm Playpoint Singapore Pte to create Buds, an exciting new splash park ...
cladkit product news
Dornbracht debuts Rainmoon wellness shower concept at  Salone del Mobile
Rainmoon is a multi-sensory wellness experience designed to revitalise and reinvigorate the user
Lauren Heath-Jones
Dornbracht, a German-based luxury bathroom specialist, has launched an innovative new shower experience, Rainmoon. Slated as the next generation of ...
Kvorning wins contest to design aquaculture exhibit at Norway's Coastal Museum
The exhibition explores the history of Norway's fish-farming industry dating back to 1970
Lauren Heath-Jones
Copenhagen-based design studio Kvorning Design and Norwegian advertising agency Vindfang have won a competition, organised by Museums in Sør Trøndelag ...