Caruso St John Architects
Model of the concert hall interior
Model of the lobby
Location: Antwerp, Belgium
Client: Royal Society for Zoology Antwerp
Project Status: Competition
The project to revitalise the Elisabetzaal included the transformation of the Concert Hall, the addition of new backstage facilities and the establishment of the Philharmonic Orchestra on the site. The design proposal is both a tectonic concept and a formal image, which aims to link the interior with its magnificent nineteenth century neighbours and also to create a festive atmosphere, as if the structure of the existing 1950’s modernist building has been dressed for a grand event.
The replacement of the roof is used to make a dramatic overarching ceiling, from which an inner wall enclosing the room appears suspended like a curtain. The wall describes a new shape within the shell of the building, refining its proportions acoustically and providing interstitial spaces around its perimeter. Moveable acoustic canopies and retractable absorption panels allow the accommodation of a wide range of events, and seating capacity is maintained by adding balconies at the sides and around the stage, so that the performers now appear to stand more strongly within the audience. A new entrance forms a connection with the zoo gardens, and the main foyer is transformed by the removal of the existing flat ceiling to expose the stepped underside of the new concert hall.
A new five storey building looks out onto the street to the west marking the point of arrival and administrative home of the Philharmonic. Its façade has generous windows looking out to the city and piers of fluted masonry, whose delicate pattern makes reference to the surfaces in the new interior of the Concert Hall.