19th-and 20th-century Warehouses in Antwerp North: Investigation of Heritage Values

  • Pauline Dewez ((PhD) Student)

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


This master thesis investigates the inter-relation between the concepts of preservation and redevelopment through the study of a selection of renovated historical warehouses situated in the former goods station district in Antwerp North. The research, based on literature studies, archival consultations, iconographic and maps studies and in situ inspections, aims to provide a critical overview on different renovation strategies and to highlight succesfull warehouses reconversions in Antwerp North.
In order to fully understand their former operation and embedment in the urban fabric, the historical and economic context in which the warehouses appeared is first investigated. The different factors leading to their constructions are described within the framework of the port and city’s history. This general study is then followed by the smaller scale and deeper analysis of Antwerp North. This neighbourhood developed from the 1860s onwards after the great city expansion and the demolition of the 16thcentury city walls. This detailed analysis reveals that the construction of the goods station district, which is part of Antwerp North and situated in proximity of the place of
the former « principal station », was planned and that this district differs from adjacent areas, whose expansion was uncontrolled. A focus is then put on this area, characterized by a large number of surviving warehouses, among which case studies are selected.
The historical analysis is followed by contemporary analysis aiming at providing
knowledge about the current evolving context in which these warehouses are embedded. The district is undergoing strong changes. Indeed, a strategic implementation plan, the Ruimtelijk Uitvoeringsplan 2060 was published in 2012 with the purpose of identifying the shortcomings and needs of the quarter and to provide strategies to upgrade it. The RUP mentions that the identity of Antwerp North is, among others, characterized by the presence of the warehouses. It is therefore of great importance to stress the value of the heritage and to investigate to what extent the warehouses can be adapted to contemporary uses and play a role in the revitalization of the neighbourhood.
Then, the different theories and tendencies that occurred throughought time in relation with the concept of altering buildings for new uses are traced back. The aim is to understand the origin of the concept of adaptive reuse as a discipline which promotes a reuse that serves contemporary needs while preserving features of the past, and the current approach of « preservation by development ».
The next chapter aims to provide a better understanding about the possibilities and challenges in how to reuse warehouses without compromising their architectural values and integrity. This is illustrated through concrete examples of reconverted warehouses situated in the goods station district.
In parallel to the research investigation, a redesign proposal was developed for a
complex built by and for the group « De Belgische Boerenbond ». The complex, including several buildings built in different phases, is of great historical and architectural value and is currently not used to its full potential. Through archival research, the evolution of this complex and the surrounding building block was traced back.
Date of AwardJul 2016
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorInge Bertels (Promotor) & Ine Wouters (Promotor)


  • Warehouse
  • Antwerp
  • Nineteenth century
  • Goods staion
  • Revitalisation

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