Friendly Tower Houthulst, Belgium, 2019
City of Houthulst
Knokkebrug, Houthulst, Belgium
2019 – ongoing
Competition, first prize
Robbrecht en Daem architecten
Jonas Van Belle
The open landscape of the IJzerbroeken, which surrounds the site of the Knokkebrug, inspires passers-by to dream of a higher outlook from which to view the area. The realisation of a watchtower on this spot is an excellent opportunity to expose the strength of the site. The Friendly Tower is a strong, autonomous, pentagonal figure that provides insight from a height into the historical, geometric figures of the environment, to which the watchtower relates. The tower itself refers to the pentagonal lookout posts that typified the old defensive mechanisms of fortifications. In this way, the history of the site is given an extra translation in the design.
The 'friendliness' of the tower does not only express itself in the welcoming of the visitors - with five different porticoes that emphasise the accessibility for each visitor - but also in its appearance. Rather than a stone monolith, the tower shows itself to be gentle and nomadic, representing a kind of primitive hut. The wooden wickerwork creates an ephemeral skin that contrasts with the allure of the permanent city walls, and at the same time it is an ode to the weaving and craftsmanship of architectural production.