Chameleonic academy, Dilbeek
DILBEEK (BE) - Carlos Arroyo's bold use of volume, colour and optic effects grabs attention in a quiet Belgian town.
The recently completed Academy of Music, Word and Dance in Dilbeek is the result of an Open Call (Open Oproep), a selection procedure based on the principles of an architectural competition and whose process is in accordance with public procurement legislation and European competition rules. Open calls are a very important instrument in the development of architecture in Belgium and, unlike tender procedures in other European countries, these selection methods are based on criteria pertaining to architectural quality as well as professional ability (see Eurovision: Belgium in A10 #48).
The municipality of Dilbeek, a Flemish-speaking town west of Brussels, subscribed to the Open Call procedure in order to select an architect team to design a new music academy. With high expectations in mind, and the clear goal of positioning the coming institution in a leading position within the related industry, as well as within the socio-cultural regional panorama, the municipality of Dilbeek opted for the procedure after making available an elongated plot in the immediate vicinity of the Westrand Cultural Centre. Following a selection process of several phases, Madrid-based architect Carlos Arroyo was appointed designer of the MWD Academy in 2007. The new facilities, located between a low-density residential area and a protected forest, would serve as extension of the existing Westrand Cultural Centre and offer education in music, performance and dance.
The clear statement of noticeability sought by the client's requirements is tackled through a lively response; the straightforward translation of the original concept into volumetric fact discloses an apparently guileless and logical end result, yet provides an intelligible and quick understanding of the project. The pronounced, shaped volumes of the building follow the pitched roof outlines of nearby single-family homes, while its great cantilever on the southwest facade, enclosing the auditorium, faces the imposing concrete of the Westland Cultural Centre. Special emphasis has been given to the design and materialization of the facades. A variously textured, panelled metal cladding – the composition of which is based on a musical rhythm – completely covers the overall volume. A secondary, superimposed layer of double-sided, printed glass fins creates multiple optic effects on the main facade. Depending on the viewer’s perspective towards the nearby forest or the existing Cultural Centre, either a printed image of trees or a colourful geometric composition will manifest. Additional reflections from the inner lights and surroundings elevate the complexity of the composition of the main facade.
As part of the requirements presented in the Open Call brief, the municipality sought a simple, versatile and multifunctional building with attention to durability of materials and techniques and with maximum use of natural energy. With this in mind, the architect designed window openings to provide the right amount of diffuse daylight with minimal thermal loss. Natural light is reflected on the printed glass fins outside and penetrates inside the building. White inner walls collaborate to create luminous spaces. Unlike the rich materialization of the exterior, the details inside are kept rather simple and efficient, avoiding any kind of superfluous covering materials.
The expectation indicated by the municipality of Dilbeek since the very beginning of the design process – an ambitious and comprehensive music academy that would overstep local dynamics and reach further visibility – has found a perfect counterpart in the Open Call procedure. As the chairman of the municipality of Dilbeek recently stated: 'We chose the Team Vlaams Bouwmeester for the professional guidance in appointing an architect, which guaranteed that the procedure would run correctly. In addition, the Vlaams Bouwmeester gives high priority to quality and durability, considerations of paramount importance for our project.'
One might notice that the project does not communicate much about its author or its place. The primary focus seems to have been given to the immediate recognizability of this new building, the quick understanding of the project, and ultimately, the empathy it would provoke in the final users. To a certain extent, the MWD Academy can be considered truly European, in the sense that its main architectural characteristics are common to other buildings now being erected in Denmark, France, or the Netherlands. That said, the fact that Carlos Arroyo is a Spanish architect educated at the Superior Technical School of Architecture of Madrid (ETSAM) does not make any significant difference, unless he is considered as a European architect with both European-wide references and a design approach which certainly goes beyond his own national boundaries.
March | 2013 | Belgium | Marta Gonzáles