In a green zone surrounded by residential districts, an old athletics facility is being replaced by a new sports complex. The new ball sports centre in Willebroek is a high-value and sustainable sporting facility with a stylishly integrated design, surrounded by an activities park with a wide range of facilities for sports and games. Architectural studio’s ZJA and Archiles architects, in collaboration with OMGEVING landscape architects, drew up the design. The sports complex features a clear layout and optimal orientation. It is sustainable with respect to the use of energy and materials, while at the same time being as flexible as possible. The Boomse bricks at the base, the entrance of glass with tall columns, and the outside walls with their wooden cladding give the new sports complex its variegated and natural look.
The innovative ball sports cluster envisages the construction of a sports park with paths for runners, a skate park, a pétanque court, a sprint track with next to it facilities for high jump and long jump, and space for a playing field. An existing stream nearby is widened and given a broad meander. The sports complex is therefore surrounded by a well-equipped activities park.
An energy-saving, demountable and flexible building
Opting for a modular, visible supporting structure and honest, circular materials has ensured that the sports complex makes an inviting, characterful and sustainable impression. The use of wooden columns, joists and cross-laminated timber floors, with modular inside walls, makes the Willebroek ball sports facility an example of a method of building that takes demountable layers as its starting point. Allowance has been made for the different lifespans and the fact that at some point in the future, demands of the layout of this part of the building may change. As well as being an extremely sustainable concept that makes for maximal recycling opportunities, this also adds flexibility.
Wooden truss beams have been used in the sports halls, and with their mechanical connections they too are completely demountable and recyclable. The thermically modified wood on the outside of the building was steamed in an oxygen-free environment, making it extremely weatherproof without the use of poisonous chemicals.
The huge roof surface has enabled the installation of an impressive arsenal of solar panels to provide the building with energy, and they are connected to smart batteries. The storerooms and bicycle sheds have green roofs. To optimize the energy use of the building even further, a field with holes drilled in it has been laid out so that energy from a heat pump can be stored to warm or cool the building. The shower water is used to flush the toilets, and some of the energy from the waste water is used to pre-warm the hot water in the sanitary facilities.
Characteristic bricks made of Boomse clay
On the banks of the Rupel, a tributary of the River Scheldt just to the south of Antwerp, clay was dug for the characteristic bricks of which many buildings in the district are made. The first phase of the new building works on the site of the old sports complex, De Schalk, consists of the construction of a gymnasium and a childcare facility made of these same bricks.
In the design for phase 2, the ball sports cluster, made by architectural studios ZJA and Archiles in collaboration with OMGEVING landscape architects, bricks made of Boomse clay have again been chosen.
The new building
The ball sports centre De Schalk is in the middle of the activities park. From the entrances to the park, paths lead to the main door of the sports complex. This guidance is reinforced by the long sight lines, which ensure that the whole route can be seen at a glance, making it easy to find your way. The new sports complex is large but designed so that it merges into its surroundings as far as possible. This is aided by the shape of the building, which does not appear as a single volume but in three parts. It consists of two rooms for ball sports, with a hall for top-level sport, a smaller hall for recreational sport and a transparent middle zone made of glass and wooden columns. In the middle zone we find all the facilities for both sportspeople and spectators. To soften the visual impact even further and to liven it up, stratification has been used; the lower levels and the outbuildings for storage are constructed in the bricks of Boomse clay, while the higher levels of the sports halls are clad with light-grey wood. This alternation between light and warm accents, the elevated areas of ground and the placement of bushes and trees ensures careful visual integration into the residential area.
Spacious and functional
The entrance to sports complex De Schalk makes a big inviting gesture, with a generous view of the interior provided by the tall glass facade. The reverse also applies; from the cafeteria on the first floor the glass presents a panoramic view of the park. The wooden columns and open colonnade make the connection between the park and users of the building. The zone with changing rooms and sanitary facilities is in the entrance area, including the stairs to the first floor, with sports halls on either side.
The larger hall has retractable stands, to supplement the seating on the opposite side. The hall for top-level sports can accommodate up to 1,000 spectators for matches, while the smaller sports hall can seat 400.
On the first floor is a central foyer that gives access to the permanent stands and offers a view of both sports halls. Here too are the café and terrace, with a view of the activities park, and a multifunctional room that is available for hire.
Seeing and being seen, and meeting each other, are central to the experience of the sustainable and compact Willebroek sports complex.
Architect: ZJA in collaboration with Archiles architects
Commissioned by: Autonoom Gemeentebedrijf Willebroek
Project management: Belfius Bank
Landscape architect: OMGEVING
Advisors: Sweco Belgium (stability, technology, EPB), De Fonseca (acoustics), ASBT (security), FSEC (fire safety)
Year: 2021 - ongoing