New exhibition in Ghent explores city skylines

New exhibition in Ghent explores city skylines
The Antwerp Skyline. Credit: Canva

Just as we might recognise someone by their profile, we can identify cities by their skyline. In the past, it was mainly church spires and minarets that reigned on high but now high-rise offices and residential towers define skylines.

A new exhibition in Ghent's STAM Museum examines what lies behind the stone, steel and glass edifices and looks into the upwards tendency that many cities are taking. It features representations of skyscrapers around the world such as the Burj Khalifa in Dubai (the world's tallest building) and smaller but long-established icons such as the Book Tower and the Belfry in Ghent. The hotly debated Boerentoren in Antwerp is also featured.

"We have chosen a lot of tall buildings for the exhibition," Wout De Vuyst of STAM told VRT. "They say a lot about the time they were built and the religions or business interests that shaped them."

"A city is often identifiable by the skyline," continued De Vuyst. "Even if you've never been there, you often know the city when you see the skyline. New York is a good example but you can also easily recognize Ghent by its three towers." In Antwerp, the cathedral and Boerentoren are stand-out features.

Shifting cityscapes

Skylines say a lot about the cities themselves. Tall buildings are not only functional but architects also want to make a statement. The exhibition gives a history of many European high-rise buildings, with particular attention paid to those of Ghent and Rotterdam, where visitors can compare historic skylines to the present day.

"It's interesting to compare the skylines of Ghent and Rotterdam," said De Vuyst. "Ghent is a medieval Manhattan and Rotterdam is like the Manhattan on the Maas. Both chart the evolution of the two cities."

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"We show some striking models," said De Vuyst. "There are models of important buildings in the 19th and 20th centuries made from silver that were presented as gifts to members of royal families. The exhibition shows a silver model of the belfry and the cloth hall of Ypres and one of the belfry in Bergen. They were given as gifts to the British royal family and have hardly been seen in our country."

The show will display some original designs of the Ghent belfry which date from the 14th century and are rarely shown because they are so fragile."

The exhibition 'Skyline. High-rise buildings in the Low Countries' runs from Friday 25/11/22 to 21/05/23 in the STAM museum in Ghent.

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