Court Of Justice in Hasselt Belgium
The new fourteen- storey court of justice building alongside the railway line, designed by the temporary twins organisation (consisting of jurgen mayer H. architects, a2o architects and lens°ass), is the new home for all the judicial services formerly spread throughout the city. the Hasselaar is a feel-good building with colours reminiscent of the 1970s and a façade pattern that evokes the veins of a leaf and the structure of a tree.
The international competition for the redevelopment of the station quarter of Hasselt, Belgium based on the master plan by West8 was won by the architects J. MAYER H. Architects, a2o-architecten and Lensºass architecten working together as a team. The new development includes low rise blocks for hotels, offices, housing and two matching iconic point buildings, one of which is to become the new Court of Justice for Hasselt, the developer can now reveal. The new court building will become a key central anchor point for the reshaping of the entire area. Completion is planned for 2011.
The Court of Justice is one of two iconic projects within the new urban development around the main rail station. The logistics and siting of a courthouse with multiple security barriers in a massing composed of three interconnected volumes. References include the old industrial steel structures that formerly occupied and defined the site, their organic Belgian Art Nouveau forms constituting part of the cultural heritage of Hasselt.
“There are also echoes of a tree, which, in addition to being in the Hasselt town emblem, as well as also harks back to the historic pre-medieval European tradition of holding a special ‘place of speaking justice’ under neath a large tree in the centre of a dwelling.” – J. Mayer H.
The design of the courthouse is made with a view to a sustainable use of energy. It is constructed with a double exterior wall, with the inside being implemented comple- tely in glass. The outer cladding, with the tree structure in wood, is partially imple- mented in glass and partially in perforated aluminium cassettes. Thus, provision is made for the required transparency and good thermal comfort on the inside.
Current architectural creativity knows no bounds. Simple bare cassette exterior walls in aluminium or steel can, thanks to modern laser and stans technology, be transformed into brilliant achievements in design. Each building is given a unique distinctiveness with due consideration for effective sustai-nability. Efficiency is combined with modern design by the creativity of the architect and with respect for modern construction requi-rements. Limeparts’ product range greatly contributes to this.
The building has a public wing consisting of a plinth of six floors, housing the chambers reserved for sessions of the court as well as the library and offices. Analogous to the growth of a tree, an upper section of the building, reserved for the office of the public prosecutor, rises up from the middle of this plinth. The analogy to a tree is rooted not only in the history of the city itself, which has a coat of arms bearing three hazel trees, but also in the many allusions to trees in jurisprudence, e.g. the tree under which judgement is handed down, the tree of life which gives one a second chance, etc. This upper part of the building is very visible in all its facets to the residents of the city. Its height makes it visible from almost anywhere in the city, and the geometry and pattern of the outer façade seem to give the building a different appearance depending upon the direction from which it is seen.
The facade of the building consists out of 2 layers. The outer layer is fully built out of wood. This wooden structure is filled by glass and on some places they inserted perforated metal panels. The design of these plates let you thinking of the nerve of a leaf. The wooden structure looks like the branches of a tree. And so over time as the wood weathers it would have a natural gray/green color. But I am still concerned of the value of the exterior of the building would be visible. But you can see the leafs and the branches of the haze clearly in the interior of the building.
The building is build out of two organic volumes. On one side the tower volume that would be an orientation point of the city, on the other side you have the horizontal base volume. This has a connection with the present park. The horizontal volume exists out of six building layers and it contains offices and courtrooms. So the building is indeed a striking landmark but with maybe a negative connotation? Has this building have to be representative for the city Hasselt?
The accessibility from the building is really miserable. However the building is introduced as an open and transparent building with direct public access, combining the court of justice with a university library and auditoriums for the faculty of law. The building looks like a nightmare for who sits in a wheel chair. The wheel chair users have to cross a path full of obstacles and it’s impossible from the underground parking to take a lift to enter the building. The stairs that used by the judge, visitors etc. have to be used to get to the building, that isn’t inviting and there are annoying to use.
The building is 2,5 years in use but still it struggles with teething problems. The controllers that control the lightning and temperature have to be replaced already. The windows haven’t been washed and now it’s hard to look through the windows. This is due to the lack of a maintenance contract. The signs and pictograms are still to be made. The air quality is real bad, the maladjustment isn’t optimal. These kinds of problems aren’t allowed after two years since the building has been build.
You can notice that there are even many weaknesses in an impressive building like this. The courthouse is the beginning of a renewable operation of the suburbs of Hasselt. It has to be a beginning of a new dynamic.
J. Mayer H. Architects:
September 13th, 2013 marks the opening of “Court of Justice” in Hasselt, designed by the architects team of J. MAYER H. Architects, a2o-architecten and Lensºass architecten. After finishing the exterior skin already in 2011, the interior was completed in spring of 2013. The new court of justice is an open, transparent building with direct public access, combining the Court of Justice with a university library and auditoriums for the faculty of law. In keeping with the building’s logistical requirements and safety provisions, the structure is divided into three separate units: courtrooms, the library for students and an office tower with a 64-meters-high panorama restaurant on top from which offers a panoramic view of the city of Hasselt and its surroundings.
Based on a master plan by West 8, the former railway station site has been restructured with a park, public buildings, offices and hotels, as well as urban residential blocks. The team of J. MAYER H. Architects, Lens °Ass and a20-architecten have realized one of the two high-rise buildings, “the new court of justice”, a structure that stands as a contemporary urban landmark of the new district. References in the design process point to both the image of the “tree”, the hazelnut trees in the City of Hasselt’s coat of arms, and steel structures in the once industrial- and Art Nouveau-influenced area.
Project name: Court Of Justice – Hasselt, Belgium
Location: Parklaan, 3500 Hasselt, Belgium
Coordinates: 50.932193, 5.323398
Type: Court House
- 20.763 m² above-ground spaces (Offices, Meeting-Rooms, Library, Reception, Cafeteria, Court rooms)
- 4.694 m² Underground spaces (Archive)
- 3.384 m² Underground spaces Parking Lot
Construction Year: October 2008 – September 2013
Construction Cost: 45 Mio. €
Completion Year: 9/2013
Client / Owner / Developer: n.v. SOHA (Stedelijke ontwikkelingsmaatschappij Hasselt) – Autonoom Gemeentebedrijf Hasselt + Euro Immo Star)
- J. Mayer H. Architects – Zementhaus Knesebeckstrasse 30, 10623 Berlin, Germany
- a2o architecten – Vissersstraat 2, B-3500 Hasselt, Belgium
- Lensºass architecten – Hasselt Dr. Willemsstraat 19, B-3500 Hasselt, Belgium
Project Construction Company: T.H.V. Hasaletum nv (Democo nv – Cordeel nv – Interbuild nv)
Tenant: Regie der Gebouwen
User: Federale Overheidsdienst Justitie
Project-manager: Eurostation NV
Structural Engineering: M. & A. Van Wetter BVBA
Technical Engineering: Eurostation NV
Controlling and Fire Protection: Seco CV
Text Description: © Courtesy of J. Mayer H. Architects, a2o architecten, Lensºass architecten
Images: © J. Mayer H. Architects, a2o architecten, Lensºass architecten, Hufton + Crow, Ralph Richter, Filip Dujardin, Philippe van Gelooven, Bieke Claessens, flickr-Ken Lee