The neo-Baroque railway terminal was built at the turn of the 20th century during the reign of Leopold II of Belgium, a monarch not given to understatement. The magnificent exterior and splendid, vaulted ticket-office hall and staircases call out for hissing steam engines, peremptory conductors, scurrying porters, and languid ladies wrapped in boas. Today most departures and arrivals are humble commuter trains, but the station still inspires. W. G. Sebald's acclaimed 2001
novel Austerlitz, for instance, opens in the main hall. Its narrator recalls, "When I entered the great hall of the Centraal Station with its dome arching nearly sixty meters high above it, my first thought, perhaps triggered by my visit to the zoo... was that this magnificent although then severely dilapidated foyer ought to have cages for lions and leopards let into its marble niches... just as some zoos, conversely, have little railway trains in which you can, so to speak, travel to the farthest corners of the earth." Two underground levels added in recent years accommodate high-speed trains. This has turned the track areas into an impressively vast open space.
Koningin Astridplein 27, Antwerp, 2018, Belgium