‘ZNA Cadix is atypical and high quality’
Photo Credit: © Filip Dujardin // Sourbron Fotografie
ZNA’s masterpiece is open
104,000 square metres. 20 above-ground floors. 88 metres high. 385 beds and an outpatient hospital with 43 places. 936 underground parking spaces. 60,000 blue and green façade panels. These are just some of the impressive figures from ZNA Cadix, the largest hospital within the Antwerp ring road, which opened its doors on 18 September 2023, after seven years of construction. The new hospital is atypical in many ways: its inner-city location, vertical construction, public healthcare boulevard, the choice of a more playful design, and so on.
City and hospital merge
So what makes ZNA Cadix so special? Let’s start with the location: right in the middle of Antwerp, at the top of Park Spoor Noord, between the Kempisch dok and Noorderlaan. ‘While other larger hospitals deliberately chose to be located in a suburban area, ZNA chose instead to be embedded in the city,’ explains Ali Tmimi of property developer Kairos. ‘Tram 1 stops right outside the front door. On one side you have the park: a green lung full of movement. On the other side is ‘het Eilandje’ and the Mas, the Cadixwjk and the docks.’
The new hospital is not only intertwined with its surroundings, but also with the people of Antwerp themselves. If you want to walk from the Cadix neighbourhood to the park, you can go via the publicly accessible ‘care boulevard’ with shops and restaurants on the ground floor of the hospital. Also, everyone is welcome in the third-floor restaurant, with its large roof terrace and views of the city. All this will make ZNA Cadix a hospital you will enjoy coming to: an icon in the city, a gateway to the park or ‘het Eilandje’, and a great place to meet.
VK architects+engineers® part of Sweco and Robbrecht en Daem Architecten, were responsible for designing ZNA Cadix and conducting the corresponding studies. Tom Debacker of VK architects+engineers part of Sweco: ‘By embedding the hospital in the city, the network is evolving along with modern healthcare thinking. Care and vulnerability do not have to be hidden away; they are part of society. And bringing society closer to a care location can also have a healing effect on patients.’
The building really allows you to explore, with cosy corners, indoor terraces and plenty of natural light
At great height
Steven Wallays, director of Healthcare at VK architects+engineers® part of Sweco: ‘Initial reactions to the site were rather sceptical: how do you build a hospital on such a limited area? By building high, however, Antwerp has not only created a fantastic eye-catcher in a high-visibility location; the vertical construction means emergency flows are faster too. In traditional hospitals, emergency departments, operating theatres and intensive treatment units are on the same level. We placed the wards one above the other, with reserved lifts that take patients up 5 floors in as little as 15 seconds.’
The designers faced another challenge due to the limited land area; how do you organise the supply of items such as food, medicine and bedding? These logistics processes are almost invisible at ZNA Cadix because they run underground. Wallays: ‘You can best imagine floor -1 as a lively logistics village. We ran every flow – from the ambulances, suppliers and visitors – through mathematical models. Based on this, we created the ideal lift plans and route schedules that ensure everything runs smoothly, even at peak times. And, by directing all motorised traffic underground, the forecourt above ground remains free for pedestrians and cyclists.’
All construction partners were engaged in the same mission: building the most impressive hospital in the city
The human touch
Debacker: ‘When you enter the hospital, you immediately feel a light-hearted atmosphere. The building really allows you to explore, with cosy corners, indoor terraces and plenty of warm light. The healthcare boulevard has a terrazzo floor, the rooms have window-seats and, on the wards, you will find meeting places and spacious
lounges. As for the lighting, we chose pendant lighting fixtures in the care boulevard and disc-shaped fixtures in the rest of the hospital. Were these obvious choices? Not at all. These areas certainly generated discussions among the construction partners and financially they were not the cheapest option either. But the look-and-feel that extends throughout the hospital is precisely what makes ZNA Cadix a unique setting.’
The colours of the new hospital also stand out. The facades are finished with blue and green glazed ceramic click panels. Blue refers to the sky and the water of the docks and the nearby Scheldt. The green colour is a nod to Park Spoor Noord. The colours are also reflected in the furnishings. If you look closely, you will see that the windows are installed at different depths in the facade. There is a also patio in the centre of the building, allowing daylight to penetrate the building, to the ground floor.
Going the extra mile
BAM Interbuild and MBG joined forces to build ‘the masterpiece of the Antwerp hospital network’. Frank De Brabandere from BAM Interbuild: ‘The cooperation between all construction partners was the deciding factor in this project. Right from the start, we were all on the same page. Everyone was working towards the same goal: to build the most impressive hospital in town.’ Kurt Schrauwen of MBG: ‘The construction was special in various ways. All soil disposal was carried out using barges, to relieve traffic and all windows were mounted as prefabricated panels with the window already in them. The underground logistics floor involved gigantic spans. The highlight, however, was the concrete spiral staircase in the hall. In total, we worked on it for eight months. The entire underside is smooth shuttered. The staircase has no inner spindle, its installation is completely separate from the surrounding space and it only hangs from the landings of each floor. There is acoustic insulation under the steps and the lighting is built into the balustrade. Everything is so refined and perfectly finished: our colleagues have really gone the extra mile.’
ZNA Cadix has become a reality! ‘There is incredible pride among everyone who was involved in the hospital’s construction,’ says Frank De Brabandere of BAM Interbuild. ‘Particularly because the building is so special both in its design and qualitative execution. All these years, dozens of companies have worked together on a kind of sacred mission. The result is magnificent.’
The project partners officially delivered the ZNA Cadix back in March 2022. How come the hospital only opened its doors 1.5 years later? Tmimi: ‘ZNA Cadix opted for a turnkey project. In the first phase, ZNA Cadix was delivered according to the original 2012 specifications. In the second phase of construction, the necessary adjustments were made. In the meantime, requirements changed and new insights emerged. Rooms and even floors changed functions and some of the spaces had to be adapted to the latest equipment. In other words, mountains were moved in that last year and a half. That second phase of construction also proves that the building is flexible enough for the future.’
Who is who?
Various partners were involved in the creation of ZNA Cadix. Kairos was in charge of project development and NMBS contributed the land. VK architects+engineers® part of Sweco, Robbrecht en Daem Architecten and Omgeving came up with the design. VK architects+engineers part of Sweco provided all the technical studies. BAM Interbuild and MBG formed an integrated construction company. BAM FM will provide maintenance for the next 20 years.
Source: Building care |Text: uwtekst.be |Image: Filip Dujardin and Sourbron Fotografie