dmvA remodelled an entire block of buildings—including landmark ones such as Hooghuys and the former Lorette convent— in Mechelen, Belgium aiming to provoke action and reaction between past and present through the application of contemporary architecture.
-text by the authors
The new development, Melano, is located between Hooghuys and Sweert. This apartment building deliberately leans towards Sweert and distances from Hooghuys, with a specific tension created by the cantilever on the first floor. The white brick architecture is a response to the partly lime-washed, partly plastered facade of Hooghuys and the classic uniform gables of Sweert. Covered terraces create a dialogue with the two-dimensionality of the historic facades on Drabstraat.
In turn, integrated vertical lighting strips not only draw attention to the contemporary facade and, therefore, celebrate modern life, they also light the street and thereby dispense a contemporary idea of interaction with the public space.
This building is also key to the restructuring of the site. As water finds its meandering way through the landscape, this project is devoted to the penetrable. The new building provides passage, by means of a raised point of contact with Hooghuys, for an alley that runs into the rear courtyard. The repurposed garden is a nod to the formerly sizeable Hooghuys garden, which reached Begijnenstraat and therefore provided access to the market square.
Three centuries later, however, this area of greenery was closed off from Begijnenstraat by the L-shaped Lorette convent and girls’ school. The neo-gothic building highlights the impact of a closed and withdrawn religious community on a town. This voluminous wall is now broken through on the ground level to allow access to the Fish Market through a semi-public area that succeeds the playground that was once the Hooghuys garden.
City dwellers are drawn into a place of alleys and squares.
Facts & Credits
Project title Drabstraat Apartments
Location Mechelen, Belgium
Built area Restoration Hooghuys (965 m2), Apartments and parking (3770 m2)
Principal City Site/Van Poppel
Team dmvA / David Driesen, Tom Verschueren / Valérie Lonnoy/
General contractor Bouwbedrijf Van Poppel nv
Engineer Jan Van Aelst
Photography Bart Gosselin, Mick Couwenbergh