In 2018, OYO won a competitive pitch to rearchitect the town hall of Jabbeke, a small town in West Flanders. The original site was a traditional building with traditional functions. We approached the project asking ourselves, what does a town hall mean to people today? And how can it mean more? Our answers led us to create a space of welcome and public enjoyment.
Preserving the past
We started the project by demolishing the buildings that weren’t sufficient. These were old structures with lots of small rooms not conducive to modern working. However, we also wanted to preserve the richest parts of the hall’s heritage so we kept the central building, refurbishing it extensively inside, but keeping the original facade that is archetypal of the town’s architecture.
Connecting with the future
To replace what was demolished, we thought about how a new structure could represent the future of the town and give renewed purpose to the hall. Our answer was to create a modern volume behind the original building, connecting the town’s past with its future. Much of this is achieved through taking a different approach to the materiality of the structures – from a closed brick structure, to an open glass one.
From grey to green
In front of the city hall is one of the main urban areas of town, while to its rear is a large public park. We wanted to keep this connection between old/new, urbanity/nature, very permeable. We avoided creating a barrier to the green space by leaving openings around the old and new volumes, so anyone can easily access the park using one of the public walkways or cycle paths.
Broadening spatial purposes
The two connected volumes divide private/administrative spaces and public spaces. The old structure is where the ‘work’ happens. It contains smaller rooms for administrative meetings and quiet working spaces. The new structure is more open and contains multiple spaces intended for the public. For example, one of the more emotional things people visit the town hall for is to officialize their marriage – we designed the central courtyard as a celebratory space people can gather after this, helping to elevate this type of visit into the special moment it is.
A place for community
Prior to this project we discovered a recent development next to the town hall had demolished the town’s oldest café. We saw an opportunity to restore this lost meeting point to the community by creating a large public café on the ground floor of the new town hall.
In balance with nature
Climate comfort inside the building was created by the double facade on the south. It provides enough shadow to ensure the sun doesn’t make the space become too hot when exposed to sunlight during the day, whilst still providing visibility of the park to the rear. Features like this were considered important by the client, not just for their functional and cost saving benefits, but because they were symbolic of a desirable, ‘greener’ future for the town.
"Creating more open space and resting areas alongside this route, prompts spontaneous social interaction."
A hall for all
We won this project because we made the case that a town hall can and should serve the needs of the town – and that involves more than just filing paperwork. Today, the town hall is a beloved centre-piece of Jabbeke, designed to serve the needs of young and old alike.