Antwerpen

_DSC0510My first stop outside the Netherlands is this northern Belgium town Antwerpen. Actually I didn’t even know this town until I read about this really nice piece of architecture–Museum aan de Stroom–by Neutelings Riedijk. Two months ago I was still browsing the pictures of this building on google image with my colleague in Hong Kong, but now voila–here I am! In front of this gigantic artwork right by the harbor of Antwerpen.

Antwerpen greeted me with its magnificent train station–a grand, airy, and uplifting cathedral for the trains with multiple height open space. I guess for me, what made the experience of arrival so special is the unexpectedness. It is definitely a serendipity that one encounters along the way, instead of a pilgrimage to the grand destination on your to-see list. Trains are running on multiple levels of platforms while the crowds are all naturally channeled towards the central rotunda given its iconic presence. The transparency of the roof adds a lustrous touch to the hustle-bustle  of the traveling crowds.

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I took a bus to the northern side of the city, where the harbor, new side of city and MAS is. It is surprising how well such a modern structure blend in with the rest of the city, mostly due to the use of red brick facade and the wavy glass which allows the mass melt into the rest of the harbor.

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Have to say how the stacking of the mass guides the circulation is quite ingenious. I found the double height space created by the staggered mass especially enchanting. Luckily I encountered a local choir group rehearsing in one of the double height space. The music, the space, and the cityscape as the background constituted such a harmonious picture.

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A nice walk through the university quarter down to the lively old city center, Grote Market. The city center is quite delicate and elegant with little pinches of green in the middle of the historic stepped gables. A cup of Chimay would be perfect for a short stop, plus it is the same price as a cup of coffee–so there I go, ordered the weirdest combination for an afternoon snack: whipped cream waffle and a cup of belgium beer.

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