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The site of the Communal Institution for Child Projection De Zande at the outskirts of Ruiselede in Belgium houses a protected chapel. The chapel goes back to 1856 and till 1974 it had a religious function. Since then it has served mainly as a storage. The assignment was to convert the chapel into a school building comprising seven classrooms for lessons into general education. The conversion of the interior had to take into account the experience of the monumental space. This demand confronted us with a dilemma that we made into the core of our design. We fragmented the whole space of the nave and a part of the aisles by means of dividing walls of the same height as the space. The new created spaces are accessible by a corridor zone along the wall. The openings in the dividing walls provide for incidence of light and offer a view of the old structure. For this we developed two devices: 1) daylight: depending on the time of the year with its longest and shortest day, June 21 and December 22, the sun entersthe spaces via the round windows. 2) perspectives: from a couple of spots in the corrirdor perspectives are projected which make it possible to discern the full size and some old details of the building. The result of these rational interventions is an Emmental cheese structure, that now and then is intelligible, but often mysterious, irrational and ambiguous. With this radical conversion we add something to the building that, also with regard to the materialisation, clearly distinguishes itself from the existing structure. But everything we have installed is reversible and temporary. From the jury report of the Vlaams Bouwmeester: ‘Rob Hootsmans chooses to carry the unavoidable fragmentation of the interior of the chapel to the point of generating new qualities and meanings’.

Conversion of Chapel
Client: Vlaams Bouwmeester / Gemeenschapsinstellingen
Architect: Rob Hootsmans
Projectarchitect: Marlies Boterman
Projectteam: Stefan Kentie, Donna van Milligen Bielke, Giacomo Ceccarelli
Building regulations: Bureau Bouwtechniek,
Construction engineer: ABT Belgie
M&E Technics: Bureau Bouwtechniek
Building surface: 1500 m2, Start design: 2008, Finished: September 2014