Modernism – 20th century

Since World War I left Antwerp mutilated, it was time for optimistic renovation.Antwerp’s architects explore functional, innovative styles that don’t leave room for decoration.Walk through modernistic Antwerp.

Modernistic architecture focuses on the functional and on modernisation.The movement is characterised by geometric structures, flat roofs and the consequent choice for new construction materials and techniques.In this optimistic movement, everything is about looking forward and letting go of the superfluous.This is expressed architecturally in a new, austere restraint.A good example is the Boerentoren, Belgium’s first skyscraper.Other modernistic masterpieces in Antwerp include the Guiette house by renowned architect Le Corbusier, the buildings of the Institute for Tropical Medicine, St Anne’s tunnel and the swimming pool complex located in the Veldstraat.

Within modernism, the more spiritual Pelgrim movement sought ideal beauty and intrinsic added value. The Walburgis church designed by Flor van Reeth is a prime example. In 1930, after the World’s Fair, Antwerp built the entirely modernistic Exhibition district and it started urban development projects in the Luchtbal and Kiel districts.

Modernism continued to rule after 1945:Nieuwe Gaanderij, the Braem house, the district offices of Merksem and Deurne, the police tower on the Oudaan, the Sanders residence and De Singel. The first post-modern buildings began to appear by 1990, they include the Van Roosmalen atelier and the private residence at Cogels-Osylei 31a.

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Central Station - copyright Dave Van Laere

Central Station

The Antwerp Central Station, also known as Middenstatie (Middle station) or Spoorwegkathedraal (Railroad Cathedral), was first used in 1905. The structure is made up from a steel platform covering and a stone station building in an eclectic style. Recently, the station was completely renovated and in 2007 a tunnel underneath the station and a part of Antwerp was opened, reverting the station’s status as a terminus where are all trains have to turn back. In 2009, the American magazine Newsweek chose the Antwerp Central Station as the fourth most beautiful train station in the world.

Vlaeykensgang - copyright Jan Crab

Vlaeykensgang

The secret Vlaeykensgang alley dates from 1591 and connects Hoogstraat, Oude Koornmarkt Pelgrimstraat with one another. Walk through the gate at Oude Koornmarkt 16 and you feel as if you have journeyed back in time. In the past this alley was where the shoemakers and the poorest people in the city lived. The shoemakers were also in charge of sounding the alarm bell of the cathedral. These days you can find antiques stores and art galleries here as well as the exclusive restaurant Sir Anthony Van Dyck. The atmosphere is very intimate which is why many people also like to come here to listen to the carillon concerts during the summertime.

The Underpass - copyright Dave Van Laere

The Underpass

St Anna’s Tunnel – or Underpass, as the locals like to refer to it – was opened in 1933. Both on the left and on the right bank, you can still access the tunnel using the authentic wooden escalators which were unique at the opening.

Medieval Antwerp - copyright Jan Crab

Medieval Antwerp

Those who want to discover medieval Antwerp must dare to look beyond façades and buildings.Traces of the earliest city by the river mainly reveal themselves to alert detectives – look at street names and city maps.

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