Named for the botanic garden the 16th century botanist Peeter van Coudenberghe planted to provide medicinal herbs for the hospital, Botanic Sanctuary is the result of Belgian property developer IRET’s multi-million-euro restoration of the 20,000sqm site between Gasthuisstraat and Leopoldstraat.
Led by the husband and wife heading IRET, Eric De Vocht and Maryse Odeurs, veteran developers who had long had their eye on the site, the project started in 2017 and first saw historian Anneleen Cassiman delve into local archives to research the lovely but dilapidated ancient buildings’ history. Architects and interior designers then set about working out how to preserve as much of the original structures as possible while installing up to the minute plumbing, heating and technology. The Wi-Fi is, of course, superfast. Herringbone-pattern red-brick walls were repointed, roof tiles replaced, and, inside, old wood shutters were made good, ceiling beams sanded and underfloor heating installed. The soaring-vaulted 15th century chapel at the centre of the complex has become a dramatic setting for weddings, concerts and events. The many-pillared former infirmary, once lined with beds for the ill, is now Amaryllis Hall, centrepiece of Botanic Sanctuary’s events offer.
Botanic Sanctuary is also home to Antwerp’s leading and largest congress centre. With 2,450sqm of banqueting and events spaces in a centuries-old location, the 14 multifunctional conference rooms combine historic ambience with a full spectrum of state-of-the-art technology.
Everyone involved with the project was thrilled when they discovered the old apothecary was in a good enough condition to need merely an intensive de-cobwebbing and then a little replastering and painting to become the Saint Charles Store, an updated niche-brand apothecary with shelves filled with pure essential oils, herbal blends, skin creams and room fragrances.