Antwerp Central Station
The current (and third) Antwerp-Central station building was built between 1899 and 1905 as a terminus station. The building consists of a steel platform roof and a stone station building. The steel platform roofing was constructed between 1895 and 1899 according to plans by engineer Clément Van Bogaert (1865-1937) for the Compagnie Centrale de Construction, from Haine-Saint-Pierre. The steel hall has a height of 43 metres (height needed to catch the smoke of the locomotives), is 186 metres long and 66 metres wide, and provided space for ten head tracks.
The stone station building (reception building) was built between 1899 and 1905 by Louis Delacenserie (1837-1909) in eclectic style. After the laying of the foundation stone in 1895, work progressed extremely slowly, but gradually the monumental building emerged, with the 75-metre high dome as its highest point.
During World War II, severe damage was inflicted to the train hall by the impact of V-2 rockets, though the structural stability of the building remained intact, according to the National Railway Company of Belgium. Nevertheless, it has been claimed that the warping of the substructure due to a V-2 impact had caused constructional stresses.
In the middle of the 20th century the building was in a bad state.
There were not only structural problems with the canopy, but also with bits and pieces of stones falling from the facades and from the dome.
In the early 1970s, there were concrete plans to demolish the station and replace it with a new one. The demolition was averted when the station received protected monument status on 12.03.1975. In 1978 the station was presented as a masterpiece, the railway cathedral, during the great exhibition Le Temps des Gares in the Paris Centre Pompidou. While its protection in 1975 still met with much criticism and opposition, this exhibition made more and more people look at the station with a different eye. Yet the Belgian Railway Company NMBS-SNCB continued to obstruct. Due to the deteriorating condition of the roof month after month, NMBS-SNCB decided on 13 December 1985 that Antwerp Central would close on 31 January 1986 for safety reasons. Finally, under great public and political pressure, on 20 December 1985, it was decided that the railway company would carry out the necessary restoration work. This restoration began on 24 March 1986 and lasted until 1998. The glass of the canopy was replaced with polycarbonate sheets, to ensure the safety of passengers. The foundations of the arches were repaired and rebuilt where necessary. Steel was cleaned and repainted. The main building was also restored, and a tunnel was bored under the station and the city to provide a south-north connection for the high-speed trains between Brussels and Amsterdam.
From an endangered building in poor condition, the station became a symbol for the city and the railways.
In 2011 the station received a European Heritage Award, while the jury stated:
“This project’s award recognises the exceptional achievement of turning a terminal station – typical for 19th century railway architecture – into a through station – a bare necessity in the 21st century – while returning the monumental railway station building to its former glory. The jury appreciated the immense quality of the work executed in all its elements, from the outstanding conservation of the station building with its huge canopy, to the creation of the 3 level railway underpass. New and old, contemporary and historical, are found to be in perfect symbiosis with each other. The positive interaction of the refurbished station with its surrounding urban landscape proves that the preservation of the existing station was the only option and that the technical challenge of creating an effective thoroughfare had to be surmounted. Demolition would have been too easy and would only have resulted in the destruction of the urban landscape.”
The American weekly Newsweek ranked the station among the world's best in February 2009. The Americans visited a number of prestigious stations and came to the conclusion that the Antwerp Railway Cathedral was worthy of fourth place.
Antwerp-Central Station was chosen as the most beautiful station in Europe in 2010, by visitors to StedenTripper.com.
. In 2014, the station was named the most beautiful train station in the world by British-American news site Mashable