Michiels House, Essene, Belgium

A complex but recognisable setting is composed of a church, a vicarage, a glebe, a brick silo, a brewery, and above all a set of large trees. In short, an idyllic and typical Flemish landscape that somehow predates the Second World War neither touched nor spoiled. In all its aristocratic allure, the 18th-century vicarage exudes a forgotten past that poses a real challenge to all things new. The humble garden walls form a dominant role in the design of the addition to the vicarage, now a private home. The current owners obtained the next plot of land with the purpose of building a modern kitchen (ground floor) combined with a leisure space (first floor). The original garden wall of the glebe had to be kept and the addition had to play a double act: to create a self-supporting element while at the same time connecting itself to the white manor and bridging the glebe wall. A juxtaposition that can withstand scrutiny from the contemporary angle had to be able to catapult the entire ‘locus’ into a new era while respecting all the previous interventions. 
A pavilion based on a straightforward grid has been placed alongside the short elevation of the vicarage. Slightly skewed to accommodate the dominant garden walls, it gently steps forward into the sequestered garden. A cut has to be made in the glebe wall and is left as an obvious wound, while the geometry of the pavilion assures continuity. The side elevation has a proportion that nears 5 to 8, but its height remains below the main parapet of the manor, just below the floor of the attic. Although constructed in wood laminate, its entire structure is covered with lead. All the uprights alternate with full-height glass panes. Sheets of glass are contained within frames of lead, establishing a clear analogy with the traditional windows of the church at the back of the garden.
From the church’s point of view, a subtle game is played between the white-washed vicarage and the lead-covered structure. Visually the bright white building steps forward, while the dull-finished pavilion seems to be receding, a cunning illusion as in reality the pavilion protrudes from the vicarage with a different orientation. Despite its darker appearance a feeling of weightlessness next to its older counterpart gives its presence without pretence or self-denial. 
Text by Rik Nys - Original Publication: Rik Nys, “Paviljoen bij woning Galle”, in Jaarboek Architectuur Vlaanderen, 2000–2001 (Antwerp, 2002), pp. 182–6. 
Client
FICO Flanders Investment Company (Mr. and Mrs. Galle-Michiels)
Architects
Robbrecht en Daem architecten
Program
Extension to a presbytery house with a garden pavilion
Location
Essene, Belgium
Date
1999–2003
Status
Completed
Floor Surface
225 m2
Team
Paul Robbrecht, Hilde Daem, Els Claessens
Structural Engineering
BAS (Dirk Jaspaert)
Landscape
Erik Dhont