The world’s best architects and designers find inspiration in the most unlikely places. In the right hands, construction cranes, shipping containers, and even abandoned bridge houses can all find new leases on life. Amid a growing trend of repurposing religious sites and houses of worship for modern living, Belgian architects have resurrected a one-time monastery and military hospital as a stunning designer hotel complex.
Newly opened in the heart of Antwerp’s Het Groen Kwartier (Green Quarter), August is a deft blend of neoclassical architecture and modern residential living. The five-building complex includes a restaurant, bar, wellness center, and retail shop, all anchored by a beautiful designer hotel. The project is a prime example of how one of Belgium’s oldest cities is repurposing historical buildings — in this case, a former Augustinian monastery — for modern living.
In its former life, the entire site served as Antwerp’s military hospital. The convent, in particular, was a quiet, austere place of repose for the resident nuns who tended to the sick and wounded to retire. For this, his first hotel project, famed Belgian architect Vincent Van Duysen drew on the site’s history as inspiration for the reborn space. Much of the original structure remains, including cathedral-ceilinged rooms, marble accents, and even the original tile flooring. To seamlessly blend old and new, Duysen furnished each space with contemporary, clean-lined furniture, hand-made lighting fixtures, and a monochromatic, black-and-white palette.
The sleek, modern design continues throughout each of the 44 rooms and suites. All are minimally adorned with only the most necessary furnishings, yet boast a surprisingly warm, inviting feel. Many feature luxurious accents like hand-glazed Italian tile, handwoven carpets, and custom Flos lighting, plus authentic architectural elements like centuries-old wood beams and angled skylights. All offer upscale, modern amenities, including free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, Bluetooth speakers, and generous soaking tubs.
Beyond the accommodations, August’s onsite restaurant is a modern brasserie concept realized by Nick Bril, a well-known local chef who helms the nearby, Michelin-star The Jane. The hotel’s sole bar boasts an understated, sophisticated lounge atmosphere inside the monastery’s original chapel. Guests can also relax at the full-service spa with a private reading library and its own outdoor swimming pond.
At its core, Van Duysen notes, August is a sanctuary: “A place where you feel calm and at home without neglecting the fact that you are in a place that was sacred. We have fully considered the past as being a beautiful gift to keep and reinterpret what we have in a modern way. August strokes all the senses with the richness of its textures and objects that are in delicate harmony with its sacred soul.”
Decommissioned churches, cathedrals, and similar buildings have long provided architectural inspiration for newly repurposed buildings. Belgium is no stranger to resurrecting former churches for modern purposes, like this minimalist office space built on the grounds of a renovated church. As Europe is home to perhaps more old, beautiful churches than almost anywhere in the world, it’s no wonder that some are being converted into upscale bars and restaurants.
Room rates for August start around $180 (165 euros) per night — a bargain considering its central location amid the world’s best chocolate, waffles, and Trappist beer.
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