RAAMWERK, De Lichting Youth Centre, Lichtervelde © Stijn Bollaert

Jeugdontmoetingscentrum De Lichting

Raamwerk won the competition for the youth centre in Lichtervelde with a proposal that is as austere as it is radical. The design reduces the required programme to the absolute minimum and arranges what remains into a series of elementary volumes around an ‘outdoor room’. This latter space occupies the most prominent position on the small corner site, separated from the street only by a wall the height of a man. In the first instance, it functions as a covered living room (including chimneypiece) for the local youths, but is also a buffer between the public street and the indoor spaces. In addition, it serves as a circulation area connecting the permanently inhabited youth centre and the multipurpose spaces where the users will vary. The clever insertion of the ambitious programme results in an orderly ensemble of indoor and outdoor rooms that all feel spacious. The compact floor plan is also a powerful argument for only minimal modification of the competition design: any change would, after all, have impacted upon the tight budget.

The architects convincingly pursue the fashionable motto ‘the structure is the finish’. The walls are made of a rapid-build brick that is normally covered by rendering and façade cladding. As a result, the outside of the building looks at first sight like a monolith in the characteristic colour of earthenware. The imperfections in these blocks add the necessary nuances to the surfaces. On the one hand, through subtle variations in colour and texture, on the other through slightly different dimensions that are a consequence of the greater tolerances typically associated with structural building elements. The precision of the construction makes these defects virtually invisible, but they do remain palpable. The whole complex is a highly successful exercise in precision and austerity, but the architects do not lose themselves in abstraction.

On the inside, the lowermost five courses of masonry are in the same type of brick. Throughout the building, their rough surface functions as an edging that can withstand the violence of youthful use. Above this level, the bricks are the same size, but are whitewashed and have a pronounced texture. In this way, a recognisable articulation of the wall surface is created with minimal means, a benchmark by which one can gauge the different ceiling heights. Well-positioned windows and doorways enhance the spatial interplay between the various volumes. At the centre is the stairwell, where extremely precise architecture takes shape using minimal means. For example, the wall that divides the two parts of the staircase is partially created using smaller bricks than the rest of the structure. The difference is just enough to make room for the sliding metal panel with which the upper floor can be closed off, if necessary for a particular event.

The central location of the project in the village is striking but also natural: the youth centre previously occupied two adjoining terraced houses on the opposite side of the street. The local authority, which runs the multipurpose hall, has its offices on the same crossroads. The outdoor room is within earshot of the police station. The proximity of authority is probably one of the reasons why the youth centre has not yet been fully appropriated, even though the building warmly invites it, being arranged with sufficient ‘cover’ in which to do what the young do without disturbance. It is a robust and flexible structure that dares one to take possession of it.

- Petrus Kemme

This project is published in Flanders Architectural Review N°14. When Attitudes Take Form

Project details


Youth, Public Building


Boomgaardestraat 1

2800 Lichtervelde



November 2018


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