In Antwerp the largest ships in the world almost sail into the city centre. But it‘s not only the geographical location that makes the port of Antwerp so unique. With the Port House, the new headquarters of the Antwerp Port Authority, the second largest European port now owns a new architectural jewel with which Antwerp has put itself on the world map of architecture. The impressive building designed by Zaha Hadid, brings together past and future. The lower part of the building, once used as a fire station, together with a striking and contemporary superstructure in the shape of a glittering diamond or a floating ship, are forming the building extension of the historical Port House. The monumental design of the Zaha Hadid Architects is a metaphor for the port of the 21st century: the floating ship symbolises the progressiveness of the Antwerp port, fit for the future. The extension provides not only space under one roof on five floors for 500 employees of the Port Authority but will also be the meeting place for numerous international partners of the Antwerp port community. The Port House additionally offers conference rooms, a public library with a reading room, an auditorium and a restaurant.
The project had not only to meet the high demands of the building construction itself but of the quality of the office as a living space. The mission of the new administration building is to bring competencies together, to optimise internal structures and to focus on strong customer orientation. Also the interior design had to take account of these basic values by supporting cross-linked teamwork and improved ways of communication, creating short distances and, at the same time, providing an attractive working environment for the employees. Accordingly, PALMBERG and the Belgian specialist retail partner FORUM OFFICE from SINT-GILLIS-WAAS focused planning and implementation on integrating all requested components in a finely tuned and functioning overall conception. The goals had been clearly defined from the very start. The architects wanted functional, dynamic working areas that would be suitable for all work situations. In order to meet the high demands placed on the new offices, a comprehensive planning process was necessary from the beginning. The starting point was a detailed employee survey and needs analysis. The results were encompassed in both the spatial concept and the workplace layout.
‘In demand was a working world with high density and area efficiency that would provide a distinctive high-quality working environment expressing open communication, modernity and creativity in the offices’, says Robert-Jan Wejers (PALMBERG Area Sales Manager for Belgium).
The fact that PALMBERG finally succeeded in competition with renowned companies is, according to Robert-Jan Wejers, due to the large degree of conformance of the concept and the customer expectations. A lot of special solutions allowed PALMBERG to implement the project. Quality and functionality were key factors for the workplace layout. But also the character of the building structure had to be reflected in the interior. This task was accomplished by a combination of custom sit/stand solutions of the CREW desk series and elements of the TERIO PLUS space division system. This combined ensemble characterised by a sense of well-being by carefully matched colours and materials, is providing space for informal communication, teamwork and interaction as well as withdrawal and concentration for the Port House employees. The analogy to the building structure can particularly be seen in the field of workplace design. The full effect desired was achieved by curved trapezoidal desks whose language of forms matched the high demand of the new building architecture. Additionally, multifunctional KIT-bridges made the discussion and meeting zones lively and ready for talks. In this way, a functional and modern open office solution was brought into being that is supporting innovative work and serving as a living space.