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Work starts on €56m concert hall overhaul by Ian Simpson

Work finally starts on Ian Simpson Architects’ overhaul of the Queen Elisabeth Hall in Antwerp, home of the Royal Flemish Philharmonic Orchestra

More than three years after the practice landed the job, construction work has started on Ian Simpson’s first major theatre project, the redesign of the Queen Elisabeth Hall in Antwerp.

Working with acoustics consultancy Kirkegaard Associates, the practice beat an impressive international field of architects including finalists Caruso St John, Robbrecht en Daem and Office DA from Boston, USA, to win the competition in January 2010.

Since then the scheme has more than doubled in size to nearly 18,000m2 with the inclusion of larger conferencing facilities and ‘supporting’ accommodation ‘shrink-wrapped’ around the auditorium. The budget for the government-funded project, which will house the Royal Flemish Philharmonic Orchestra, has risen from €30 million to €56 million.

The 1950s auditorium will be demolished and replaced by a 26m-wide theatre opening up a new atrium with views through the 1887 ‘marble hall’ (right) to the neighbouring zoo.

Gold cladding proposed at competition stage for the roof and sides of the central 2,000-seat theatre has been swapped for reflective bronze panelling.

Ian Simpson said: ‘This is a discrete, stealthy project. We have tried to keep the built form quite modest – it is not about shouting out. People associate us with glass buildings. But we have spent lots of time working on historic buildings.’

Click here to see the original competition-winning proposals.

Ian Simpson Architects' proposals for Antwerp concert hall

Ian Simpson Architects’ proposals for Antwerp concert hall - auditorium section

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