References

The Moon, Mechelen, Belgium

Chris Hodson

This cuboid theatre in the Belgian city of Mechelen is defined by its extraordinary, creased copper alloy surfaces – a contemporary reflection of the intricate Gothic tracery of the overlooking 14th century cathedral tower and inspired by moon landing craft. One of the designers Oscar Rommens, of import.export Architecture, tells us more. 

For 50 years, the Moon has been a major base for children’s arts at the heart of the city, representing theatre, art, poetry…and wonder. With 350 – 400 performances and 40,000 visitors every year, it was no surprise that the existing buildings became outdated and a thorough renewal needed. The old halls no longer met technical and safety demands, and offered too few opportunities for contemporary performance. Resulting from an architectural competition, our winning scheme involved renovation of the existing buildings – in close collaboration with architects Beeck/Oostpool – and the design of a new, small theatre complex in between ancient buildings, on top of an existing roof and in the shadow of the iconic St. Rombout’s Cathedral tower, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The golden cube contains the small hall, with a fully glazed café below linking the Moon with its neighbouring arts buildings.

ALTERNATIVE DESIGN APPROACH

We pursued an alternative to the conventional top-down approach to design which effectively zooms-in step-by-step from an urban scale, via the building’s architecture, down to the micro-scale of interior and furniture. Instead, we formulated a synchronous design process of multiple scales and disciplines. This multi-faceted approach, combining urban planning, architecture, historic preservation, technology and even interiors, resulted in fully integrated designs.

This approach generated idiosyncratic visual, physical and tactile relationships between the new building and the surrounding ancient buildings, as well as an intermediate ‘coulisse’ landscape with specific, framed views from and through the building into its surroundings. It also structured the whole complex, creating independent circulation routes for the public, actors and administration, and also a number of user experiences, each with their own character, atmosphere and architectural language and detailing.

ON THE SURFACE OF THE MOON

From the start, the centres’ name – the Moon – conjured up images for us of the Apollo 11 Lunar Module and its crumpled golden metal underside. We wanted to apply this look to the new cube extension, mirroring in a modern way the richness and hand-made, bespoke character of the cathedral tower stonework. The challenge was to achieve this within a modest building budget.

In several early trials we experimented with pressing and folding flat metal over a blade. Final trials were carried out by a specialist fabricator to develop a series of gentle creases – almost, but not quite, 3-D. Then, seven different designs of panels were produced using press moulds, each with folds running across at various angles and intensities. By rotating and intermingling different panels, a random effect was created. Although the verticality of the overlapping panels is retained, giving structure to the facades, most transverse joints are not horizontal, further fragmenting the surface.

Share: 

Building

Completion date: 
2015
Country: 
Belgium
Zip code: 
2800
City: 
Mechelen
Street: 
Minderbroedersgang 3.
Location: 

Categories

Applications: 
Facades
Interior
Type of building: 
UNESCO world heritage site
Cultural
Copper used: 
Golden alloy
Estate: 
Upgrade

Architect

Name, office: 
import.export ARCITECTURE

Copper contractors

Title: 
Ridder

Find out more

Nick Hay

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. Find out more by following this link.

Accept