Prinsenpark Visitor Center / Studio Jan Vermeulen + Tom Thys architecten

Prinsenpark Visitor Center / Studio Jan Vermeulen + Tom Thys architecten

Prinsenpark Visitor Center / Studio Jan Vermeulen + Tom Thys architecten - Interior Photography, Brick, FacadePrinsenpark Visitor Center / Studio Jan Vermeulen + Tom Thys architecten - Exterior Photography, FacadePrinsenpark Visitor Center / Studio Jan Vermeulen + Tom Thys architecten - Exterior PhotographyPrinsenpark Visitor Center / Studio Jan Vermeulen + Tom Thys architecten - Exterior Photography, Forest+ 28

  • Masterplan And Architecture : Studio Jan Vermeulen i.c.w. Tom Thys Architecten
  • Lot 1 Main Building : Thys Bouwprojecten
  • Lot 2 Iba (Water Filter System) : Bellaqua
  • Lot 3 Demolition Existing Building : Sven Adams Afbraakwerken
  • Client : Provincie Antwerpen
  • User : Provinciaal Domein Prinsenpark
  • EPB : EMS
  • City : Retie
  • Country : Belgium
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Prinsenpark Visitor Center / Studio Jan Vermeulen + Tom Thys architecten - Exterior Photography
© Jeroen Verrecht

Royal, sustainable, and wild. Studio Jan Vermeulen in collaboration with Tom Thys architects developed a master plan for the main entrance landscape infrastructure and designed a new visitor center that replaces the outdated existing buildings of Prinsenpark. Prinsenpark is a landscape park in the Kempen Nord of Antwerp.

Prinsenpark Visitor Center / Studio Jan Vermeulen + Tom Thys architecten - Exterior Photography, Forest, Garden
© Jeroen Verrecht
Prinsenpark Visitor Center / Studio Jan Vermeulen + Tom Thys architecten - Image 21 of 28
Site Plan
Prinsenpark Visitor Center / Studio Jan Vermeulen + Tom Thys architecten - Exterior Photography, Forest
© Jeroen Verrecht

Originally set up in 1880 as the grounds for a royal estate that was never built, the park has developed into a unique reserve with a clear focus on providing access to nature and education. In 2021 the park has won an international Green Flag Award for its ‘sustainable vision, fine facilities, and its broad range of educational activities. Prinsenpark’s unique identity has been developed over 140 years and is defined by the strong combination of the original royal formal park structure and its wild flora.

Prinsenpark Visitor Center / Studio Jan Vermeulen + Tom Thys architecten - Exterior Photography, Facade
© Jeroen Verrecht
Prinsenpark Visitor Center / Studio Jan Vermeulen + Tom Thys architecten - Exterior Photography, Facade, Column
© Jeroen Verrecht

The park nestles itself as a precise and defined figure in the landscape. An oval pathway circumnavigates the central forest with its formal structure of meandering paths and trails that provide access to the park. Extension to these woods sometimes merges with the surrounding landscape, sometimes they provide contrast. This creates an intriguing bocage landscape around the oval forest in which open and closed vistas alternate.

Prinsenpark Visitor Center / Studio Jan Vermeulen + Tom Thys architecten - Image 22 of 28
Plan - Ground Floor

A picturesque ensemble. The new center brings together the parks’ administrative offices, its forestry depot and workshops, and visitor facilities in an ensemble of two buildings with pitched roofs. In between the Kastelse Dike that cuts the landscape in a long straight line, and the edge of the oval woods, two volumes define an enclosed space that serves as a yard for the foresters. Large pitched roofs overhang to create an entrance, a covered outdoor space, or a protected work area. Reminiscent of the 18th-century experimental farmsteads that were developed in this area to cultivate this former peatland, the building's specific geometry generates a variety of silhouettes.

Prinsenpark Visitor Center / Studio Jan Vermeulen + Tom Thys architecten - Interior Photography, Brick, Facade
© Jeroen Verrecht

As in a picturesque ensemble, the relation of the project with its surrounding landscape is multi-layered. An aspect that is reinforced by new pathways, clearances, channels, and rainwater retention areas that anchor the project in a natural way. “The timber-clad buildings have a rural expression but precise detailing around windows, gutters, and gates transcend the utilitarian. Large, pitched roofs overhang to create an entrance, a covered outdoor space, or a protected work area.”

Prinsenpark Visitor Center / Studio Jan Vermeulen + Tom Thys architecten - Exterior Photography, Garden, Forest
© Jeroen Verrecht

Enfilade. The first building, the visitor center, comprises the visitor facilities, offices, canteen, and changing areas for the park’s staff. The second building contains depots and workshops for the foresters. An allegory of the royal but wild landscape of Prinsenpark, the new project combines elements of the local building culture with the formal plan of a country house. The visitor center has been set up as an enfilade of rooms and halls under a large pitched roof that overhangs the oval woods.

Prinsenpark Visitor Center / Studio Jan Vermeulen + Tom Thys architecten - Exterior Photography, Wood, Facade
© Jeroen Verrecht

A succession of large rooms and smaller in-between spaces allows for varied use in which different spaces can contain different activities. The large window and door openings connect the information desk, the reception area, and the education room with the offices, the staff canteen, and the central yard, and make the operational activities of Prinsenpark visible to the visitors.

Prinsenpark Visitor Center / Studio Jan Vermeulen + Tom Thys architecten - Interior Photography, Column
© Jeroen Verrecht
Prinsenpark Visitor Center / Studio Jan Vermeulen + Tom Thys architecten - Brick, Glass, Facade
© Jeroen Verrecht

A refined casco structure. The timber-clad buildings have a rural expression but precise detailing around windows, gutters, and gates transcends the utilitarian. The identity of the project is defined by the rhythm of lightly abraded Larch boards that wrap around the volumes as rain and windscreen. The roof structure with its untreated aluminum corrugated panels and exceptionally large V-shaped gutters provide the project with more refinement. The rooms and halls are constructed with white concrete blocks and beams forming a robust and neutral background for the park’s activities.

Prinsenpark Visitor Center / Studio Jan Vermeulen + Tom Thys architecten - Exterior Photography
© Jeroen Verrecht

Constructed within a low budget, the project is an intelligent and flexible structure where the building elements closer to the user get more detail and refinement. Timber-clad lightweight walls, custom-made doors and windows, and fixed furniture, stained in deep blue, green, and purple colors subtly contrast with the concrete blocks and bring hierarchy to the enfilade. The depot and workshops are combined in an L-shaped building that encloses the central yard. A series of galvanized steel porticos define a flexible covered space for the storage of forestry equipment.

Prinsenpark Visitor Center / Studio Jan Vermeulen + Tom Thys architecten - Interior Photography, Beam
© Jeroen Verrecht

A balanced ecosystem. In various ways, the project focuses on integrated sustainability. The large roof overhang of the visitor center not only creates a social space for visitors but also serves as passive sun protection for the large spaces along its main facade. The construction assembly methods of various building elements allow for easy disassembly, reuse, or recycling. In that respect, the building acts as a sustainable materials bank for the future.

Prinsenpark Visitor Center / Studio Jan Vermeulen + Tom Thys architecten - Exterior Photography
© Jeroen Verrecht

The visitor center also meets the passive house standard. Water management is used as an educational element and connects the project and the landscape in a new ecosystem. The existing channels and ditches were adapted into wadis to create a water and infiltration landscape where new fauna and flora can flourish. As such the site’s biodiversity receives a new impulse.

Prinsenpark Visitor Center / Studio Jan Vermeulen + Tom Thys architecten - Exterior Photography
© Jeroen Verrecht

Rainwater is collected in tanks and ponds via long V-shaped gutters and spouts before overflowing into the system of natural landscaped retention areas. The trajectory of the water is visible to the visitor. The wastewater is filtered and purified by an independent system before being returned as clean water to the landscape. Various housing options have been integrated into the facade of the workshops to accommodate the local bat population. The building contributes to the values and vision of Prinsenpark as an area where nature, culture, and recreation are interwoven into a special and balanced ecosystem.

Prinsenpark Visitor Center / Studio Jan Vermeulen + Tom Thys architecten - Exterior Photography, Facade, Garden
© Jeroen Verrecht

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Project location

Address:Kastelsedijk 5, 2470 Retie, Belgium

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Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address.
About this office
Cite: "Prinsenpark Visitor Center / Studio Jan Vermeulen + Tom Thys architecten" 02 May 2022. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/981098/prinsenpark-visitor-center-studio-jan-vermeulen> ISSN 0719-8884

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