A master plan for Gaasbeek Castle (2012-2021)
In 2012, Bogdan & Van Broeck Architects were appointed to develop a master plan for creating a contemporary spatial future vision for the entire Gaasbeek estate. This includes the castle, the museum garden and the surrounding park with all the outbuildings.
The master plan proposed six ambitions:
1. To make the castle fully accessible, also for people with a disability
2. To transform part of the administrative wing into a museum
3. To develop a new concept for the presentation of the collection
4. Complete restoration of all the buildings in the park and of the historic interiors in the castle
5. To create a new building for public reception, administration, archive, library and depository
6. To develop a new concept for the park.
The underlying vision of the master plan places the focus on the permanent process of change of the historic house. This means that the castle and the park area are not considered as ‘frozen’, static elements, but as a work in progress which continuously evolves. Maintaining and supervising the process of change, and doing so at the highest possible qualitative level with attention for the social importance, is what the master plan intends and wants to facilitate.
Specifically, this means that when invasive interventions are necessary in the castle, the option should be to strengthen the experience of the historic theme rather than to focus purely on the new functions. A lift providing access to the castle for wheelchair users could also be partially transparent, thus showing the visitor the material that was used to build the castle, how thick the walls are and how the castle has been built and rebuilt through the centuries.
As far as the landscape is concerned, the visual aspect is what dominates in the castle park at the moment. The other senses are hardly activated. The result is that the (sensory) experience of the landscape remains rather limited. Furthermore, the castle estate offers an isolated scene in the wider surroundings. The master plan therefore focuses on the active experience of the park and a re-coupling to the wider context, the (agrarian) Pajottenland and the green belt around Brussels.
The implementation of the master plan is divided into four sub-projects:
1. Restoration of the Baroque pavilion and its outbuildings
2. Restoration of the chapel and the victory arch
3. Construction of a new reception building for the castle, museum garden and park
4. Renovation of the castle and integral accessibility.
The first sub-project covers the restoration of the baroque pavilion and the hermitage with the associated stairways and garden walls and the creation of a small building volume. These restoration activities, which are in the hands of restoration and architectural agency Studio Roma, are currently in full swing.
The second sub-project is the restoration of the baroque St. Gertrude Chapel and the neo-classical victory arch. The architectural agency Bressers BVBA was appointed to draw up the restoration study. The start of the restoration works on the chapel and the victory arch is set for August 2018. After the restoration, the pavilion and the chapel will be used for small cultural events as part of the operation of the museum. The chapel will also be made available for intimate marriage ceremonies.
The third sub-project covers the building of a new reception building. In addition to acting as reception area, it will also house a museum shop, offices, the museum library and the castle archive, a closed depository, a storage area for exhibition materials and sanitation units.
In order to graft the surrounding protected landscape, car park and street-side opening on to this new building, the redesign of the adjacent outside area will be included in this contract.
The selected design by architecture agency Pierre Hebbelinck includes the construction of a very large inviting awning, under which all the required functions are given a place. The proposed reception pavilion expressly does not have the same status as the other building elements on the estate. The pavilion acts functionally, almost humbly, as an instrument entirely at the service of the estate.
The work on the new construction will start in the middle of 2019 and the expected completion is set for the end of 2020.
The renovation of the castle is the final chapter in the master plan. Over the years, several architectural and structural problems have been identified within the existing building. Besides this, the castle will be made entirely accessible for the public. The development of possible routes for the public to explore the castle and the collection and the restoration of the interiors are all part of these activities. All this is planned for 2020-2021.