Zurenborg is unique in Antwerp in that it is one of the few areas developed according to a plan in the late 19th century.
Houses in Zurenborg
Art Nouveau houses are interspersed with neoclassical mansions and other eclectic architectural styles throughout Zurenborg, which straddles the boundary between Antwerp itself and the district of Berchem. The southern part, which falls within Berchem and is centred on Cogels-Osylei (or Cogels-Osy Lei), Transvaalstraat, and Waterloostraat, has the highest number of townhouses. To the north, in the Antwerp section, many further examples were built along the streets surrounding Dageraadplaats.
The development of Zurenborg coincided with the peak of Art Nouveau popularity, and that movement had the greatest impact on the stylistic language of the area. However, many other styles—mostly "revival styles"—that were popular at the time are also represented. These include Gothic Revival, Neo-Renaissance, Greek Revival, Neoclassical, and the "cottage style" that coincided with British Tudorbethan architecture.
The houses were often named and decorated with accompanying themes. The influence of organic and natural sources is particularly evident in the themes and names of the Art Nouveau homes: The Sunflower, The Rose, The Tulip, etc. Houses also referenced local history or the names of the streets upon which they stand. The Lion of Flanders prominently adorns Cogels-Osylei 2–4, while across the street an entire complex is devoted to Charlemagne. Some street names refer to the independence war of linguistic affinity, the Boer war in South Africa: Pretoriastraat, Transvaalstraat  and Krugerstraat. On Waterloostraat  houses recall the eponymous battle. One of them, Waterloostraat 30, is adorned with a silhouette of Napoleon in his characteristic headgear, while another is decorated with glazed ceramic panels depicting scenes from that battle. The façade of no. 11, The Battle of Waterloo, shows the portraits of Wellington and Napoleon, the two great commanders of the age. Bayonets, flags, smoking cannons and drums show you clearly the subject of the house.
Co-ordination of houses
Groups of individual houses were sometimes combined to form a general theme and are intended to be experienced as co-ordinated designs rather than as individual units. The five adjoining houses collectively known as De Tijd (Time) on Waterloostraat make up such an ensemble. Each one, built in brick and in contrasting colours, is named for, and thematically represents, a time of the day: Ochtend (Morning), Dag (Day), Avond (Evening) and Nacht (Night). Similarly, some of the structures "speak" to one another. Examples of such a grouping are on the four corners of the Waterloostraat and Generaal Merlenstraat intersection, where houses depicting the four seasons face one another: Lente (Spring), Zomer (Summer), Herfst (Autumn) and Winter.
Post World War II history
With car ownership rising and upper middle class households moving to the suburbs, the status of Zurenborg - especially Cogels Osylei - as a well-to-do residential area came down. The houses were regarded as too big and too energy consuming. A major plan was made in the 1960s to transform the whole area into a business and office area similar to the one built at Brussels North station. In the end, however, it was concluded that the area was not to be demolished. The area was listed as an item of urban landscape, to the disappointment of many owners who expected to sell their properties at a profit.
The area became popular with artists and entrepreneurs. Many houses became listed monuments. With the help of public subsidies, many owners succeeded in renovating their properties and Zurenborg became a well-functioning urban neighborhood with a variety of people. Dageraadplaats ("Dawn Square") in the northern part of Zurenborg was transformed from a neighbourhood shopping area into one of the most popular dining areas in Antwerp, and the art nouveau mansions in Zurenborg draw high numbers of visitors and tourists.
Parts of Zurenborg - especially Cogels Osylei and Wolfstraat - have suffered extensively from intensive heavy bus traffic for many years causing pollution and vibration, with some loss of external and internal ornaments as a result.
"Boreas" house, Transvaalstraat 56. Architect: Joseph Bascourt
- Zurenborg history
- Antwerp : The Zurenborg District - from farmland to fantasy
- The Houses of Zurenborg
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