Working in a historical context in Europe, where the architecture of the past is still very present, architects are often faced with the question of whether they should restore the physical or rehabilitate the conceptual.
This question came to the fore in response to the combined decision of the city of Antwerp and the heritage committee to rehabilitate the historical Boekenberg Park dating back to the 16th century.
Based on a historical analysis of the site and its long history of different owners, who each imposed their own architectural styles, the architects and landscape designers approached the new development within the conceptual framework of the 18th century English Garden, reminiscent of the park’s “golden” period.
The degenerated landscape was brought to its ideal form and the 20th century concrete pool transformed into a forest pond, merging gently into its surroundings, creating a narrated and romantic natural setting.
What was formerly a typical bright blue swimming pool was turned into a green mossy swimming lagoon, wrapped in a ribbon of reeds, that joins other ponds reaching deep into the park.
The three pavilions, housing dressing rooms etc., were designed as independent objects, evoking images of the dramatic rock formations seen in 18th century paintings of Hans Gude or Peter Balke. The gaps between them, like chasms between cliffs, and the slanted rooftops, covered by weeds and herbs, add to the perception that these structures were created by geological forces rather than by human efforts.
Besides the color of rusted steel being an earth tone, which helps keep the “natural” feeling of the park, the material was also dictated by the fact that the swimming facilities are closed nine months of the year.
To correspond to current health and safety regulations a new aquatic ecosystem was created using ecological water treatment technology.
|“We have tried to show that the rehabilitation of a historical site does not necessarily mean the restoration of a physical body of architecture. Rather, the architect’s focus can be placed on restoring the dissolved concept already embedded in the site’s history. This approach is not only less restrictive and allows for a more creative reinterpretation, but it is also a way to take action whilst maintaining respect for a site’s history.”|
In Flemish the word “OMGEVING” stands for “surroundings” stressing the importance of the space around us. It includes the immediate space surrounding oneself, one’s home, one’s neighbourhood, region, and even country.
The project was officially completed in 2007 with additional landscaping done in 2008. It took a few more years to allow new plants to grow and adapt to the new environment.