DE PANNE – Sometimes buildings themselves need memorials. When reconstructing a landmark in its original form is impractical or inappropriate, something new might stand in the empty space simply as a remembrance. The September 11 Memorial in New York City functions in this way, by surrounding the towers’ footprints with a monumental, yet self-effacing architecture that emphasises their absence. Belgian firm OMGEVING has completed renovations to a park in De Panne that called for a similar architectural remembrance. Though it fell into disrepair, an early-20th-century Eclectic villa that sat on the property represented an important moment in the town’s architectural heritage. ‘Acknowledging the site's history and the traces of its past, the question was raised whether to restore the old villa or to accept the changes and strive for something new,’ says OMGEVEING’s Karol Grygolec. ‘This inherently perplexing question became the inspiration for the project.’ Of course, the site in De Panne is not nearly as large or globally significant as the World Trade Center site, but the logic is roughly the same.
The villa’s footprint is now an open patio that offers views of the coastal town from its hilltop location. All that remained was a brick foundation, which the architects have encased in concrete and weathering steel. These materials give the foundation a strong presence on a site where it is the sole architectural feature, but the massive, pedestal-like form recalls the site’s fallen landmark nonetheless. Even some of the villa’s masonry remains exposed across the new structure’s floor, allowing visitors to trace a rough plan of the house as they pass through.
Photos Christophe van Cauteren