Nottebohm room – Heritage Library Hendrik Conscience
? / Pieter Dens / Emiel Van Averbeke
Antwerp, Hendrik Conscienceplein 4
1621 / 1880 / 1936
One of my favorite buildings in the city and that has several reasons. I have loved books all my life and there are 270,000 here! Architecture is my passion and this room is an architectural fairy tale. I have been able to guide here for more than a year and that is great: nice people and always interesting exhibitions. What more could a guide wish for? Another small reason is that the Nottebohm room can only be seen during lectures and exhibitions, so only a few months and a few evenings a year. I’ve seen it a lot of times and still not tired of it …
The Nottebohm room is part of the Hendrik Conscience Heritage Library, a storage library. That means that, unlike the public library, you cannot borrow books and that they also keep all the books. The room is a part of the warehouse, so in here is a piece from the entire collection of the library that has 1.5 million pieces. Here are also some works of art, such as the Earth and Celestial globe from Bleau, the Egyptian cupboard and some busts.
One, two, three storeys
The building was part of the Jesuit house and it was named “The Sodality”. There were brotherhoods here, with Rubens and Van Dijck as members. They held meetings, prayed here, and it was also a networking opportunity. It had two floors: the ground floor for the married, the first floor for the unmarried. Unfortunately, all upholstery (paintings and other artworks) was “robbed” by the French and the building was sold by them. It has held all kinds of functions until it was bought by the City in the 19th century. The floor of the first floor has been removed, so that it becale one large high room.
Due to lack of space, two new floors were installed in the 1930s. Architect for this renovation was city architect Emiel Van Averbeke. The cast iron galleries were preserved. This is a design from the 1880s by other city architect Pieter Dens. It is a practical solution to create as much light and space as possible. It was not a progressive design, Dens made his choice in prefab elements. Yet it is one of the things that make the Nottebohm room so impressive.
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