- Design Team : André Kempe, Oliver Thill, Ruud Smeelen, Marc van Bemmel, Anna Speakman, Kento Tanabe
- Structural And Bulding Services Engineer : VK Engineering, Merelbeke BE
- Design Parking Garage In Collaboration With : POLO.architects
- Clients : Triple Living nv
- Prefab Concrete Structure : De Jong Beton, Alphen NL
- Glass Facade : Sanpa Industries, Maaseik BE
- Glass / Metal Balustrades : Mebo Construct, Lokeren BE
- Natural Stone : Stonexpert, Kuurne BE
- Speedgates : HECO construct, Bocholt BE
- City : Antwerpen
- Country : Belgium
Text description provided by the architects. Antwerp New South has a high residential density and the ambition to become a new urban area. With which character ultimately? Will it be experienced as truly urban or rather as a highly dense suburban area? With the City Palace, Atelier Kempe Thill has not only the opportunity to contribute to this orientation but also to design one of the most important buildings on the central square of the whole area: the Panamarenko square. Atelier Kempe Thill sees the development of the new area primarily as a challenge to contemporary urban architecture, in the sense of a multifunctional, urban, all-around architecture that contributes as much as possible to the public space. The project is therefore designed with an active ground floor and a surrounding two-storey arcade of slender columns. These unite the ground floor and the first floor, which, combined with generous windows, form a kind of urban base. Together with the terraces of the upper floors, this theme is consistently developed around the entire building, which thus functions without any rear side.
Looking north towards the square, the façade is at its highest with a total of five storeys and a square front which gives its identity to the Panamarenko square. Towards the south, the building is stepped down twice in order to adjust to the size of the neighbouring buildings. The opposite side of the Panamarenko square is designed by well-known architects such as Johannes Norlander, Vincent van Duysen and Office Kersten Geers David van Severen.
In its programming, the project is designed as a consequent hybrid layering. The ground floor contains rooms for various commercial uses, mainly restaurants and shops, in order to make the building as public as possible. The client's offices are located on the first floor, which is accessible via a generous entrance on the ground floor. These form a closed ring around the inner courtyard with sight-lines through the entire building. Above the offices, there are three residential floors which are slightly decoupled from the courtyard and thus form their own world by the open gallery access.
A three-storey public underground car park for more than 300 cars opens up below the ground floor, serving larger parts of the area. This is accessed via a driveway on the long side of the building, which in turn is connected to the courtyard by a large window, allowing views across the courtyard and access to the apartments. In addition to the car parking spaces, there are also storage rooms and building services units in the basement. The aim was to give the building on each floor generous heights that exceed the minimum standards. The net height on the ground floor is 3.50m, on the first floor 3.20m. The living floors have a net height of 2.7m. The balconies on the upper floors have a net height of 4.1m.
Another special feature of the project is its size and the resulting possibilities and limitations. With its ambivalent dimensions of 45 m x 45 m, the question was from the outset whether it would make more sense to design the building as a full volume or to provide it with a courtyard. On top of that, the question arises whether the apartments can best be accessed without crossing the ground floor zone - mainly intended for shops and restaurants – without using too many vertical access cores.
The result, an intimate courtyard and four access cores, each in its inner corners, is the optimal outcome of an intensive process. Especially the access concept proved to be efficient and so robust that it did not have to be adjusted in the slightest during a total of three complete reprogramming and restructuring of the two base floors during the design stage. An important component of the development concept is the fact that the apartments on the upper floors are partially accessible via the short open galleries in the courtyard. In the case of the apartments in the middle of the courtyard, this means that it has to be accessed by passing by one neighbour apartment. However, due to the generous width of 2.5 m, the reduced length, and the atmospheric intimacy of the open gallery, this turns out to be a spatial experience instead of a necessary evil.
The City Palace project extends the ideas for living in the 21st century developed in earlier projects, by creating a further variant of suburban living in a high-density building as a new urban model beyond the ‘Existenminimum’.
The exterior spaces of the apartments are the central spatial theme of the project. A 2.5 m deep balcony has been designed on all four exterior facades as a spatial extension of the apartments. This balcony flows into the south-facing terraced flats and into spacious roof terraces, some of which are considerably larger than the total living space of the corresponding apartment. In addition to the real spatial and visual extension of the apartment, these terraces create the impression that the apartment is like a single-family-home right on the ground. In the case of the uppermost corner flats, one can walk around the flat on three sides. The spacious private terraces are combined with a large shared roof terrace for all residents.