SAC Beringen

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  • Location: Beringen, Belgium
  • Program: City Hall
  • Area: 7.131 m²
  • Year: 2021
  • Status: Realized

Beringen wants to be there for its inhabitants. To be a city where people live, work, and feel at home. Within this vision, Beringen is more than the sum of all its inhabitants. People meet in the public space because that’s where you create a cozy, comprehensible, creative, social, and warm city. From an urban planning point of view, we see the public space as a connecting element for all residents of Beringen.

Beringen is a city in transition with enormous growth potential within its urban contours. The various developments of a number of strategic projects aim to create an attractive city center. In addition to a rich past, Beringen has a strong future. A future that demands a shift in functions in a way that buildings, sites, and areas are available for other urban functions. The reorientation of the school campus on Bogaersveld ensures that the current school location, St. Jozef College, is available for repurposing. This allows for the policy of core reinforcement to be supported by concentrating the urban trade and services facilities. Through the use of this location with the new town hall as a customer and service concept, Beringen plays a leading role in an integrated, complementary, and mutually reinforced development of the center.

With the greatest attention to the monumental value of the Sint-Jozefscollege, the new town hall will be located at this strategic location in the city center. The design and construction of the City Hall Beringen is not an isolated event. The town hall has to adapt to and contribute to the quality of the existing public space, the environment, and the project site. The impact of the new construction on the existing cityscape is being investigated on a more detailed level. Great importance is attached to integration into the urban fabric. We, therefore, investigated several routes, of which all advantages and disadvantages were thoroughly analyzed. The final concept for the Administrative Center emerged from this extensive preliminary study.
The existing facade of the Oud College on Collegestraat is a very characteristic image of the center of Beringen. The current surrounding buildings pay respect to this monumental facade, especially in terms of scale. In order to treat this scale with respect, a conscious decision was made to keep the building height of the volume behind it to a minimum. Where the new volume does rise above the old facade, it is hardly noticeable due to the use of highly reflective glass: the surrounding environment is being reflected in it, to make sure the new is not prominently present in the foreground. On the other hand, this subtle presence of the new facade ensures that the Municipal Administrative Center is respectfully embedded in its environment as a statement.

Design & organization
The Municipal Administrative Center will serve two groups of users: On one hand, the citizen will discover the MAC as daily visitors. On the other, the employee will be assigned his workplace in the building.
Both groups will experience the MAC differently. The volume is therefore designed, organized, and structured on the basis of this dual use. Therefore, it’s important to design the building based on a logical layout, guidance, readability, functional organization, openness, and intimacy.

Within the concept, this duality is already visible in the interaction between old and new: the preservation of the front of the College and the side aisle with the chapel zone behind which the new-build volume will be inserted. By separating old and new, light and air are brought in between them. The designed inner area flows into the MAC, as it were.
Along the Collegestraat, ‘the new’ is pushed into the background – not to infringe on the existing city structure. The entrance of the MAC will be located on the corner of the building, adjacent to the church. As it were, a corner is literally cut out of the building, to make sure the entrance to the urban administrative center immediately attracts attention. Both the new building and the preserved chapel wing can be reached from this entrance zone; the entrance zone acts as the pivot point of the building, between old and new.
The optimal proportion of an office building is used to create a building of five levels (-01, +00, +01, +02, +03). This ensures for the town hall is a compact building and thus promotes interaction between the various services. The proportions that lead to a compact building are the result of research into functionality and interaction within the various services. In addition, it is important to take into account the necessary flexibility to make growth, shrinkage, or reclassification as simple as possible.

The new-build volume contains the front, mid and back offices of the urban administrative center. The ground floor is completely devoted to service and customer contact: reception, express counters, meeting rooms for the OCMW, and an external meeting cluster are implanted here in the most open way possible. This layer is largely used to create an open and accessible house that becomes a pleasant working environment for the employees and a warm and safe place for all its visitors. Two entrances are therefore planned: the main entrance along Collegestraat and a second entrance in the armpit of the building along the inner area.
The upper levels are dominated by the back office zone of the urban administrative center. These layers are only accessible to the public to a limited extent and are accessed by the employees through a central core. This central core is located in the central nave of the building, where the other facilities for the building are also located: sanitary facilities, storage rooms, etc. Around the central nave, the various services are clustered and accommodated per level. Internally, they have open-plan offices, individual offices, flexible workplaces, and meeting rooms, which can be adapted over time due to the flexible building and its modularity.
At the transition between the existing volume and the new-build volume, a customer zone with themed counters will be provided on each upper layer. These are accessed via the public core, located at the main entrance. This public core functions as the pivot point of the building: it opens up both the existing levels and the levels of the new-build section.

The existing wing of the old College is mainly accessed via the new public core in the entrance area. In addition, the existing staircase at the head of the wing will be preserved and restored. This staircase will mainly serve as an additional evacuation route, but also as an exit zone for the ceremony area on level +2.
In the old theater hall of the College on level +1, a large sanitary block, the training center of the OCMW, and the staff refectory will be provided. Since this space is double-height, the “box in a box” principle will be used, whereby closed volumes will be placed in the middle of this space so that the double-height windows in the facades are protected as much as possible.

Wedding and council chambers will be located in the old chapel of the College on level +2. This chapel has an authentic vaulted ceiling in wood and thus exudes a sacred atmosphere. Wedding events will take place as follows: families will arrive via the public core, side of Collegestraat, adjacent to this core a waiting zone will be provided. The wedding itself will take place in the chapel zone, and afterward, people will be led to the inner area via the existing staircase at the head of the wing. A continuous flow of public is generated and two wedding occasions cannot cross.

At level +3, a terrace is provided on Collegestraat, which serves as a lookout point towards the Market. In this way, the statement is once again made that the urban administrative center treats its environment with respect.

Choice of material
The preserved facades in Collegestraat and of the chapel wing were cleaned and restored – if necessary.
The new-build volume differentiates itself from the monumental college through its form language and use of materials, without conflicting with the environment. The facade of the new-build volume arises from the interior design of the building: the building is completely designed on a 160x160cm grid; a basic measure for designing office buildings. This grid is invariably continued in the design of the outer shell. Glass skin is placed around the compact new-build volume, which reflects the environment around the urban administrative center and ensures a high degree of transparency. The type of glazing has been chosen in such a way that the difference between transparent and non-transparent facade parts is virtually the same. During the day, the building appears as a uniform whole; as evening falls, the stratification of the building will become more and more visible due to the internal lighting of the buildings. The building thus acquires an ever-changing appearance throughout the day.

The architectural facade is designed in such a way that the ingress of the sun is limited without approaching a closed character. In this way, the ratio of open and closed facade parts is balanced to prevent possible overheating in the building. A layer of open facade parts – band windows – is always created, followed by closed facade parts – behind which the technical structure (climate ceiling, floor structure, retaining wall electrical cables) is located. The band windows – fenetres and longueurs – provide a panoramic view of the surroundings and ensure even natural lighting in the offices. Possible overheating is prevented by a combination of a fixed sunblind on the outside of the facade. This fixed sunblind varies in width over the 4 facades of the building: the width is determined by the facade orientation and position of the sun. In this way, a subtle differentiation is created in the facades of the uniform building. The horizontal sunshade materialized as a thin non-transparent canopy, is supported by vertical fins – set out on the 160cm grid. The insertion of these vertical fins ensures that the building acquires a certain verticality and does not look like a typical, everyday (horizontal) office building.

Project in collaboration with Jaspers-Eyers Architects and BuroLandschap (landscape architect)