Hall of Assize Court Old Courthouse Antwerp

Reconversion of the Hall of Assize Court in the Old Courthouse in Antwerp, in which new ceremonial tribunes make up a precise addition in the highly decorative, historical hall. Commissioned by Origin Architecture and Engineering


The hall for the Assize Court in the old Courthouse in Antwerp is highly decorated, theatrical and ceremonial. It’s the physical residue of the hierarchy within the Belgian judicial system around the nineteenth century. The entire Courthouse is built up around two separate systems of human circulation: corridors and parts of the halls for the public and raised corridors and raised parts of the halls for the members of the law.

Through different doors at different heights, different people enter and go and sit in different spots. The events taking place there develop themselves for a big part from the meaning of the specific seating spots. The role of a person is identified with his or her piece of furniture: the bench of the accused, the tribune of the jury, the table of judges, the benches of the press, the benches for the audience. Fixed furniture up on raised platforms for those who decide and moveable furniture on the floor for everybody else, including the accused. Very serious furniture in a very serious building.

Then one ceremony replaces the other: a Assize Court becomes the exception. Now intern-lawyers will take the oath in that big hall, with the occasional lecture. A new system of those who speak and those who watch. The furniture needs to be adjusted and supplemented. The tribune of the jury is preserved and acts as a clone stamp for more ceremonial tribunes. More people. More tech. Less resonance. Noble, sustainable and the equality of status are important. The system of the raised platform with the fixed furniture and the lowered levels with moveable furniture still applies. All members sitting on the raised levels should feel equal to each other, whether one is sitting on a over hundred years old piece of furniture or a new one.

The existing tribune of the jury is being deciphered in all its components and specifics. Looking and understanding. And after that manipulating. All levels of the tribunes are tuned and locked to each other. Coherent groups of people get coherent groups of furniture. Everything is aligned, symmetrical, just like the hall itself. The backrest is continuous, but the seats are intersected by the armrests. A hierarchy in the supporting structure, identifying the separate seats. Because on the raised levels there are no benches.

Oak again, much like everything else in the room, but contemporary this time, as a laminated solid panel. The decoration is in the fabrication of the panel itself and is not added later on. An asymmetrical upholstery, which crawls up the armrest at only one side. A new flooring in the whole room, expanding even over the tribunes. Wrapped around: a perforated steel panel. The holes get bigger where they are needed the most for acoustics or ventilation. Now and then the holes disappear to indicate a specific seating spot. One for each tribune, for the one that gets to speak and will lead the ceremony.

Old Courthouse, Antwerp

In progress

overview hall  

detail of tribune  

symmetrical alignment  

lines of sight and groups  

circulationpaths