Venue Building Silt, Middelkerke

Striking building at the Belgian coast

Both inspiring and principled, venue building Silt Middelkerke is an asset to the Belgian coast in several respects. With great love of the sea and the dunes, this new eye-catcher combines coastal reinforcement, liveability and sustainability. The extraordinary design is a creation of architectural studio ZJA and DELVA landscape architects, in collaboration with OZ and Bureau Bouwtechniek and a wealth of experts who together make up Bouwteam Nautilus.

Take a look at how our design for the Venue Building Silt Middelkerke came into being
Design process

Reinforcement sea embankmen and enhanced public space

The requirements for a new venue building, Silt in Middelkerke, encompassed a wide array of objectives. The design had to accommodate a reinforcement of the sea embankment, a plan to enhance the quality of the public space by removing car traffic and also unify the boulevard and the Epernay square.

A rejuvenating impulse

The centre of Middelkerke needed a rejuvenating impulse to create conditions for living and visiting the coast that met the contemporary requirements and preferences of residents and tourist alike. This called for a new lay out of the Epernay square, becoming a car free zone thanks to the planned underground parking garage, and seeing its surface doubled in size. This connects it to the centre and allows access by car while still giving most space to pedestrians and cyclists.

At least as important as the casino itself was the need for a multipurpose building, that could serve as a social and cultural meeting point for Middelkerke; a new living room for the town, to host conventions, exhibitions and concerts. On top of that, the development of a hotel right on the beach would stimulate tourism.

A multifunctional building

In collaboration with OZ, DELVA Landscape architects and Bureau Bouwtechniek, ZJA produced a design that excels in integrating the casino, the hotel and the multipurpose hall into the characteristic West Flemish dune landscape. This had disappeared behind the dead straight sea embankment and the wall of buildings made out of bricks and concrete. 

Reviving history

This project offered the opportunity to call to memory the history of Middelkerke as a thriving town on the medieval island of Testerep, halfway between Westende and Oostende. And so it does by creating a space in the centre of town that creates a renewed relationship with the landscape of dunes, beach and gullies. The Venue Building offers a contemporary way to experience the historic coastal landscape in the centre of Middelkerke.

Public space

The sea embankment is reconstructed more towards the sea, creating extra space that offers an open view and breaking the monotony of the straight embankment. This allowed for the Epernay square to be extended by a high artificial dune, on top of which a green square with ponds and fountains arises. This results in a natural and attractive place to linger, with views of the sea and direct access to the beach.

Transparent facade

The multipurpose hall, the restaurant and the casino are built into the dune, but all have transparent facades and spectacular views. Large terraces in front of the restaurant and the casino profit from this panorama.

Hotel tower

The heart of the hotel tower consists of a high lobby that gives access to the multipurpose hall, the restaurant and the casino. The Venue Building Middelkerke is a unique feature on the Flemish coast, in its confluence with the landscape and its sea view. And where else can you book a hotel room literally on the beach and have breakfast on the sixth floor, overlooking the entire coastline?

The dune and the eye-catcher

The artificial dune introduces the surrounding landscape and the gullies back into the centre of town. This ‘landscraper’ combines a dune/square and the functions of casino, multipurpose hall and hotel with the open space of the beach. Inside and outside interact intensely on all levels. This design adapts to the landscape in a contemporary way, never becoming cheap or loud.

The hotel of five floors with a breakfast room on the sixth floor is a striking yet modest volume on the beach. It is an eye-catcher, but one that echoes the contained strength and austerity of the Flemish coastal landscape in its design. Its shape is simple but mysterious, referring to the shapes and colours from nature or from the fishing port. The hardwood veil around the hotel will weather much like the wood in the quays, the doors of the locks, the mooring posts. A sophisticated lighting design built into the facade highlights the wooden structure after sundown. By day and by night the hotel appears as a welcoming beacon, a sculpture with soft contours.

Sustainability Silt Middelkerke

The design minimalizes the use of energy and material in the building process, but the choice for more efficient production processes and the application of recycled material also make this a sustainable design. Sustainability and environmental criteria are not an afterthought but of the same crucial order as safety, functionality, aesthetics and economic value. The artificial dune and the awning part of it near the terraces of the hotel and the casino are an energy saving element. By offering shadow in summer and insulation during the winter. The choice for wood, specifically cross laminated timber, in the open casing around the hotel tower saves enormous quantities of CO2, because it is a renewable and circular material.

What draws people to Middelkerke

Thanks to the parking garage underneath the dune, removing cars from the Epernay square and expanded public space towards the sea room has been created for what can safely be called a place of interest, a sight to be seen: the green dune-like square with ponds and fountains, leading to the beach. This is the experience that draws people to Middelkerke. The raw and open character of the sea is smoothly and invitingly fused with the landscape of beach and dune and entwined with the economic and cultural vital functions that give to Middelkerke the reserved elegance that characterizes a contemporary seaside resort.

Awards for Silt Middelkerke
Winner: World Landscape Architecture Award 2023 (Eervolle vermelding), International Architecture Award 2022
Nomination: ARC24, WAN Future Projects - Mixed Use Award 2021

Client Silt Middelkerke: The municipality of Middelkerke

The Nautilus consortium is a collaboration between developer Debuild, chief designers ZJA (architecture) and DELVA (landscape architecture), OZ (casino and hotel design) and Bureau Bouwtechniek (execution architect), contractors TM Furnibo-Democo. They are assisted by experts from COBE, VK Engineering, Beersnielsen, Witteveen+Bos, Plantec, MINT and Sertius.

Year: 2024

Project: #1172






Parking garage Kustwerk Katwijk, Katwijk

Coastal reinforcement with underground parking

Awards Winner: German Design Award 2017, IPI Award of Excellence 2017, BNA Dutch Best Building of the year award 2016, Prix d'Excellence…

Read more

Visit: inspiration on the Belgian coast

Sunday 7 May is 'Open Wervendag' in Belgium. Among the places open to the public for the day will be the construction dock for the Scheldt…

Read more

Diamond Exchange, Capital C Amsterdam, Amsterdam

New life for a monument

Historically an exchange is the meeting place of markets and people, goods and ideas, and that is how the renewed Diamond Exchange meets…

Read more

Hortus Botanicus, Amsterdam

Saving the old botanical garden

The glasshouse for the Amsterdam botanical garden, dating from 1993, is one of the earliest significant projects the architectural studio…

Read more