The allusion in the project definition of the Open Call left no room for doubt: Oostkamp wanted anything but a banal town hall. ‘Ceci n’est pas an administrative centre, that was certainly a statement,’ says municipal secretary Jan Compernol. ‘We’re not the first town council to build a new administrative centre. Often – and I say this with a pinch of salt – they resemble banal tower blocks. In Oostkamp, we wanted something else. A building for the future founded on the provision of services, but on the scale of Oostkamp: transparent, approachable and personal.’
Following the Open Call selection procedure, the proposal made by the Spanish architect Carlos Arroyo was retained. ‘Arroyo’s decision to retain the hangar, including the structure and electricity, was quite radical. We’d never have dared to demand its complete retention in the Open Call. But the concept made perfect sense. It’s quite a recent building, from 1992. From the point of view of sustainability, therefore, it would be difficult to justify its demolition. Arroyo transformed the building in a very smart way: he layered the various climate areas in the building concentrically, like the skins of an onion, with the original hangar as the outer skin.’
The Belgian office, ELD Partnership (Antwerp), monitored the on-site execution (working for this project in close collaboration with Carlos Arroyo via a temporary company, Wolkenbouwer). This did not mean that Arroyo disappeared off-stage once the plans were ready. He paid fortnightly visits to Oostkamp.
'In the end, looking at it from the outside, it is still an industrial hangar – albeit one that’s painted in an unusual colour. The surprise lies within, which is just what the architect wanted. On the outside, the building remains visible but modest. On the inside, it offers an enjoyable setting that can be used for all sorts of occasions.'
Author: Oswald Devisch. This text has been published in the Architecture Review Flanders N°11. Embedded Architecture.