Den Bell is a historic building on Antwerp South, on Francis Wellesplein. The building serves as the administrative building of the city of Antwerp (OCMW and various autonomous city companies), but is not intended for direct services to residents or companies. The International Bell Telephone Company was convinced by the Belgian government to establish itself in Belgium and a production unit under the Bell Telephone Manufacturing Company banner was opened in Antwerp in 1882 as the first foreign branch and headquarters of the communications company International Bell Telephone Company. Hugo Van Kuyck built Den Bell with the characteristic 13-storey tower in 1953. In the early 1970s it employed about 15,000 people. When Alcatel left the building in 2006, the Antwerp city council chose the complex as the nerve center for the city administration.
The National Bell Telephone Company was founded in Scotland by Graham Bell in 1877. In 1880, the American Bell Telephone Company split from the company. The International Bell Telephone Company started its first foreign branch in Antwerp in 1882 under the name Bell Telephone Manufacturing Company.
The new company had its administrative seat in Dambruggestraat managing director Francis Welles. That same year, the first private buildings with offices, warehouse and workshop were erected on the north side of Boudewijnsstraat, designed by J.L. Hasse. He used a brick architecture with eclectic, neo-Renaissance or neo-traditional style elements.
In 1887, a site was purchased on the south side of Boudewijnsstraat for the further expansion of the complex. Hasse remained the firm’s permanent architect and expanded the successful factory on both sides of Boudewijnsstraat. In 1896-1897, a new factory was built on the south side of Boudewijnsstraat, at the current location of the buildings, with associated workshops and a smithy. This is the oldest surviving part of the factory, in the southeast corner of the block. The extensions, changes and innovations followed in rapid succession. In 1909 the first bridge over the Boudewijnsstraat was built between the various building blocks.
The showpiece of the company is the striking 58-meter-high tower overlooking Bresstraat, built around 1953. The building housed offices and an administrative center of the company and is an important achievement of architect Hugo Van Kuyck. He also realized the office building on Sint-Laureisstraat, which was added to the tower, in line with the style and construction height of the existing buildings.
Den Bell spiral staircase