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Starting from the general vision, we strive to translate the essence into a comprehensive concept where architectural quality and functionality are fully realized. Initially, we embark from a design-based investigation of the program, seeking the right interactions between spaces. A thoughtful and clear layout isn’t everything. A building needs to be inviting, to spark and stimulate people, to arouse curiosity, to possess a certain allure, from the very first interaction. For this, we put ourselves in the shoes of a visitor, and it becomes clear that the PLOT cannot be seen as just a standalone building. We need to start from its surroundings, characterized by the rich mining history of the city of Genk.

Essentially, all this can be reduced to ‘coal’ itself, namely a fragmented amorphous rock with different facets. At first glance, this sounds rather mundane, but once one takes the time to examine it closely, its dynamic nature becomes palpable. Its amorphous shape creates interesting surfaces with unique variations, sparkles, shadows, etc. We project this principle onto the rational volume, completely changing its appearance. This somewhat chaotic projection is, in turn, refined for the sake of constructability and budget, leaving a few powerful lines. Specifically, we do this by introducing corresponding slanted lines at the level of the roof edge and the ground floor. Additionally, windows will be placed randomly to emulate the chaotic image with certain variations/sparkles.

The current design is further enhanced by introducing a welcoming gesture. As we consciously seek a connection with the surrounding landscape, we provide a cantilevered volume, resulting in a covered forecourt facing the existing pond. This structure will break the ‘chaos of the coal’ and, in turn, bring tranquility to the overall image. Again, we look to the mining past for inspiration, finding it in the impressive headframes with their steel structures, wind braces, etc. On a deeper level, the ‘coal’ symbolizes the student with their raw knowledge, who will be further shaped within the ‘structure’ of the PLOT.

We suspect that the adjacent training building originated from a similar concept, where the burnt wood refers to the coal and the concrete to the industry. Since the PLOT is part of a larger campus, we try to align the materials as well as possible, also focusing on sustainable materials with a limited footprint. The proposed mood board includes the following;

  • Black brick and curtain wall
  • Aluminum cladding, steel structure, and exterior carpentry
  • Gray concrete elements
  • Wooden elements as accents

Finally, we focus on the building’s impact on the site. Due to its compactness, we are compelled to provide a basement volume, which entails additional earthmoving. To minimize this, we consciously choose to have the finished floor of the ground level protrude above ground level. This creates more interaction from the forecourt to its surroundings, but also more privacy from the ground level to the ground.

Furthermore, this approach allows for the excavated material to be reused as green slopes. These slopes will be used throughout the site to draw greenery to the building and shield the parking spaces (see landscape section). All this seems very desirable to us as it provides a win-win situation.

Regarding accessibility, this level will be bridged by a dynamic set of stairs incorporating a ramp. This enhances the character of the forecourt and allows the staircase to also serve as a landscape element, further encouraging spontaneous interactions.

  • Location: Genk, Belgium
  • Program: Police Education Center
  • Area: xxxx m²
  • Year: 2022
  • Status: Realized