This 11,000 m2 (118,403 ft2) former factory now contains Oostkamp’s City Hall and Civic Center. The public space is enclosed by cloud-like glass fiber reinforced gypsum vaults. Circular skylights, coupled with embedded LED lights, make the interior space appear bright.
The glazed administration and meeting spaces project into the main space from a central hexagon, like a dendrite. This configuration maximizes visibility from public areas into the enclosed offices and meeting rooms.
Below is the architect’s description:“In 2008 the Flemish Government Architecture Agency (Vlaams Bouwmeester) announced an international competition for ideas to build OostCampus, with a slogan that paraphrases Magritte: "Ceci n'est pas ... een Administratief centrum”
The winning project, by the Madrid studio lead by Carlos Arroyo, opted for a radical re-use of the large industrial existing building, including foundations, floors, supporting structures, outer skin, insulation, waterproofing, and all recoverable services and equipment: power station, heating plant, water pipes, fire hoses, sewerage, and even parking area, fencing and access.
The reuse of the existing is a basic criterion of sustainability. The "gray energy" (energy used for the production of something) is often discarded or simply ignored. If we demolish an existing structure and build again, we will use more energy and resources than the most efficient of buildings can of save in its life span.
To transform the vast industrial hall - with minimal footprint but maximum spatial result - Arroyo designs a sheltered interior public space, wrapped in a “luminous landscape of white clouds". Thin shells of GRG (gypsum and fibre) span the large space like huge soap bubbles. They are only 7 mm thick. The GRG is cast on bubble-shaped moulds on site, just like plaster and bandage around a broken arm; instead of cotton bandage, it is glass fibre mesh.
Within this landscape, a set of modular clusters provides the administrative services and spaces, designed to facilitate the relationship between citizens and administration. Citizen participation in the process is one of the key issues. Also transparency: the chamber hall is in full sight in the middle of public space, the information is accessible, you can even you visualize the municipal website ... and physically enter it and talk to the person who is behind!
The materials are simple and inexpensive, but are selected and used in such a way that we want to go and touch them. Some elements are finished with a felt made from recycled bottles (PET); simple boards are CNC carved to become sophisticated 3D damascene; the floor is the existing industrial warehouse poli-concrete, with its lines of storage, on which the new signage is superimposed. The acoustics are carefully worked out, and so is the smell!
Thermal comfort is achieved with minimum effort, thanks to the technique of the "thermal onion" which optimizes climate areas according to levels of access, and making use of the thermal inertia of the concrete slab.”
Architect: Carlos Arroyo Arquitectos (Carlos Arroyo, Vanessa Cerezo)
Project development: Wolkenbouwer (Carlos Arroyo Arquitectos, Spain + ELD Partnership, Belgium)
Photography: Miguel de Guzman