Surroundings-Zurenborg (Berchem), Antwerp
This area is situated between the Dageraadplaats and the Berchem Train Station ... for more info about the history of the Cogels Osylei and its surroundings, i.e. Zurenborg quarter, go to my TravelogueL*
Not only on the Cogels Osylei can you find an abundance of impressive facades ... walk around the adjoining streets and you'll find more architectural gems ...
... in fact, you won't know where to look first!!!
What you can see here is absolutely unique. Nowhere else can such a mixture of neo-styles be admired. The district is not really very large, so the best way to visit it is by taking a stroll through the different streets. You can explore the area all by yourself. Or, if you want to be sure you won't miss a spot, buy a guidebook at the touristoffice (Grote Markt 13, 2000 Antwerpen) for 1.50€
The multitude of architectural styles and decorations is breathtaking. One can find a house in neo-gothic style standing right next to a house in Art Nouveau style. All the houses were built at the time when all over Belgium the neo-styles were very popular (neo-classicist, neo-gothic, neo-renaissance, etc...). It somehow showed that Belgium rediscovered its ancient glory of the 15th and 16th century when it was one of the most important European commercial centers. One style, however, was new: the Art Nouveau style. The main idea of this style was to make functional aspects in a building decorative. The result of this is that the buildings got magnificent iron- and glaswork. In Belgium the architects of this style used a lot of floral motifs, as you still can see in the houses in the Zurenborg area.
When the council of the district of Berchem, to which the Cogels-Osy area belonged since 1912, unveiled plans in the 1960s to develop a new dense and modern 'Corbusier-type' neighborhood in Zurenborg, this caused strong opposition from the inhabitants. Even Renaet Braem, the modernist Antwerp architect opposed the destruction of this architecturally rich neighborhood. He filed a request to protect the entire district as a monument. It wasn't until 1984 before the protection came into effect, but in the meantime the original plans were never realized thanks to strong opposition by both architects and inhabitants. Currently more than 170 buildings in the neighborhood are protected monuments.
The best way to get here is by tram (line 11) or by bus (line 34). Take the stop on the Draakplaats
At the end of the 19th century, the population of Antwerp was growing rapidly, increasing from 200,000 in 1885 to more around 300,000 in 1900. The port of Antwerp had become Europe's largest. As a result, the city was developing several neighborhoods. The most prominent one being Antwerp's south, where development started in 1875. The first paralleling plan of the Zurenborg neigh-borhood, at the south-east of Antwerp, was approved in 1882.
The neighborhood is split into two parts by a railway line to the Netherlands. Both parts were separately developed. The northwest part features a central square from which the main streets start. In the southeast part, the square was reduced to a small circular place.
The northwest side of the railway features hundreds of white stuccoed houses which attracted the new middle class. Those people with a relatively high income wanted to flee the crowded and deteriorating old center of the city. The neighborhood was developed as a 'village in the city'. The center of the area is the Dageraadplaats, a square from which 10 streets radiate. Most of the buildings in the area are low-rise, white-stuccooed houses which give the neighborhood a homogenous look. The neighbor-hood started to decline in the fifties, but has enjoyed a revival in the nineties and now attracts mostly young people thanks to its village-like atmosphere.
This district is an collection of remarkable architectural landmarks all in one small area. It includes a variety of Art Nouveau mansions. It is particularly attractive due to the abundance of decorations on the gables, such as statues and mosaics etc.
In the Berchem district you can see the famous 'Jugendstil' development, which together with the southern end of town was one of the most remarkable town-planning projects of the 19th century. The Cogels-Osylei and its sidestreets are full of fabulous town houses, including some virtual palaces.
Take tram 11 to Berchem stop at Draakplaats.
Go visit the Cogels Osylei area at 2 minutes walk from the Berchem Station and have a look at a nice collection of architecture.
You may be surprised that not so long ago the question was raised if this should be preserved or let it dissapear and replaced by other buildings
Lucky they chose for the first option!
You have here a couple of nice Art Nouveau houses, the most of the decoration on the fronts are of mosaic, different from the techniques used in the Brussels Art Nouveau houses.
photo album 1
photo album 2
photo album 3
In the Zurenborg district near Berchem station, you'll find a unique archtectural mix of Art Nouveau, Jugendstil and Belle Epoque. The Cogels-Osylei is the largest street, but you'll find beautiful houses all around (Transvaalstraat, ...)
170 of these premises are protected as monuments.