The Felix Pakhuis is a large warehouse built in the late nineteenth century. After the city’s port activity moved farther north, the building stood empty for decades until 2006, when Antwerp’s municipal archives moved here.
In the nineteenth century a new dock, the Willemdok, was created at the Eilandje, a neighborhood in the port area of Antwerp. During its heyday in the nineteenth century, large warehouses were built along the south side of the dock, along the Godefriduskaai.
St. Felix Pakhuis
The most impressive of these was the St. Felix Pakhuis (St. Felix Warehouse), built in 1858 after a design by architect Felix Pauwels. In 1861, just three year after it opened, the warehouse burned down. It was immediately reconstructed, reusing material that was recovered from the rubble, but now with six floors instead of the original seven and with the addition of a wide central arcade. This arcade, 77 meters long and more than 6 meters wide (253ft x 21ft), divides the building in two and is covered with a glass roof. It served as a fire escape route and as a central loading area.
The warehouse was used to store a wide array of goods, from coffee, grain and cheese to wine and tobacco. After the port activity moved north to new and larger docks, the warehouse stood empty, and the city acquired the industrial building, which was later, in 1976, classified as a protected monument.
This didn’t mean the city knew what it was going to do with the enormous building. Plans to open a museum or move the architecture school from their cramped location to this spacious building never came to fruition, and by the 1990s, when almost all the neighboring warehouses were being converted into expensive lofts, the Felix Pakhuis still stood derelict and abandoned.
In 1997 a plan was launched by the city council to move the municipal archives to the Felix Pakhuis. Its old location in the historic center of Antwerp had become too small, and the warehouse provided ample space for the city’s historic archives. It would take almost ten years before the project was realized, but finally, in 2006 the archives – dubbed FelixArchief – opened in the renovated Felix Pakhuis. Its central arcade is now open to the public, creating a shortcut between the Godefriduskaai and Oudeleeuwenrui.