Antwerp Stock Exchange restored to its former glory

Friday 4 October was a big day at the former Stock Exchange building in Antwerp. After having stood empty for the past 22 years the iconic building in the heart of the port city opened to the public again. As was the case before its closure at the end of the last millennium the renovated “Handelsbeurs” as it is known will once again serve as a meeting place and events centre. The renovation means that as well as providing spectacular surrounding conforms to the norms and is expected from a 21st century events centre. 

The newly-renovated building has a new glass roof and an underground carpark has been provided for visitors. The work was carried on behalf of the Port of Antwerp Company.   

Visitors to the Handelsbeurs will be struck by rich variety of colours inside the building. The metal roof structure has been repainted in its original green rather than the bruin rust-like shade it was painted in prior to the renovation. This serves to bring out the best in the floral definitions in the roof. 

Almost 588 years of history

The former Stock Exchange building has a long and interesting history. The Handelsbeurs first opened in 1531 and was the first Stock Exchange in Europe. Antwerp’s Handelsbeurs provided the inspiration for other such institutions that were set up in countries across Europe. In the summer of 1858 the original building burned to the ground. The current Stock Exchange building was constructed at the same site.

It was designed by the architect Jos Schadde (1818-1894), who integrated many references to the original building into his design. In 1894 the building was expanded when the Shipping Exchange (Shippersbeurs), an annex in the same architectural style, opened.

The building is located at the junction of four streets and its courtyard was open to the public. Many Antwerp people used the courtyard as a short cut between the Lang Nieuwstraat and Antwerp’s main shopping street the Meir.

The courtyard was also used for book markets and the renowned Antwerp Fashion Academy held many end of year fashion shows of its students’ work there. The building has stood empty since 1997 when the Stock Exchange activities moved to Brussels. Access to the courtyard was also closed off for safety and security reasons.

The building during the renovation.

A meeting place once again

The City of Antwerp gave the building in trust to Handelsbeurs Antwerpen, a limited company set up for the purpose of renovating and managing the Stock Exchange site after its renovation. The city authorities decreed that once it reopened the Handelbeurs should reassume its role as a meeting place in the heart of Antwerp.

The main hall of the building has been turned into a semi-public covered courtyard where people can enjoy a bite to eat or a stop by for a drink. The area can also be used for events such as meetings and product presentations.

On the first floor the former trading rooms have been converted into facilities for meetings and other get-togethers.  

Also being renovated at the site is the Hotel du Bois, a listed building that is being converted into a luxury boutique hotel.  

The greatest challenge posed by the renovation has been converting the building to match modern standards and expectations while at the same time preserving its rich architectural heritage. The building is a Neo-Gothic treasure that has valuable and unique murals and ceiling paintings, ornamental carpentry features and stained glass windows. Those that carried out the renovation tried to preserve these wherever possible while integrating the modern safety and comfort features required in a 21st century public building.

A 3-story underground car park has been constructed under the building, providing ample parking space for those attended events there.