Project Description

Queen Elisabeth Hall

The project

Queen Elisabeth Hall

Location: Antwerp, Belgium

Client: Simpson Haugh Architects (end client KMDA)

Sector: Orchestral auditorium, conference centre, offices and retail mixed use scheme

Period: 2011 – 2017

Services provided:
Concept fire safety support
Detailed fire strategy support
Approvals negotiations support
Client monitoring / support to works on site

The brief

The Queen Elizabeth Hall project in Antwerp presented a series of unique challenges. The six-year design and construction process has been supported from the competition concept stage by Simon Lay and Alistair Henderson of Olsson Fire & Risk UK Ltd.

The scheme includes a mix of accommodation. At the heart of the project is a high quality performance space
with seating for over 500 people and the new home for the The Royal Flemish Philharmonic. The auditorium “floats” within a space carved out from an historic building and is supplemented by rehearsal spaces and headquarters accommodation for the Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp (KMDA). A new conference space and existing historic function halls communicate with the auditorium via a dramatic and fully open “Looshall”. With the high occupancy auditorium enclosed at the heart of the building, a design solution which did not rely on
a traditional protected escape route to outside had to be developed.

The solution

By being engaged from the earliest pen-strokes on the scheme, Simon was able to help ensure that the
architectural team could unlock design options which would otherwise have been unavailable. Initial local response suggested that any alternative approach would not be possible due to the nature of the local legislation. The team now at OFR UK worked closely with the architectural team at Simpson Haugh Partnership to bring the local approval officer into a stakeholder relationship and then from this were able to gain the trust of the King’s representatives to achieve a derogation from the local laws to enable alternative solutions to be developed and agreed. The early fire strategy works focused on creating an approved design envelope which would give the local and UK architectural teams space to develop the concept into a detailed scheme. The approval envelope was created by agreeing a “path to approval” by setting performance characteristics such as; “we will demonstrate that occupants can all escape via a protected route but if they choose to take the open route they will also be safe”. Having established an approval process, the works could make use of extensive computational modelling and
innovative evacuation studies to demonstrate that all credible fire and evacuation scenarios would be safe. The Queen Elisabeth Hall project represents a large scale embodiment of the use of complex analyses and end user
led flexibility in the design to deliver a safer legacy.