Z33, the house for contemporary art in Hasselt, Belgium, has announced its new extension, to be completed in 2015. The winning design proposal, by design team Francesca Torzo, Aldo Bakker, Piet Oudolf and ABT was chosen as the winner of an international competition.
Perception and experience are central to the winning design. "The concept grows from the scenography of different spaces, each having its own atmosphere, proportions and light," says Jan Boelen, artistic director of Z33. "The design is always perceived from two different angles: from the building to the courtyard, and vice versa. The designers want to create a unity from separate elements. They preserve the seclusion of the convent site and thus strengthen the degrees of intimacy."
The new building is a brick structure, like the existing buildings, but with a different principle for the bonds and joints of the brickwork. "It is not a neutral building, but a building with character," continues Boelen. "Its architecture, for instance, displays more openness to an unexpected pattern of functions. A multitude of experiential possibilities is paramount. It is a very sensitive, subtle and tactile concept. A concept that fits Z33 perfectly. "
Z33's existing building dates from 1958 and is characterized by its unique museum architecture, being practically the only building in Flanders where contemporary art is displayed in a setting originally designed for this purpose. Nevertheless, the building is due for renewal, as it is no longer suited to accommodate visitors and lacks required technical facilities. Much of Z33's activities today are situated in the houses of the historic beguinage site, which is charming, despite creating substantial practical and logistical difficulties.
For these reasons, in 2011 the Province of Limburg bought the parcel adjacent to the beguinage site and organized an architectural competition. Over 90 architects worldwide asked for the project's technical data files, 29 of whom entered the first stage of the competition. From these 29 candidates, five multidisciplinary teams were selected. These five teams each submitted a design proposal.
For Gilbert Van Baelen, the Deputy for Culture of the Province of Limburg, it is one of the last major exploits of this legislature. "The dynamic policy we delineated for the arts has really strengthened the artistic landscape in Limburg over the years, the organization of Manifesta 9 being of the highlights," he states. "In recent years, Z33 has become our region's standard-bearer in the field of contemporary art and design, establishing a strong international reputation. The architect teams that entered the contest also reflect this. The designs were all very powerful, but also very diverse. This, too, has made our choice into a clear statement", Van Baelen concludes.
The winning design team was led by Italian architect Francesca Torzo. She earned her stripes working for Peter Zumthor (in projects such as the KolumbaDiozesan Museum in Cologne and the Louise Bourgeois Pavilion at the DIA Center in New York) and Bosshard Vaquer architects (Dietlikon Crematorium). In 2004, after having won two first prizes for Europan7 (Amsterdam and Budapest), she founded Baukuh, together with seven other architects. Since 2008 she has had her own office. For this design she compiled a team consisting of designer Aldo Bakker, landscape architect Piet Oudolf and ABT, a consultancy firm in structural engineering.
On the basis of the design proposal, the designers will now enter into dialogue with Z33, the Province of Limburg, Heritage and the City of Hasselt. Through a series of workshops the final design of the building will take shape. Also, a round of talks will be held with Heritage to further scrutinize how the convent site's gatehouse is to be renovated. Construction works are scheduled to start September 2013 and the new infrastructure is to be put into use in 2015. During the construction phase Z33's activities will move to the convent houses and Z33 will focus more intensively on the art in the open space project.