Fotografía: Philippe van Gelooven, Andri Haflidason, Bieke Claessens
The old farm house comprises five buildings and is located on a unique site in close proximity to the Gaasbeek Castle. What strategy needs to be developed to revive a dilapidated building without reconstructing it in a nostalgic manner? The decisive question is how such a homestead can be adapted to modern housing requirements without destroying its agricultural character.
The residential building with an entrance addressing the road was converted after 1945 and finished with a roof type untypical for rural buildings in this region. Therefore the decision was taken to cut off the entrance door diagonally and relocate it. The existing openings were closed, whereas a wide window in the lateral facade offers a generous view across the garden. In order to create a new visual unity, the brick gable was finished with a grey cement layer. The ground floor of the residential building with the adjoining cow stables was converted into a veterinary practice and a garage. The upper floor accommodates a guestroom at the front and the children’s bedrooms at the back. The windows were recessed in the roof’s depth to conserve the rural character.
The largest volume, the haystack, became the central room of the new apartment. The openings of both large gates were maintained and completely glazed. On the outside oak wood gates and windows were mounted. A large concrete table, around which everyday life takes place, was positioned between the large windows. The interesting solution of positioning the tabletop quite high generates a spatial experience that is completely different as compared to a classic table, in particular as the room above the table reaches up to the ridge.
The semi-subterranean “vaulted chamber” of the barn was maintained as a storeroom, whilst the upper side made from brick serves as sitting area. The area above accommodates the parents’ bedrooms, with ‘interior windows’ on the high and open space. The adjoining pigsty was converted into a playroom for the children. The fifth brick-built volume is a storeroom with a small bread baking oven.
Whereas the reorganisation of the working and living functions was already specified, it was, however, a much more complex task to connect the various volumes. And here lies the particularly notable quality of this project: solving various functional aspects with a single intervention. Bart Lens designed a funnel-shaped annex sheltering the entrance to the veterinary practice and the private area. The funnel shape is further emphasises by the angular walkway mad of paving bricks, particularly because the respect for the given height differences of the terrain was one of the project’s starting points. Bart Lens opted for red paving bricks by Wienerberger, which were in this case glued.
The floorings, walls and the roof as well as the new terraces were made of the same paving brick, thus creating a unity within the new volume and establishing a new link between the existing volumes. Simultaneously, a closed off courtyard is formed, which is sheltered from the prevailing western winds and prevents views from the road.
In other projects, Bart Lens has already demonstrated how a new build can conceptually be brought into accordance with existing structures and buildings. It is not about reconstruction, not about confrontation between the existing and the new. It is the third way, the integration of the new into an historic context. The meticulous detailing and expert execution place the project on a high architectural level. Brick is not solely used as a building material, but also as a concept reinforcing the existing structure – brick as “linking” element between the past and the present.
Imágenes Philippe van Gelooven
Imágen Bieke Claessens