What drew you to the “Het Groen Kwartier” (The Green Quarter) of Antwerp?
Antwerp is quite a dense city, and the new “Green Quarter” real estate development is so close to the city center and yet so remarkably peaceful, with so much open space. It simultaneously represents the changing face of Antwerp and its history, while affording one room to breathe. The former monastery is part of a complex that now houses August and is home to three walled gardens as well. These were a big draw for us and perfect for realizing my ultimate vision.
And what was your ultimate vision?
I wanted to make a hotel in Antwerp that is both for guests and locals. A place with a quiet garden, a spa, a busy bar, and a good restaurant. A place to drop in and have a coffee, a drink, or a meeting. Somewhere you can stay all day if you like. Antwerp didn’t really have a place like that. So architecturally and in terms of layout, the site was a good fit for my overall vision of a new social hub for the city.
So you were always aiming to make a big change?
It’s not that simple. I didn’t want to rush in and change the city. We were also working with a heritage-listed building, meaning we were very limited in what we could do structurally. This was never a problem though, as I always wanted to create something that helps people appreciate the history and culture of where they are. Through local design, I’m trying to rejuvenate a love for Flemish culture. This is another reason why we chose Vincent Van Duysen as the architect. Antwerp is his hometown, and he still lives and works here. He’s passionate about Antwerp and he’s an architect with an international reputation and 30 years of experience under his belt, yet, amazingly, this is the first hotel he has ever designed. There’s an innate understanding of the city that can only come with someone who’s lived here, and I wanted to make sure that architecturally and aesthetically, the hotel would be in an organic dialogue with the city.