Beguinage Hasselt

Located in Hasselt’s city centre, the beguinage surrounds a church that was once the tallest structure in the city. Having being bombed in the Second World War, the church now lies as a ruin and the surrounding gardens have become leftover spaces, resulting in the overall complex being a shadow of its former self.

Seeking to recover the historic balance of the site, DKA and Bovenbouw’s proposal reorganises the gardens to create a series of new outdoor spaces the largest of which is a generous circular lawn. Combined with the sensitive refurbishment of the beguinage, the strategy seeks to reposition the complex as a destination for a broad range of users from students to local residents to regional tourists.

With the refurbishment of the historic buildings, the design team’s proposal seeks to recover the original domestic character of the terraced houses which have previously been unsympathetically knocked through. Each house accommodates five individual rooms and a common area, organised using the historic privacy gradient – communal courtyard, shared garden, shared kitchen, private bedrooms and bathrooms.

Where original staircases have been removed for example, large pieces of timber furniture will be inserted and offer users a multitude of different uses. A nod to the way furniture was traditionally used to define spaces, these multifunctional pieces and smaller interventions seek to provide compact spatial solutions and will allow the architecture school to organise itself around the memory of a beguinage.

As designers, we want to restore the balance between the various players, without having to work in a historical manner. The garden must be the protagonist in the new balance.

The only built addition to the site is a panoramic belvedere in the southern corner, a bold intervention that rises above the beguinage wall acting as a wayfinder for visitors to the city.

The central lawn is a great place for students and tourists to enjoy the garden and lie in the grass.

Within the public garden, the footprint of the church becomes a reflecting pool offering a place of contemplation that ensures the continued role of the ruin in the life of the complex.

Surrounded by a continuous wall with few openings, the enclosed nature of the site reflects its original function to exclude the city. We seek to increase the permeability of the site whilst retaining this strong sense of an inside and outside.

A large circular opening in the wall creates a new street entrance whilst recent insensitive openings in the boundary are replaced with small circular perforations. A cobbled route through the site connects the old and new entrances whilst connecting each of the new garden spaces.

With the refurbishment of the historic buildings, we seek to recover the original domestic character of the terraced houses which have previously been unsympathetically knocked through.

Where original staircases have been removed for example, large pieces of timberfurniture will be inserted and offer users a multitude of different uses.

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