The Eilandje skyline permanently redrawn

1,000 new residents for the Cadix district

Press release  14/11/2016

The first residents have moved into the new ‘Cadiz’ housing block on the Kattendijk dock. Designed by POLO Architects and META architecture office, this building, together with the adjacent neighbourhood square (yet to be realised), forms a new reference point in the redeveloped Cadix district in Antwerp.


The construction of the Museum aan de Stroom (MAS), the opening of the Red Star Line Museum, and the makeover of streets, squares, and quays brought an end to the decades of dilapidation in Antwerp’s Eilandje district. Thanks to the new government incentives, project developers also took an interest in investing in the old port area. The construction of residential high-rises on Kattendijkdok (Diener & Diener Architekten) and the Cadiz project on the other side illustrate that transformation. A new, trendy urban neighbourhood is born. More and more residents are finding their way to the Eilandje. Cadiz is a mixed-use project with more than 40,000 m² of houses, a healthcare centre, catering and shops on a spacious block in the Cadix neighbourhood.

Cadiz was constructed on the site of the former Customs Authorities building. Although the brutalist edifice designed by architect Etienne De Pessemier in the 1970s was not without qualities, it proved unsuitable to accommodate housing. It was especially hard to give each apartment sufficient natural light. Moreover, the building was situated in the middle of the block and was surrounded by parking spaces and scraps of greenery. The building lacked the required urban qualities to bring life to the new residential neighbourhood. This piece of cultural heritage was demolished.


The task at hand was complex: to create a large number of residential units in a deep block, while ensuring that each individual home still had sufficient light and a view. At the same time, the project had to bring life to the new city district. POLO Architects and META architectuurbureau found a way to untangle this knot. The result is a remarkable block with a typology that is unprecedented in Belgium.

Niklaas Deboutte of META architectuurbureau: "It’s important that Cadiz enters into a good relationship with its surroundings, and on different scales. On the scale of the city, the building block is visible from afar; on the scale of the neighbourhood, it is in a direct relationship with the square and its surrounding streets."

Cadiz has two faces. From close by, at the street level, one can only see the plinth of the building facade with its stores. The dark plinth forms a contrast with the cantilevered claustra of the first and second floors. These white concrete façade elements screen the functions that lie behind from the street but, at the same time, provide transparency via the alternating recesses. They surround the block and unite it into a solid whole.

From the street, you can catch a glimpse of the communal inner garden. The entrances to the residential units are located here. This central zone, which is draped over the underground parking on the one hand, and the supermarket that runs from the façade plinth to the ground floors on the other, has a contoured landscape with birch trees and forest vegetation. A green ramp binds the communal inner area with the private gardens on the plinth, where the residents can enjoy views of the harbour and city in the distance.

From a distance, Cadiz offers a different and more monumental impression. Four towers are set further back from the building line, kneeling on the roof of the base with their feet in the garden of the inner courtyard, situated on a lower level. The typology of the existing warehouses on the Eilandje inspired the choice of materials used in the four living units, which were executed in brickwork and pre-cast concrete.


The plan integrates different types of residential units: apartments, luxurious duplexes, studios and social housing. All residential units are equipped with terraces or roof terraces. The apartments in the towers benefit from balconies on all four sides, which are staggered so they receive the optimal amount of sunlight. Outdoor staircases link the rooftop terraces with the underlying sun terraces.

Mauro Poponcini of POLO Architects: “The interweaving of the residential and other urban functions of the building creates a small city within a city.”

Download PRESS RELEASE The Eilandje skyline permanently redrawn
Download PERSBERICHT De skyline van het Eilandje voorgoed hertekend
Téléchargez COMMUNIQUÉS DE PRESSE Le skyline de l’Eilandje définitivement redessinée

Stijn Bollaert


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Kattendijkdok - Oostkaai, Antwerp

Surface Area

40.000 m²




Cores Development - Builprom - Westhoek


META architectuurbureau, Dirk Vandekerkhove Landschapsarchitecten


winning competition design - honorable mention Fritz-Höger-Preis 2017


POLO was founded in 1991 by Mauro Poponcini & Patrick Lootens. Today, The design-focused platform with expertise in urbanism, architecture, interior design & research consists of a dedicated team of 120 highly skilled professionals who work from studios in Antwerp & Brussels on assignments throughout Belgium and beyond.

A solid collective with plenty of knowledge, architectural expertise and experience. But also, and more importantly, a beautiful group of colleagues with a work ethic driven by design, creativity and reflection.

POLO is an amalgam: a creative bundle of contradictions with room for large projects (commercial, private, public) as well as (smaller) exceptions.

POLO is ready to prove itself: always, together, different. A stimulating perspective.



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