Manchesterlaan Social Housing Antwerp
Newly constructed public housing & commercial spaces
Luchtbal is a residential enclave to the north of Antwerp, enclosed between major infrastructures: the port and Noorderlaan to the west, the railway and motorway to the east, and the Albert canal to the south. The area offers an array of social housing styles from the last century. Two distinctive ideological views on housing are juxtaposed in abrupt contrast: a garden town from the 1930s, and modernist flat buildings and residential high-rises from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Manchesterlaan is the hard border between the garden homes and high-rise towers.
BRIDGING SCALE DISCREPANCIES
The three residential blocks along Manchesterlaan had been damaged by moisture and degraded concrete and could no longer meet modern standards of living. The Antwerp social housing corporation decided to build new homes here and launched an architectural contest. The client opted for POLO Architects’ design because it bridged the discrepancy in scale between the intimate garden town and the imposing towers. It also integrates and updates the qualities of these two models into a single project that responds to current residential needs.
Three U-shaped blocks facilitate the gradual transition from low to high. Houses with individual gardens link up with the garden town. At the tips of the U-shaped blocks, large, proud volumes with apartments climb towards the high-rise towers. Various typological gradations are positioned between the two, including family homes, smaller studios, split-level homes, and kangaroo homes.
SEMI-PUBLIC WINDING PATH
Three entry pavilions link the buildings along Manchesterlaan. They grant access to the semi-public interior area, but can also be closed off. The pavilions can house common rooms shared by the tenants as well as small shops, like a newsagent’s or a chemist’s.
A semi-public winding path runs through the interior area, which opens onto the private gardens.
"The gardens and the lower floors of the homes are situated at an elevated ground level, ensuring that the residents are not bothered by people looking in from the path." – Katrien Van Loco, project architect POLO Architects
The uniform brick facades give the buildings a robust look. They stand up to the modernist high-rise towers, but are also in harmony with the more traditional brick architecture of the garden town.
photography: Stijn Bollaert
Manchesterlaan, Luchtbal, Antwerp
winning competition design, nomination Belgische Prijs Architectuur 2015