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At the age of 21, in 1969, Axel Vervoordt made a bold decision. He purchased a cluster of buildings, just a stone’s throw away from The Cathedral of Our Lady. The 15th and 16th century structures, located along a medieval alleyway called the Vlaeykensgang were in need of renovation at the time – and Vervoordt duly applied himself to the project over several years.
He founded his company of sought-after antiques here, as well as making his home, until 1986, when he moved both to the Castle of ‘s Gravenwezel.
In 2017, almost fifty years after Vervoordt’s first grand foray into restoration, another project many years in the making opened its doors near Antwerp: Kanaal.
After having acquired, in 1999, a complex of red brick warehouses and the grain storage silos of a former malt distillery built in 1857, Vervoordt collaborated with Belgian architecture practices Bogdan & Van Broeck, Coussée & Goris and Stéphane Beel.
Over 55,000 square metres and 18 years, they’ve created a kind of city in the countryside, less than half an hour’s drive from Antwerp, where art, architecture and nature combine into an impressive personal project of beauty.
Here, the Axel Vervoordt offices share the plot with 98 apartments, a Poîlane bakery, a restaurant, an organic food market, a multi-use auditorium, and exhibition spaces and showrooms that present Axel Vervoordt’s personal collection as well as his gallery’s offering.
Permanent fixtures at Kanaal are sculpture by Anish Kapoor, installations by James Turrell and El Anatsui, pieces by Lucio Fontana and paintings by Kazuo Shiraga. The meditative spaces, all in an intimate environment that favors dark colours instead of the “white cube” approach, turn Kanaal into a unique experience into the Belgian art and antique dealer’s mind – a visit that will round out your Antwerp trip with a new and impressive destination.
In the bustling heartland hood of old-town Antwerp, boutique Hotel Julien is your handsome urban sanctuary of style and repose, with the cultural sights of city-centre living right on your cobbled doorstep and captured from the rooftop terrace. Hidden away behind high grey-glossed doors on a narrow Antwerp street steps away from the Cathedral of Our Lady, Hotel Julien keeps the urban clatter at bay.
Alternatively, opt for a spot of design at Hotel August - created within a former Augustinian cloister and chapel, was designed by one of Belgium's most acclaimed architects, interior designers, and product designers, Vincent Van Duysen.