Opening up sport

Before OYO was invited to pitch for this project, the ‘park’ did not exist - it was a site with most of the sporting areas completely closed off to the public. We thought about how we could redesign the site to engage a wider variety of groups with sport and exercise, from spectators to clubs to casual play and fitness. This would involve creating an open park, with three buildings - gym hall, soccer building and hockey club – all refurbished, open and connected to each other.

  • Client: Municipality of Knokke
  • Location: Knokke, Belgium
  • Category: Community, Experience landscapes
  • Program: New extension and rehabilitation of the football stadium
  • Status: Completed
  • Building area: 8.468m²
  • Collaborators: Arch&Teco
Schematics OYO Knokke1
masterplan sports park Knokke

Unlocking potential

From the start, we knew we wanted to open up the existing structures to create a true sports park. Fences, barbed wire, locked areas that didn’t need to be locked… The facilities functioned for sports players, but its uses were limited and it was an intimidating and uninviting space for visitors and spectators. Taking down these barriers created an open and accessible space, ready to be enjoyed by both players and the public.

Schematics OYO Knokke2
turning the fortified area into an open sports park
Final field Large

Sustainable renovation

One of the key points of our design proposal was to keep the existing grandstand at the centre of the park, building around it. We debated demolishing vs renovating the grandstand and the benefits of renovation were clear. The existing concrete was good for another lifespan, and keeping it allowed the project to be more sustainable and cost efficient (providing more capital for much needed improvements in other areas). This is just one example of our practice of circular design and ecosystem thinking.

Schematics OYO Knokke4
extension of the main stand
15048 Ol St Knokke diagrams section and plan01 rox 01
conserving the existing main stand
15048 Ol St Knokke diagrams section and plan01 rox 02
extending alongside the playing field
15048 Ol St Knokke diagrams section and plan01 rox 03
creating functional passageways
15048 Ol St Knokke diagrams section and plan01 rox 04
the new public first floor overlooking the field
15048 Ol St Knokke diagrams section and plan01 rox 05
maximising capacity by extending the stand
15048 Ol St Knokke diagrams section and plan01 rox 06
increasing presence of natural light

Shared aesthetic reflecting a shared purpose

We wanted to make sure that each structure within the park felt like it was one part of a unified whole. While each of the pavilions have their own character, they also share a visually prominent external steel grid and an honest display of construction materials. It is a reflection of a united effort to engage the public with sport and fitness in a way that is bigger than any one team or sport.

Schematics OYO Knokke5
section of the main stand

On match day, the bars and stands can be fenced off as needed. Spectators will reach their seats via a larger staircase and there are plenty of covered spaces to provide shelter from the elements throughout the year. The fans are now catered for just as well as the players.


Making the park part of community life

When matches aren’t in session, the space can be used by the wider community for a variety of activities and events. We wanted to create areas around the park that you can use even if you’re not playing or watching a game. There’s somewhere to have a post-match beer. There’s somewhere to hang out while waiting for your kids to finish a training session. Our atmosphere design approach has created a park that’s suited to building match day excitement as much as providing the spaces for a stroll or a friendly kick-about.

Nigel Jooren, Lies Willaert, Eftychia Papathanasiou, Koen Maertens, Elena Tarionte, Sevasti Alexiadi

Pictures: Tim Van de Velde, DvH Architectural Photography (hero image and last image)

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