Fire station – the lower part of the Port House

Firestation Port

Alexis Van Mechelen & Emiel Van Averbeke

Antwerp, Zaha Hadidplein

1912 – 1922

Sixteenth century

During ‘Open Monumentendag’ in 2013, I was invited to a site visit of the old fire station where the works for the new Port House started. You could view the plans for the new Port House. With this blog post I want to give some explanation about the old fire station. I have already read strange things about this in the press, the worst thing was that it was said to be a 16th century building. In many responses to the new Port House, much came back that it was not allowed to set up a *** above such an old building. But it is not very old, it is a design from 1912. What is true is that it is inspired by the Hanzeatic House, the palazzo-like building that stood on the site of the MAS. Probably therefore the confusion.

Fire station with a tower

The design of the new fire station for the port was approved in 1912. It was by the hand of city architect Van Mechelen. He died in 1919 and the new city architect Van Averbeke took over. A fire station needs a tower: the hoses are dried here and exercises were done. The decorated spire on the plans, was never completely build, they stopped at 20 meters. Why it’s never build they do not know, perhaps because the swampy surface could not support a larger tower?


Just like the Hanzeatic House, the fire station also had an open courtyard. Here the hoses were tested twice a week. If you see well, you can see anchor holes in the photo above the windows, these were functional holes for installing beams so that people could work on the roof and the facade. With the renovation into a Port House, the courtyard is covered with a glass dome. When anchoring this glass roof, the anchor holes were used as support points.


The building was protected in 2000. Not much was left of the interior, except the columns and concrete floors. All original chimneys were removed early on; What remains are the stairs with the cute tiles and the large open spaces. From the beginning, no bearing walls were provided in the rooms, columns were used. In this way it was possible to install partition walls wherever and whenever they wanted. Now, offices on floors 1 and 2 on the east and west sides have been created. In the photo you can see how those places looked like in 2013. I could no longer say which floor and on which side of the building that this photo was taken. There’re four identical spaces, orientation is only known by looking outside.


This can also happen in a fire station: fire! On 26 April 1954 there was a fire on the roof, 3 of the 4 parts of the roof burned down. Only the southern part was spared, which is also lower than the other three. The new roof construction was executed in concrete. A phenomenal view when it was still open. Unfortunately, it is of course necessary to insulate and the concrete roof can no longer be admired. The southern part is therefore the only piece that still has the original wooden roof construction.

Fire station Port


Alexis Van Mechelen & Emiel Van Averbeke

Antwerp, Zaha Hadidplein

1912 – 1922

This article first appeared on my other site about architecture in and around Antwerp: archiplore.