In order to arrive at a thoughtful strategy that proves itself to be sustainable and intelligent in the long term, a master plan vision for the entire building block was first developed. The proposition of a new wing offers the opportunity to better organise the entire site, to relieve pressure from the interior block and to complement old and new in a targeted way. The ambition was therefore to increase the quality of the 'building as a whole' and to provide for future possibilities.
In order to significantly increase the quality and the capacity of the adjacent spaces (both old and new), the densely built-up inner area will be freed up step by step, through careful removal of poorly lit rooms deep in the block. Through carving into the building, a spacious inner garden is revealed, bringing light and visibility back into the surrounding workspaces. A new wing with the City Hall and City Archives will be built, with views into this new garden. The opening up of the inner area brings both the presence of light and provides new views and internal vistas of the existing Neo-Gothic section of the building. The reception room, currently hidden in the inner area, will be given a prominent place on the front of the new wing, looking out over the Grote Markt (‘Great Market Square’).
One enters the new City Hall from the Grote Markt square, experiencing a large double height space with a mysterious volume suspended above the ground. Revealed to be a depot containing the City Archives, members of the public walk beneath it, between delicate pilotis on an unobstructed ground floor. The presence of the depot is brought forth through its materiality and volumetry, creating an effect of compression and relief, light filtering into the space through voids between the existing façade and the new interventions within.
The open space of the City Hall extends into the reading rooms and reception areas of the City Archives, extending to the inner garden, along the façade of Park Avenue. Large glazed window openings have been cut into this façade, which offer a view into the heart of the building, the inner garden.
City of Sint-Niklaas
Robbrecht en Daem architecten, murmuur architecten, Callebaut Architecten
archives and town hall
Paul Robbrecht, Hilde Daem, Johannes Robbrecht, Tom De Moor