Port House

Zaha Hadid Architects

2012 – 2016

Antwerp, Zaha Hadidplein 1



Engineer: Studieburo Mouton bvba

Contractor: Interbuild, Victor Buyck Steel Construction, Groven+

I’m a huge fan of Zaha Hadid Architects, already form my studying time. So I was excited that they were gonna build something in my city. And I was even more excited when I could arrange guided tours for architects and engineers at the construction site.

In this blogpost I want to explain the construction of this special building. Only 6 columns hold the building up! Look closely to the bridge: there are no columns or any other connections between the bridge and the upper part, only two (very big) steel columns that you can hardly see. The upper part eliminates 36 meters from the bottom of the frontal column!




Parking Space

248 cars (10 charging stations)

180 bikes (20 charging stations)

There are two floors of parking space underneath the square. The high detailling, sgnifact for the work of Zaha Hadid, can be found here. Very thin walls with rounded corners and round columns carry the floors, all in concrete. Cars and bikes enter the parking space seperately and have their own terrain.

At the parking space there is a stairway to the courtyard  of the fire station, where the receeption desk stands. The frontal columns continues underground and you have to walk around it to enter the building.



Fire Station – bottom

The old fire station is protected and is thoroughly renovated. At the first and second floor are landscape offices, under the roof are meetingrooms. More info on the fire station.




Numbers tell you more than words:

450 glass panels

weight of steel roof at the courtyard : 102 ton

weight of the steel superstructure: 1500 ton

weight of the heaviest steel element: 380 ton

The superstructe is approximately 100 meters on 20 meters and has 4 floors.

On the website of the engineering office Mouton the construction is explained:

The underlying concept—necessary to achieve a stable construction—consists of two parts. On the one hand, a concrete element in the form of a trapezium-shaped ring encloses the south wing of the existing building in a vertical direction. On the other is a four-legged steel structure, bent rather like an opened paper clip.




Steel and concrete

I think this text needs some explanation. The concrete element that support the superstructure consists out of: the frontal column, the bridge and the concrete column in the courtyard. The bridge lies between the fire station and the superstructure. The two concrete columns are connected underground by a concrete beam. In both columns are emergency stairways. The only connection between the column in the front and the superstructure is a steel element. There are only two elements you can see from this huge element and that are two steel vertical elements in the front of the bridge. You can see them when you’re standing on the square if you look closely.




The paper clip are 4 steel hollow collumns, they all start at the atrium, go through the glass roof and support the superstructure. The architects wanted it to look like the columns have one diameter, but this is not that simple. Because they start inside, go outside and go inside again, so that means cold bridges. They solved this problem by making the steel structure thinner at the outside part. So when this part was covered with insulation it looked like it has the same thickness as the rest of the column.

If you want to know more: follow the tour Concrete in northern Antwerp.