ISPA Conference & Expo
ISPA Conference & Expo
ISPA Conference & Expo

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


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
company profile
Company profile: Willmott Dixon
Willmott Dixon delivers the social infrastructure that people depend on in their daily lives. We partner with our customers to focus on the services they want to provide, not just the building we construct, and we are committed to achieving a higher social purpose through our work.
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
Mike Davies and Richard Rogers, who first worked together on the Pompidou Centre project
Mike Davies with the original competition model of the Pompidou Centre from the 1970s
"The building concept was radical, the construction was radical and the design detail was unlike anything else seen in France"

As the Pompidou Centre turns 40, one of its designers looks back on a radical age

Interview: 
Why Thom Mayne relishes the controversy surrounding his Swiss valley skyscraper plans
Thom Mayne
"Both good design & really bad design can be interesting"

On why he’s building a skyscraper next to Switzerland’s most famous thermal baths

The Venice festival is one of the most important in the architectural calendar
"Freespace describes a generosity of spirit and a sense of humanity at the core of architecture’s agenda"

On the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale theme

Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
To advertise in our catalogue gallery: call +44(0)1462 431385
features
Hotel EMC2 is part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, where no two hotels are the same
"Millennials are pushing us architects to design hotels with distinct personalities"

Sameness is out, authenticity is in when it comes to designing for millennials says Greg Keffer

Manuelle Gautrand
"The cities where you have good cultural buildings and facilities – it’s a way for people to mix, to share the city in a much deeper way"

The French architect and winner of the 2017 European Prize for Architecture tells us why she is determined to surprise

features
Tom Lindblom
"Public spaces support the widest diversity of experiences"

At last concrete proof that design is the critical factor that turns good experiences into great ones says Gensler’s Tom Lindblom

Passengers could travel from Dubai to Abu Dhabi in 12 minutes
Jakob Lange
"I was screaming out loud – it was impossible to hold back. This was something that had never been done before."

Head of BIG Ideas shares the latest on Virgin Hyperloop One

The 85m-high sloped roof at the Amager Resource Center doubles as a ski slope
Brian Yang
"You can be an intern on your first day and be expected to contribute to the design conversation. That’s something driven strongly by Bjarke."

How the idea of putting a ski slope on a factory roof was born

cladkit product news
Koto Design introduces wood-fired hot tub
Koto is known for crafting modular, energy-neutral cabins and homes
Katie Barnes
A striking wood-fired hot tub has been unveiled by Koto, an architecture and design studio which has a passion for ...
Alberto Apostoli designs tech-forward Wellness Therapy furniture collection for Varaschin
The furniture collection draws on absolute geometries, pure lines, neutral colours and strong references to nature
Megan Whitby
Furniture manufacturer Varaschin has unveiled the new Wellness Therapy range, designed by Italian spa and wellness architect and designer Alberto ...
Alberto Apostoli and Newform collaborate to launch the A.Zeta showerhead
The showerhead offers two modes; rainfall or waterfall
Megan Whitby
Italian architect Alberto Apostoli has renewed his partnership with Newform – an Italian wellness company – and designed A.Zeta. A.Zeta ...
cladkit product news
Siminetti unveils iridescent decorative panelling range inspired by plants
The Clematis design
Megan Whitby
The Botanicals is Siminetti’s newest Mother of Pearl decorative panelling collection, inspired by the distinctive patterns found in botany and ...
Mather & Co and ITV unite to create Coronation Street Experience
Mather & Co has transformed the visitor centre into the ultimate haven for ardent Coronation Street viewers
Magali Robathan
Experience designers, Mather & Co, have orchestrated a remarkable collaboration with ITV to unveil the new Coronation Street Experience, a ...
Codelocks develops new glass door smart lock
The new lock model allows facilities and building managers to create and manage access via an app or online portal
Megan Whitby
Codelocks has launched its first glass door smart lock to bring intelligent access control to modern spa, leisure, fitness and ...
cladkit product news
Fabio Alemanno Design uses elegant semi-precious stones to create memorable spa experiences
Alemanno believes the stones are well-placed in the spa environment thanks to their capacity to positively support physical and mental health
Megan Whitby
Fabio Alemanno Design has expanded its collection with semi-precious stones to enhance spas, wellness facilities, hotels and private residences. The ...
Jaffe Holden helps bring Academy Museum of Motion Pictures alive
Jaffe Holden provided architectural acoustics for the Academy Museum
Magali Robathan
Acoustical consulting firm Jaffe Holden provided architectural acoustics and audio/video design services for the recently opened Academy Museum of Motion ...
Eden project uses drones to spell out climate change warning
Magali Robathan
Almost 300 drones were used to signal an environmental message above the Eden Project’s biomes, during the UN Climate Change ...
ISPA Conference & Expo
ISPA Conference & Expo