In Antwerp’s old military neighbourhood, a serene design sanctuary has emerged in a former Augustinian convent brought to life by the minimal yet tactile aesthetic vision of Vincent Van Duysen.
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About one year ago, I received an email from Antwerp with the words ‘new hotel, restaurant and shop, designed by Vincent Van Duysen'. I receive quite a few of this type of press releases every week, informing me of new openings, events and product launches, but while most of them go directly to the trash folder, this one immediately got my attention. Star architect Van Duysen and a new project in Antwerp, a favourite city of mine since I first visited some years back — this sounded too good to pass up.
Fast forward to the spring of 2019, and I was on my way to experience August Antwerp and tell the story of this new hotel to be published in interior magazine RUM. And not just any story; August is Van Duysen’s first and so far only hotel project, despite him having been courted by several hotel entrepreneurs throughout the years trying to get him onboard as a designer. However, it took a project of this calibre to accept—which turned out to be a five-year-long process of turning an abandoned covent in his Belgian hometown into a luxurious yet understated space for living, dining, and well-being in Antwerp’s old military area Het Groen Kwartier, or ‘Green Quarter’—an up and coming green space with beautiful red brick buildings.
Expectations have been sky high, as the world of interior and design have kept a close eye on the rebuild of the old convent into August. Not ‘hotel August’, but merely ‘August’. To symbolize the Augustinian heritage, and to emphasize the many purposes of August—hotel, restaurant, bar, wellness area, gardens, shop, and a place that welcomes locals dropping in for a quick coffee as much as travellers spending the night here. The heart of August is the first room guests enter after checking in; the awe-inspiring bar and restaurant located in the former private chapel of the nuns. The dome-shaped roof, original floor tiles, and the impressive horseshoe-shaped marble bar embodies the massive amount of work put into August. The mosaic tiles were removed from the original cloister, then numbered, stored for several years during the renovations and put back into the floors of the new August. The marble is original with new parts added to fill out the missing pieces. The dignified ambience surrounding August does not come across as excluding; rather it is respectful to the history of the building, area and vision of the architect.
I found August to be much like the Antwerpians. Beautiful. Extremely well-dressed. And slightly reserved; at a first glance at least. Because as soon as you get them talking, and as soon as you figure your war around the many corridors and hallways embodying the various buildings of the old cloister, August makes you feel more than welcome. Rooms are inviting and peaceful, the restaurant run by famous chef Nick Bril of neighboring two star Michelin restaurant The Jane serves a no fuss a la carte menu of seasonal ingredients designed to be accessible for everyone. Needless to say, my mornings in the beautiful restaurant after having frequented to buffet offering everything one could possibly wish for, and then some, without compromising on quality were a delight. My entire stay was, and I cannot recommend visiting August and Antwerp enough.
“The dignified ambience surrounding August does not come across as excluding; rather it is respectful to the history of the building, area and vision of the architect”