In the past, the Queen Elisabeth Hall was intensively used for classical and modern concerts, youth performances, theatre and congresses. Major stars such as Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Jacques Brel, Herman van Veen, Brian Wilson, Bryan Ferry, Nick Cave, Helmut Lotti, Rob de Nijs, René Froger and Hooverphonic have performed here. Studio 100 and the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra (deFilharmonie at the time) were also frequent visitors.
The origin of the hall lies with the Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp. The KMDA (Koninklijke Maatschappij voor Dierkunde Antwerpen) is an association focused on zoology and the conservation of nature. In 1895, the management of the KMDA came up with the idea of organising zoo concerts in the Antwerp ZOO. This was the start of the current Queen Elisabeth Hall.
The very first concert hall of the ZOO was part of the ‘Feestzalencomplex’ (Party hall complex) and was built by Emiel Thielens (25th July 1897). The well-to-do bourgeoisie held dance evenings here and enjoyed symphony orchestras. The complex was badly damaged in WWII and burned down in 1947. Rie Haan's second concert hall was built in 1959 with elements from Expo '58. The old ballroom was converted into a modern concert hall and opened by Queen Elisabeth in 1960.
In 2011, we decided to completely rebuild the Queen Elisabeth Hall and to not just renovate it. The architectural firm Ian Simpson from Manchester designed the complex and unique concept and entered into a thoroughgoing collaboration with Kirkegaard Associates from Chicago and Bureau Bouwtechniek.
We have created a fantastic meeting place, a concert hall in the heart of the city, embedded in the exotic ZOO and close to the Central Station. It was a pleasure and a privilege to design this special project." - Ian Simpson, Architect.
The new concert and congress hall is now part of a fully-fledged congress centre, the Elisabeth Center Antwerp, and can be combined with the existing halls of the ZOO and with the ZOO itself. The beautiful facade was preserved naturally and the historically valuable parts of the interior were made visible again and they were integrated into the design, combining the current excellence with the glory of yesteryear.
In November 2016, the Queen Elisabeth Hall reopened its doors. And how! In the presence of Queen Mathilde and many other special guests, the band Hooverphonic and the residence orchestra, the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra, opened the hall in a musical way. The new conference centre is also fully operational and known as the FMCCA, Flanders Meeting & Convention Center Antwerp.