Rehabilitation of the 4th most beautiful station in the world.
It consists of an imposing stone station building and a steel platform roof. The main stone building is a design by Louis Delacenserie who, on the request of King Leopold II, was inspired by the station building of Lucerne and the Pantheon in Rome. The highest point of the station is a 75 metre high dome.
The steel roof over the platforms was designed by engineer Clement van Bogaert and is 43 metres high. At the time this height was needed to accommodate the steam of the locomotives. The platform is 186 metres long and 66 metres wide, and provides space for 10 dead-end tracks.
In the middle of the twentieth century the building was in such poor condition that demolition was considered. However, in 1975 it obtained the status of a listed building. But the condition of the building quickly deteriorated such that on 13 December 1985 the NMBS (the Belgian railway company) decided to close Antwerp Central on 31 January 1986 for safety reasons, and quickly started restoring the platform roof and facades. One week later, on 20 December 1985, the NMBS decided to do the necessary restoration work.
The restoration of the splendid platform roof started at the end of March 1986 and lasted until the end of September 1986. The principle was respect for the historical heritage. The two vault foundations on the zoo side were strengthened and the vault end on the Berchem side completely renovated. In order to restore the original grandeur of the steel elements, they were replaced or repaired and painted in a burgundy colour.
Instead of the roof covering of zinc, asbestos cement and glass, copper and polycarbonate sheets were used. Thanks to the use of polycarbonate sheets the building could be adapted to the requirements of a modern station in a major city, while preserving the original style. Since the Second World War the weight of the glass covering had caused constructional stresses. A V2 bomb damaged the 12,000 m² great hall, such that the substructure was warped. By choosing polycarbonate glazing for the renovation, the stress problems could be solved.
As polycarbonate sheets are elastic and weigh 40% less than glass, no extra supporting pillars needed to be fitted, which would have harmed the character of the monumental architecture. The maintenance friendliness, good fire resistance and resistance to weather effects and temperature fluctuations were also deciding factors in selecting polycarbonate sheets. Hail or snow do not cause any damage to polycarbonate.
‘When looking at the whole project, we are convinced that the steel roof over the platforms was restored in the most sustainable way’, says Paul Van Aelst, spokesman for NMBS Holding. ‘The use of polycarbonate sheets were able to limit the environmental impact of the work thanks to its longer lifetime and the avoidance of extra supporting pillars.’