The choice of construction materials in historic urban warehouses in Antwerp and Brussels.

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Auteur Inge BERTELS
Jaar van uitgave 2017
Materials used in the construction of urban warehouses in the 19th and 20th centuries consisted of timber, iron, steel and reinforced concrete. However, these building materials were introduced at different times, and their adoption for warehouse construction did not happen at the same time and to the same extent in every city. The choice of construction materials depended not only on availability, but also on other factors. Little is known about the reasons for the prevalence of one construction material or another, in different cities and at different times. In this paper, the selection criteria for construction materials are analysed for warehouses in Antwerp and Brussels, two important historic harbour cities in Belgium. Research revealed that the nature of goods to be stored was an important criterion in Brussels, where the storing of hay, timber and beer required the use of specific construction materials. Did storage requirements of other goods also determine which materials were used in warehouses in Antwerp and Brussels? What role did the economy and the location of the harbour play in the availability and choice of the construction materials? What was the influence of new construction techniques and the impact of building and fire safety regulations? Based on archival research (building and environmental permits), a literature study and on-site investigations, this paper aims to elucidate the reasons behind the choice of construction materials for warehouses in both harbour cities. A better understanding of these motives will reveal new details about the history of Brussels and Antwerp’s warehouses, and will help their preservation and respectful adaptive reuse.