For leading Belgian architect Vincent Van Duysen to take on a hotel project, the opportunity had to be pretty darn special. Enter August, the second hospitality venture from Mouche Van Hool. The hotelier tasked the architect with transforming a clutch of heritage-listed buildings on the site of a 19th century military hospital into a minimalist-chic getaway. Opened in April 2019, August houses 44 rooms and suites, plus a smart little gift shop, inviting wellness center, and classy brasserie and bar in what used to be the convent. From the custom Flos lighting to the Christian Wijnants–designed staff uniforms, Van Duysen’s fingerprints are everywhere, although his reverence for the original space remains palpable.
Antwerp is Belgium’s second largest city and easily its most creative. After making the museum rounds (the FotoMuseum and Museum of Contemporary Art are not to be missed), scout for curios and secondhand books at the centuries-old Friday Market, located in the cobblestone square next to the Plantin-Moretus printing museum. Or take a stroll in nearby Zurenborg and ogle the marvelous fin-de-siècle mansions lining Cogels-Osylei. It’s so picturesque, you’ll think you’re on a movie set.
Room to Book
The Experience Plus rooms, specifically Nos. 31 and 34, have centuries-old wooden beams under the roof, making them feel ultra cozy in winter. Each suite is 377 square feet, complete with a walk-in shower, a standalone bathtub and sumptuous Egyptian bedding. Although the color palette is neutral and the furnishings border on monastic, handwoven carpets add a touch of warmth.
The convent’s chapel once frequented by nuns is now August’s airy bar and lounge. A soaring ceiling and stained-glass rose window give the light-flooded space a heavenly vibe, while tall mirrors make it appear even larger than it already is. Van Duysen’s sober interior dabbles in grays, taupes and smoky oaks, accented by a curved marble bar, buttery leather armchairs, linen pillows and tasteful porcelain tableware. Rainbow cocktails, like a negroni made with rhubarb vermouth, give the setting a pop of color.
Good to Know
Because Van Duysen wanted to channel the serenity of the original cloister, August was built with relaxation in mind. Its wellness spa boasts a sauna, a hammam, an outdoor shower, natural Bamford products, and a tightly edited menu of organic facials and deep-tissue massages. Plus a spacious reading library and a private walled garden invite guests to lose themselves in quiet contemplation.
Q+A with Vincent Van Duysen
How did the heritage of this property influence your design?
Contained within the original complex was a convent, which served as a home to the nuns who looked after soldiers; it was a place where they could withdraw from the demanding task of assisting the ill and wounded. The main goal of August was to respect the historical DNA of the site. We achieved this in close collaboration with Wouter Callebaut Architects, who was responsible for the careful restoration of its neoclassical splendor.
Why’d you opt for such a neutral color palette?
For me, it’s about stripping everything to its bones then layering materials and colors in the right proportion to make the space feel at its most essential. Original elements have been reintegrated or reproduced: the gray-green paneling, the white moldings, the hand-painted tiles. Contemporary components have also been introduced, like the black steel structure contrasting the red brick façade. In the end, everything blends and seems to have been there forever.