The Archipelago of Antigoon

The city architect of Antwerp has called out for ideas to densify the so called ‘Left Bank’ of the city. This Left Bank is almost completely enclosed by the Scheldt river. Here you can find an interesting collage of urban typologies and landscape fragments. This district is located right next to the historical city centre, but is separated by the river and physically connected only by a few narrow tunnels. Its residents appreciate the quiet setting, but they miss a certain cohesion and identity. In that respect the neutral term ‘Left Bank’ says it all. It shows there is a relationship with the other side, that in fact is not called ‘Right Bank’ but Antwerp. And then there is the Scheldt river itself, which is strongly restrained in its dynamics. The impressive 6,5 meter tidal fluctuation is at the moment hardly noticeable here because the water is almost out of sight on the Left Bank.

Our winning proposal looks beyond the existing urbanized area of the Left Bank. We upscale our vision into the larger landscape context. Antwerp originated and prospered thanks to its position at the edge of the higher land looking towards the Scheldt Delta that leads directly into the sea. This Delta characteristic is an asset that is absent nowadays. We propose to reintroduce the tidal estuary into the heart of the city by transforming the Left Bank into an island: the ‘Archipelago of Antigoon’.
We imagine this island to be surrounded by a large tidal estuary with a potential for new ecology, recreation, urban development, flood protection and a positive identity for the Left Bank. Our blue interventions include: a short cut in the Scheldt river surrounding the island with water protected by a complete dike ring; a fresh water sanctuary at its heart; a recreational inner water forming a spine between a large existing lake and a forest.

The goal of this blue-green island is to create a recreational park for the entire metropolitan region with ecological diversity and richness and space for densification. At the same time the intervention can be effective as a climate resilience strategy to lower the impact of floods, cloudbursts and droughts. We imagine a myriad of new housing typologies to be developed in direct relation to landscape qualities, like villa’s in forest creeks, sturdy fortresses in the new waterway, houses on piers in the lake, promenade appartments along a central canal and a revaluation of the modernist heritage at the centre of the island.

The title refers back to the Legend of the city hero Brabo that defeated the giant Druon Antigoon that terrorized the city by asking everybody who wanted to pass on the Scheldt to pay him toll. If one couldn’t afford this he would cut of their hand and throw it into the river. Brabo did exactly that to the giant when he freed the city of Antwerp. The name of the city can be read as Hand-werpen (throwing hands) and a statue of Brabo throwing the giants hand can be found on the central market square. The Archipelago of Antigoon refers back to this story representing the left bank as the giants hand and smaller new developments in the estuary as reminders of all the hands that have been thrown in by Antigoon himself.