The SourceCivil Engineering MagazineSlideshow: Design of Belgium casino reinterprets area’s historic sand dunes

Slideshow: Design of Belgium casino reinterprets area’s historic sand dunes

By Catherine A. Cardno, Ph.D.

  • looking across a plaza at a multistory rounded building atop a low podium that looks like a long, low sand dune complete with plantings and boardwalk
  • Looking down from above at a long, low building podium with a tear-drop footprint that is topped with a multi-story rounded tower with a wooden diamond exterior
  • diagram of the casino complexes beachfront site with various organic shapes representing plantings
  • a beautiful modern room with sleek lines, a wooden roof with an enormous glass oculus and a long glazed wall
  • a restaurant is behind a glass wall, a terrace with people standing on it looking outward is protected by cladding shaped in a large diamond pattern
  • a close look at a green roof covered in sea grass and a wooden boardwalk that arcs to show a glass wall
  • looking down at a drawing that shows a multistory hotel atop a stylized podium shaped like a sand dune

The coastal municipality of Middelkerke, Belgium, is planning to build an iconic casino along its shoreline. Selected as the winning design in an international design-build competition, the Nautilus consortium’s vision contains a multistory tower with a ground floor podium stylized to visually fit into the beachfront much like a sand dune does. The building will also be part of the area’s flood risk management system.

Middelkerke originally thrived as a fishing village because of the natural dunes that protected the village and a natural canal from the North Sea, according to material distributed by the architects, ZJA. With 20th-century urbanization, this natural landscape disappeared. As such, instead of joining an existing natural landscape, the design for the casino seeks to renew the historic coastal landscape, albeit in a contemporary way.

The new casino complex will use the contours and colors of nature and the fishing port. It will be a seawall reinforcement and protect the municipality’s Epernay square.

At ground level, the building will include a casino, a restaurant with exterior terraces, and a hall for concerts, exhibitions, and other events. Each will overlook the sea through a transparent beachfront wall. A multistory hotel with exterior terraces that are shaded by wooden cladding with an open diamond pattern will have a strong visual presence atop the ground floor and a modest footprint, according to the architects. The hotel will be connected to the casino, restaurant, and event hall via a grand foyer.

An undulating hardwood walkway atop the ground floor pavilion will appear much like a soft voile draped around the hotel, according to the architects, with colors that will change with the effects of weather and time. It is this rooftop that is being designed to appear much like a sand dune, with plantings of beach grass and sea lyme grass creating public green zones and ample seating planned.

By placing the casino parking garage underground, priority is given to pedestrians and bicyclists, making the seawall area car-free while maintaining vehicle accessibility, according to the architects.

The consortium comprised developer Ciril, chief architecture designer ZJA, chief landscape architecture designer DELVA, chief casino and hotel designer OZ, executive architect Bureau Bouwtechniek, and contractors Furnibo and Democo. Expert advice was also provided by Cobe, V.K. Engineering, Beersnielsen, Witteveen+Bos, Plantec, MINT, and Sertius.

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