Hidden away deep beneath the bustling city of Antwerp is a shadowy, quiet, and forgotten world. Unused for over thirty years, a vast web of interconnected and abandoned metro stations has ceased to exist in its capacity as a means for public transportation, transforming instead into a desolate extension of Antwerp’s underground infrastructure of sewage canals and access tunnels that’s as haunting as it is beautiful.
In the interest of exploring what he describes as “the role of narrative in architecture,” architect Jon Martin has proposed a project that would bring the forgotten tunnels of Antwerp’s 1970’s metro project back to life.
His project takes the form of a “Museum of Self-Archaeology,” where museum visitors would be guided on a tour of individual and collective self-reflection — allowing them to re-live their pasts by exposing the history of their city’s underground organization, structure, and design.
Martin takes us on a tour of the subterranean project he’s envisioned:
At the bottom of the chasm, a sharp contrast to the walls around him revealed what appeared to be the hind side of some large container. He followed a small slant in the ground that took him under the mysterious box. A faint light glowing in the distance made it just bright enough to see as he walked through the narrow dark tunnel. As he walked, a trembling in the walls sent unnerving chills down his spine, and he quickly made his way to the opening at the other side. Another slant led him up into a tall room flanked with enormous walls and an extensive hallway. A muddle of structure and strange forms seemed to flow the length of the room with little conformity or order. Walking along the great hall felt like stepping back in time or into a forgotten world. The walls were dirty and old, like the relics of an ancient city. Only occasionally did I spot something strikingly out of place. First it was a sculpture, like the giant hand at the bottom of the stairs. I began to realize I was perhaps in some archaeological site. Were these things that have been uncovered and left in their place?
I spent a little time when crossing these oddities, then kept moving, curious of what else might be found in this seemingly endless tunnel. The skeletal-like forms overhead began to descend to the ground and run into each other. Where they made a sharp twist to the left, the ground dropped to an even greater cavern of a room.
Martin promises in his portfolio that his plans for the project are to be continued. It’ll be interesting to see where he goes from here.