HASSELT – Designed in Hasselt, Belgium by Berlin-based J. Mayer H. Architects, together with local LensAss and a2o Architects, the newly-completed Court of Justice is part of a master plan laid out by Dutch landscape architects West 8 to rehabilitate a former railway station with parks, public buildings, offices, hotels and residential complexes.
The statuesque – yet surprisingly not-so-austere – law court seems to be the result of a clear design process driven by the wish to explore the appreciable tensions between the area’s industrial heritage, its undeniable Art Nouveau character and the empowering effects of futuristic forms and patterns.
Creating a rhythm across the largely perforated steel façade, the branched structure is intended to establish a straight, functional parallel with the region’s emblematical hazelnut tree.
Conforming to logistic and safety regulations, the building is divided into three easily-accessible units holding courtrooms, a faculty library and vertically-distributed office spaces, previously spread all around the city.
It will be interesting to witness the extent of the prominent project’s contribution – along with the planning strategies suggested by the proposed urban scheme – to the district’s much needed revitalisation. Although the Court of Justice acts as a convincing landmark for Hasselt, one could legitimately express a reluctance as to this imposed signature and debatable understanding of the immediate context.
Nevertheless, the designers’ motives to incorporate ‘vernacual’ aspects to their rather offbeat interpretation reveals an ambitious but sensible view on contemporary architectural design.
Photos courtesy of Filip Dujardin