The municipality of Middelkerke in Belgium will soon be enriched with an iconic new casino building. It will be integrated in the landscape in a way that rewrites the historic relationship of the coastal town with the sea. The design is made by architectural studio ZJA, in collaboration with OZ, DELVA landscape architects and Bureau Bouwtechniek, as members of the Nautilus Consortium. Now the environmental permit is there, contractor TM Furnobo-Demeco can start to set up the construction site.
Jean-Marie Decker, Mayor of Middelkerke: "Everyone is praising this wonderful project. On December 23, 2023, the new casino should open.”
Integration with the landscape and coastal management
The soul of the design resides in its intimate integration with the landscape, the transformation of the town centre into one that is pedestrian friendly and the introduction of a landmark building that combines public space, casino, hotel, restaurant, multifunctional event space and underground parking garage. All this while reinforcing the sea dike providing Middelkerke with its needed security, urban renewal and an economic impetus. A large public space is created by moving the dike further onto the beach, creating an extension of the existing Epernay square while integrating it in the landscape. An underground parking garage ensures a car free zone on street level.
Reinald Top (Architect/partner ZJA): “We are proud of the start of the realisation of this unique project. The Venue Building Middelkerke combines coastal management, livability and sustainability. With this building the city of Middelkerke will be ready for its future.”
The permitting process was complex, and therefore took some time. It resulted in an environmental file with no less than 368 documents and an explanatory memorandum of 299 pages. Guy De Meyer (project manager at Debuild NV): "Every aspect received a positive recommendation. An outstanding example of constructive cooperation between different stakeholders."
New public space
A large public space is created by moving the dike further onto the beach, creating an extension of the existing Epernay square while integrating it in the landscape. An underground parking garage ensures a car free zone on street level.
Connecting the town, the square and the beach is a huge artificial dune in which the casino, the public hall for concerts and exhibitions and restaurant are located. They are built underneath the extension of the public space, but all have transparent facades and spectacular views. The event space serves as a social and cultural meeting point for Middelkerke; a new living room for the town. Sea lyme grass, water elements and sand gullies flowing towards the beach simulate a dune experience.
Icon at the Flemish Coast
The new public space, with the climb to the green square on top of the dune is a tourist attraction in its own right. Attached to it is the beach hotel with its enigmatic sculptural silhouette, an understated icon with an open grid of curved beams in accoya wood. The design optimizes energy, waste-management and production processes, and applies recyclable materials where possible.
Zuhal Demir, Flemish Minister of Environment and Tourism: "Once finished, the casino in Middelkerke will be a real eye-catcher on the Flemish coast. A tourist attraction to attract tourists from Flanders and beyond to the coast. With the limate change, and the extreme weather conditions that come with it, in mind, we will also realize an important extra defensive wall with this project, which will help protect Middelkerke and the surrounding area during storm tides."
Client: 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 (executive architect), contractors Furnibo and Democo. They are assisted by experts from COBE, VK Engineering, Beersnielsen, Witteveen+Bos, Plantec, MINT and Sertius.