The Talk of the Town

Ulf Meyer
29. November 2022
Visualization © Luxigon

When Belgium’s second city, Antwerp, hosted the world exposition in 1930, Europe was on the verge of a dark era, but the residential tower called Boerentoren (or Farmer’s Tower) became the talk of the town. The Art Deco tower designed by Jan Vanhoenacker, Emiel van Averbeke and Joseph Smolderen was the first skyscraper on the European continent. The apartment tower was later turned into a bank headquarters and in 1981 was declared a monument.

Left: Postcard of Boerentoren in the 1930s (Photo via Wikimedia Commons). Right: Photograph of Boerentoren in 2010 (Photo: Mark Ahsmann/Wikimedia Commons)

A new era in the tower's history is set to begin: Daniel Libeskind, the New York architect whose Deconstructivst style has become one of the world’s most recognizable architectural signatures, will turn the tower into an art center for the Phoebus Foundation's collection. One gallery will be dedicated to a collection of port heritage. When the tower reopens in 2028, it will contain exhibition spaces, a rooftop sculpture garden, restaurants and bars, and a viewing platform, where views will extend to Brussels on a clear day.

"Botanic elements are being added to the Farmers’ Tower," in Libeskind's words, recalling his unbuilt proposal for New York's Freedom Tower. (Visualization © Luxigon)

Libeskind's excited design clearly conflicts with the elegant Art Deco style of the original building, one of Europe's tallest skyscrapers in the first half of the 20th century. The clients of the original Kredietbank were farmers; the KBC Group, as the bank is known now, used the building later. Katoen Natie, the port company owned by Belgian billionaire Fernand Huts, bought the Boerentoren in 2020 and then launched the competition that Libeskind recently won. The tower’s original 87m height was increased when the tower was refurbished in 1976 and turned into offices, and while the proposed transformation will increase the height once again, it will not exceed the 123m height of the Cathedral of Our Lady, another Antwerp icon.

The tower will be adorned with a new angular top. (Visualization © Luxigon)

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