words Diego García Scaro
Rippling steel canopies stand over a traffic junction in a suburb of Antwerp, Belgium. Designed by local practice B-architecten, the canopies were created as a landmark for Winkelplein Abdijstraat, making a link between a pedestrianised commercial street and a new shopping centre in a former military building.
Tramlines and a busy road connecting the city centre with the outskirts run beneath the structure. The canopies, which cover a 13m by 90m area, are made from 28cm-wide galvanised steel plates in a distorted grid. The plates form ripple shapes spreading out from the supporting columns, where they are more compacted, becoming wider apart towards the edges where less structural support is needed. The columns – made of two curved steel plates – are nine metres apart, lending the structure the feel of a spacious outdoor atrium. Four smaller canopies function as tram-stop shelters with glass covering the steel plates, while the larger ones remain open to the elements.
B-architecten’s grilles form part of a wider project to regenerate the surrounding area. Abdijstraat – the ancient commercial street that leads onto Winkelplein square – has been modernised and pedestrianised by Belgian architecture practice Stramien. B-architecten’s brief for Winkelplein was to provide an urban highlight for this difficult, transitional space between the busy road and the shopping centre. “You couldn’t make a square there, you could only make a place, a spot, an icon,” says B-architecten principal Sven Grooten.