Antwerp – Opened in 1521, the Cathedral of Our Lady is the tallest Gothic building in the Benelux. Inside the massive treasure chest one can find paintings by Rubens, the bronze tomb of Isabella of Bourbon, an 1889 Schyven organ and now, thanks to a project by local architecture studio Interieur Van Staeyen, also a beer bar.
Yes: some of the best drinks in Antwerp, just like most things in the eccentric Flemish city, might just be where one would least expect them.
Since it was turned into a greeting and reception spot, the former Chapel of Saint John located inside the cathedral has welcomed churchgoers and tourists alike. The newly opened central bar, designed by Johan van Staeyen, was fittingly named De Plek: a place where the diocese could display its renewed welcome policy, having finally opened all of its spaces to the public after Our Lady underwent a 50-year restoration programme.
Prior to its current iteration, the chapel was an unseemly dot surrounded by Gothic beauty: once the venue of the Sunday school, it was being used solely as a storage space before van Staeyen’s intervention. Honouring its surroundings, De Plek absorbed the architectural details around it, deconstructed them and reflected them back: the bar rises from the floor, as does the cathedral’s spire; the serving apertures are shaped after the cathedral’s 34 stained-glass windows – where the blue shade that fills De Plek, as well as the curved triangles and pentagon motifs, also come from. The cross ribs, the buttresses and arches are all translated in the carpentry structure – built out of Douglas Fir, a version of the Oregon Pine in which the original floor was made. ‘It gives the impression of being turned inside out: sculpted on the outside, lining on the inside,’ explained the architect.