Text description provided by the architects. The Landcommandery Alden Biesen presents itself as a ‘historic and cultural centre’ with a ‘seminar and conference centre’, a (cultural) tourist attraction and a meeting point for international networking. This translates into a location with an easily accessible, varied and complex (building) programme and a permanent and sometimes paradoxical interaction between the past and the present.
Commissioned by the Flemish Community, a2o was selected after an appeal to draw up a master plan for the development of the Alden Biesen location. This master plan includes “drafting a vision for an overall approach to which both present and future interventions in Alden Biesen can be related, in order to be able to add a meaningful layer to this historic site”. (Quoted from the brief.) Our objective was to add coherence and interpretability within a multifunctional and accessible Alden Biesen. The plan was based on a number of general principles of unlocking the heritage, translating these into concrete terms for this monument, this historic site and this exceptional landscape.
The plan assumes that a heritage visit is first and foremost an experience. Visitors must be given the opportunity of visual and tactile – in short, sensory – contact with the monument. The experience of the sense of place, the character of the location, the aura of the poetry of the monument take a central position. One of the many interventions is explained here: a new storage house. The wooden wing is the logistic room and a translation of the master plan. This room is linked to the existing configuration of historic buildings. The new volume constitutes a logistic extension to the group of buildings, but distinguishes itself by its abstraction and materials. The building is restricted in materials and details by merely providing a shape that creates space. This is a storage space for the machinery and tools used for the maintenance of the public estate.
The steel frame, which includes minimal facilities to make the construction weather-tight, forms the basis of the volume. The wooden elements complete the shape. The simplicity of its shape is extended to its usage. Large folding doors make entry and exit of machinery easy. The facade apertures are covered by wooden cladding that acts as a filter. The newly added shape speaks the same language as the existing buildings, but distinguishes its role by the materials used. The building takes a modest attitude against the historic setting and the landscape. It is flexible in its use and can be disassembled.