Historically the site was a part of an enclosed urban block. Following periods of dilapidation, the site was vacant for decades and existed as a blank canvas in the historical heart of Antwerp in a neighbourhood embraced as a place to meet and socialize. An urban square is an element which perfectly characterizes its surroundings and determines its aesthetical quality and expression.
By using a singular volume adjusted to its surroundings, choosing a classical window typology and rhythm, and a grey palette of materials create a building that seamlessly fits into its surroundings. A slight difference in scale, the natural stone facade and its unmistakably contemporary expression are subtle elements that set the building apart from its environment. The urban square is given a new facade and the architectural language defines the semi-public character of the new youth hostel.
The new square is created from a dialogue between the city of Antwerp and the residents of the neighbourhood together with the architect which has resulted in a design that embraces a strong yet restrained expression.
The Rhythm of the facade is consistent in repeats of vertical proportions so often seen on traditional buildings in inner city of Antwerp. This rhythm is only interrupted by some large windows where the building enters a direct dialogue with the environment. On the ground level these openings offer entrances to the building while establishing and opening connections between the square and the cafe. On the upper floors lounges are situated in front of these large windows and after sun down video installations by the artist Michel Francois are projected onto the large openings. The large glass panes to these areas are flush with the facade cladding which underlines the contemporary character of the building. Windows to the bedrooms are recessed deep into the facade, adding to the solid expression of the architecture, while reducing the amount of direct sunlight and heat that enters the building and providing privacy for guests. A light and open atmosphere is created in the interior spaces.
The programmatic organisation of the building is clear and logical. A central entrance gives way to the public spaces on the ground floor and the basement as well as offering direct access to the bedrooms on the upper floors. The separation between public and private is further expressed through a consistent use of colour and materiality. The public functions are dressed in black, colour is added by the guests and the environment. The building acts as a subtle backdrop and colour is added through its users and surroundings. The bedrooms on the upper floors have a very sedate grey and white palette with accessories and hardware in black.
Through the use of large voids and a courtyard garden the basement is not at all experienced as a subterranean space. The courtyard is bathed sunlight in the morning and into the voids in the afternoon.
Vincent Van Duysen Architects were the selected firm in an Architectural competition called ‘Open Oproep’ by Vlaams Bouwmeester Bob Van Reeth.
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