Antwerp already has 2 WHS within its borders (the Plantin-Moretus Museum
plus the Belfries
of the City Hall & Cathedral), but is aiming for 2 more. Maison Guiette
is part of the transboundary Corbusier nomination for 2016, and has managed to stay on the list of proposed locations even after the necessary deletion of sites. The Historic core within the walls of 1250
covers the remainder of the historical city. Antwerp is the largest city in Belgium, and in continuous rivalry with Brussels which already has 3 sites on the WH List and 2 more on the Tentative List.
The day after Easter is a holiday in The Netherlands, and I used it this year to revisit Antwerp which is only a 75 minute drive from my home. I had been there a couple of times before.
|City Center with Cathedral|
First I drove to the south of the city, to the residential neighbourhood where the Maison Guiette lies. I had a look beforehand on Google Streetview, to check out the area and to know what to look for. As other reviewers have noticed, it's not easy to park in the surroundings. I don't think you have to worry too much about parking tickets however: it would be an achievement to spend more than 5 minutes at this house.
I have not been lucky with my Le Corbusier visits so far: the Argentian Casa Curutchet
was closed for Columbus Day when I went there, the excellent Swiss Villa Jeanneret-Perret
has been dropped from the final nomination list and the National Museum of Western Art
in Tokyo was shut too when I passed it on a rainy day. And this Maison Guiette even is worse: it's never open to the public! There's nothing remarkable to see from the outside either, not even a hint of the colouring that it is renowned for. There's a flimsy yellow information panel (in Dutch) planted right next to it, the only clue that you're watching something out of the ordinary. The Maison Guiette is an early and relatively unknown work of Le Corbusier.
Some 10 minutes drive to the north I entered the other TWHS. The historic city center of Antwerp has obvious similarities with Bruges and Amsterdam (such as the gabled houses). But it lacks their picturesque canal setting. It's much more a working port city, with 19th and 20th century constructions obscuring the medieval buildings. The Grand Place seems to have been turned into a tourist trap for Asian visitors or Dutch daytrippers.
Antwerp has played a pivotal role in the history of the Low Countries, mostly up to 1585 when the weight shifted northwards to Amsterdam. The oldest remaining structure of Antwerp is Het Steen
, a stone fortress on the banks of the Scheldt built between 1200 and 1225. Closeby lies the early 16th century Hall of Meat
. This fine gothic brick work was built for the guild of the butchers. Both buildings are now in use as small museums.
|Hall of Meat (Vleeshuis)|
It would surprise me if Belgium would claim separate WH status for Antwerp. With the Town Hall and Cathedral already being listed as part of the Belfries WHS, I believe its main monuments have been covered already.
I really like Antwerp, but like you I'm not really sure it will ever become a WHS proper.
I like the fact it is a working modern city rather than an open museum like Brugge. The Centraal station is magnificent and has had a great makeover, sitting up the with London's St Pancras in terms of awesome modern stations.
There is also another WHS associated site in Antwerp (if you stretch the definition a little). Just along from the Rubenshuis is Cafe Horta (www.grandcafehorta.be), it is a modern building, but the hall at the back is made from the remnant parts of Horta's iconic Maison du Peuple, which was pulled down in Brussels. If it was still standing it almost certainly would be inscribed as part of the Horta WHS. It is a lovely cafe and a nice treat if you ever find yourself back in Antwerp.