In the run-up to the 1930 Antwerp World Exhibition, the first European skyscraper was built in the center of Antwerp. The tower, constructed at a site which was cleared by bombardments during the first world war, was to be a monumental building, but one of the requirements given by the city council was that the building should not compete with the city's cathedral. A special council consisting of prominent architects had to give the approval before the tower could be built. Today, the requirement for not obstructing the view on the cathedral still exists in Antwerp.
At the time construction was completed, the originally 87.5 meters high tower was the highest in Europe.
The skyscraper was built after contemporary high-rise constructions in New York and Chicago. It was also one of the first buildings in Europe which made use of a load-carrying structural frame, also originating from Chicago. The tower has an Art Deco-style facade and contained several marvelous rooms with Art Deco decorations. Plans in the late sixties to destroy the tower were set aside and the building was restored between 1970 and 1976. After the restoration the tower reached a height of 97 meters.
Originally the tower was built as a multifunctional building and consisted of offices as well as apartments. With the restoration, all the apartments were removed and the tower is now only used as an office building. Also gone since the restoration in the 70s are the café on the roof terrace of the 10 stories high wings, a tearoom and a Beer hall. In 1981, the KBC tower became a protected monument.
The tower is nicknamed Boerentoren or 'Farmer's tower' as the bank's most important shareholder at the time was a farmers cooperation. The official name of the tower is now the KBC tower as the current main tenant is the KBC, the largest bank of Flanders.
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