Roald Smeets Antwerp

‘t Zuid Antwerp

Early History of Antwerpen


In the 16th century, the Spanish occupied Antwerp and built a citadel south of the center near the river Scheldt. The citadel, paid for by Antwerp was used to control the city. It would also be used for the same purpose during the French and Dutch occupations.

Not much changed after the Belgian independence in 1830, and the citadel  was obstructing the city’s expansion. Only after 40   years of bitter discussions between city and state,   a compromise was reached: new military fortifications   would be built, but much further from the city center.

At the citadel site, Antwerp was responsible for the   development of the new neighborhood, while the government   would build the new docks, railway infrastructure and   quay. The city paid for 50% of the purchase cost and   set up a company to develop the new neighborhood: the   S.A. du Sud d’Anvers.

Street Plan

1875 plan for South Antwerp

Contrary to most Antwerp neighborhoods, where the streets                           had developed organically, the street plan for the South                           was carefully planned.                           Between 1870 and 1875 numerous designs left the drawing                           table.
The final plan, approved in September 1875, is   reminiscent of Paris: a star shaped street pattern with   wide streets, offering beautiful views of the many monuments.   Other main features of the approved plan for the South   are the docks, located parallel with the quay, the extension   of the central Boulevard (now known as the ‘Leien’)   and the central square, the Leopold de Wael square.

Leopold De Wael Square, Antwerp

Leopold de Wael Square

Cohesive Architecture

              Construction                           of the houses started soon after the approval of the                           street plan in 1875. The area south of the Boulevard                           had cheaper lots and was partly developed into a working-class                           neighborhood.
Initially the corporation responsible for the development                           of the South built the whole infrastructure (streets,                           sidewalks, sewer system) before any of the adjacent                           lots had been sold. After disappointing sales of lots,                           the corporation decided to build houses themselves.
This resulted in a cohesive architectural landscape,   much in contrast with another neighborhood

De Passer

De Passer

developed                           at the same time, Zurenborg.                           Even for the buildings built independently from the                           corporation S.A. du Sud d’Anvers, the architects had                           to follow their recommendations and plans were sometimes                           altered to avoid contrasting styles.
Some buildings still stick out: the architect Jean-Jacques                           Winders built a house for himself, known as ‘de Passer’.                           Constructed in 1883 in neo-Flemish Renaissance style,                           this house is has a traditional floor plan, but it is                           built as a small ‘palace’. Another remarkable building                           in the South is the 1901 Art-nouveau building

Royal Museum

Royal Museum of Fine Arts

the five continents‘. The                           bay window in the shape of a boat gave it the nickname                           ‘The little boat’.

World Fair

                          To attract more interest from potential customers, the                           S.A. du Sud d’Anvers suggested to hold the 1885 world                           fair in the South. The city agreed, but although the                           world fair was very successful, it did not attract many                           new customers. The corporation went bankrupt in 1890.                           In 1894 another world fair was held at the South, but                           only after the turn of the century the South would really                           start to develop.

Landmark Buildings

Zuiderpershuis, Antwerp


The construction of some landmark Buildings                           helped to bring some life to the new neighborhood. The Royal Museum of Fine Arts,                           built in 1894, is the most prominent building. It is                           located at the central square, the Leopold De Wael square.                           The Hippodrome, a large theater opposite the museum                           and the south station, built around 1900 at the end                           of the Boulevard were the other landmarks in the South.
Another                           noticeable structure is the ‘Zuiderpershuis’, a hydraulic                           power station built in 1882, installed to operate the                           bridges, cranes at the new docks.

Main Synagogue, Antwerp

Main Synagogue

The twin towered neo-baroque                           building is now home to a cultural center.
Near the Royal Museum, the Jewish community built a                           Main Synagogue in 1882. It is only used for special                           occasions,                           the Jewish mostly use the synagogues is the area around                           the City park and Central                           Station.

Statues and monuments

                          During the development of the South neighborhood several                           statues were built at the squares: at center of the

Schelde Vrij Monument, Marnix Square, Zuid

Scheldt Free

Marnix square stands the large ‘Scheldt Free’ monument,                           built to celebrate the abolition in 1863 of the toll                           From                           another – boat-shaped – statue on the Lambertmont square,                           you have a view at the Gillis Square with the Porta                           Regia, a triumphal arch built in 1624 after a design                           by P.P. Rubens, the famous painter. It was built to                           honor the Spanish King Philips IV and was integrated                           in the                          city wall. It moved twice, and since 1936 it stands  isolated near the former docks.


Less                           than 80 years after the start of the development of                           the South neighborhood,

Lambermont Square, Antwerp

Statue at Lambermont Square

the decline started with the                           closure of the Hippodrome in 1958. In 1965 the South                           station was demolished, in 1968 the docks were filled                           and in 1973 the Hippodrome building was demolished as                           well.
Together with the loss of landmarks and harbor   activity, many people left the area, also due to the   deteriorating state of the houses. In 1990, only 23000   people lived in the area, compared to 50000 in 1920.   Fortunately, the neighborhood survived: plans designed   in the seventies by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill to                           demolish the whole of the South and replace it by a                           cluster of

Filled-in docks, Antwerp

North side of the Filled-in docks

skyscrapers                           where never realized.


The                           revival of the South started in the mid-1980s. Apartment                           prices had dropped significantly attracting younger                           people. Artists had also discovered the area. Earlier,                           in 1981, a structural plan was approved which gave some                           protection for the architecture.  The plan was also the   signal for the city council to rehabilitate the South.
By the end of the 1980s, many buildings had been restored.   In 1987, the new museum for modern art (MHKA), was   opened in a former grain silo. Several art galleries,   a new photography museum,

MUHKA, Antwerp


the opening of a new cultural   center in the Zuiderpershuis and the restoration of   several grand buildings around the filled-in docks made   the South more and more attractive.
More and more people   moved to the many renovated apartments and trendy cafés                           and restaurants opened. During the 1990s, the South                           became one of the most attractive neighborhoods                   in Antwerp.


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This entry was posted on 2012/06/09 by and tagged , , , , , , , .
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