Renaat Braem’s modernist high-rise district lies on one side of Emiel Vloorstraat at Kiel. The flats are almost completely devoid of private outdoor spaces and the large, empty public spaces have little identity. On the other side of Emiel Vloorstraat, an amenities ‘campus’ includes schools, a youth centre, municipal services and a sports centre. The morphology of the campus relates to modernist thinking and consists of isolated markers in a rectilinear grid with plenty of space and greenery. It was here that the town council sought to build a new sports centre. UR architects won the competition for the design of the centre because of the innovative way in which they handled the context.
The Kiel Neighbourhood Sports Centre has no obvious back or front, which means that it is perfectly at home within the campus. The hall façades are made of translucent polycarbonate and the play of light and shadows across their surfaces can be viewed as a form of communication with the outside world. The non-transparent façade was the outcome of the conversations held with local residents.
Like the other buildings on the campus, it is an autonomous object that takes its place in the logic of the modernist master plan. At the same time, the centre assumes a central function within the campus precisely because it has entered into a dialogue with its surroundings. What was once an amalgam of buildings arranged next to each other now possesses a completely new centre of gravity.
Author: Katrien Embrechts and Esther Jacobs. This text has been published in the Architecture Review Flanders N°11. Embedded Architecture.