City Centre Revitalization

What defines a city centre? Back in the day, the most prestigious building adorned and defined the face of a city's central square. This face would have fixed elements such as a grand church, a great city hall and a prestigious bank. Elements which represent the religious, political and economical aspect of a city. So what if, by coincidence, these elements get an update? You create a city centre revitalization! That's what happened in the small city of Harelbeke, in the west of Flanders. The city hall and Dexia bank, which overlook each other, both got a contemporary extension!

Let's start with the building which welcomes every citizen of the city: the city hall. Due to the growing needs of the city services, the Town Hall was looking for an extension of their site. Dehullu Architects redeveloped the new site, a new entrance building was designed, centrally located between two existing historically valuable buildings. The new entrance building links it’s adjacent buildings.

Since it’s central location in the city, the new entrance building was designed to be a contemporary ‘landmark’ on the main road of Harelbeke. Therefore the cladding of the facade and the roof was executed in a dirt repelling white Corian. A first time use in Belgium for an exterior cladding. Furthermore, part of the historical flax-factory was renovated. On the inside of this historical part, the pattern of the tiled floors refer to a weaving technique, to make the link with the history of this building.

We move on with the bank building.  It was up to Dierendonck Blancke Architecten to rehabilitate an existing bank building,  a protected city view looking towards the city hall. The addition to the program with 8 office spaces, increases the necessity to build an extension. This new volume, which is located on the existing parking lot, is organized on 1 level resulting in a clear scheme. The internal circulation of the extension with the corner building and the existing part with non-public functions, is organized through the connection volumes. These make it possible to visually disconnect the existing with the new structure.

All these elements create a solid building with its own identity that is in juxtaposition with the  existing building. The pitched roof, obligatory by local urban rules, is cut so that sufficient light can enter the centre of the building. Due to the severe slope and by gently lifting up the building, it was possible to create a new parking of 15 places.

And if you wonder: where is the church extension? Well I guess someone still has to take that initiative to update the 18th century Saint-Salvator church. On the other hand, Harelbeke is the proud owner of the modernist Saint-Rita church, which we featured before, and could visually easily match the buildings listed above! The pictures of the city hall where taken by Tim Van de Velde, while Filip Dujardin captured the bank extension.

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