Hasselt Court of Justice, Belgium
The project to develop and revitalise the area around Hasselt train station in Belgium was tendered in an international competition organised by Euro Immo Star. The contest ran in association with the province of Limburg and a ceremony announcing the winners was hosted in August 2004.
The team chosen consists of Jurgen Mayer H, who are located in Berlin, and Hasselt-based companies' a2o-architecten and Lensºass architecten. The client of the development is Stationsomgeving NV, Hasselt.
Court of Justice development
The new urban development plan, situated in the Monseigneur Broekxplein region, will run from the Ring, along the railway grounds and the station to the Kanaalzone. Undeveloped land around this Parklaan will be filled in with offices, residential areas, commercial zones and parking spaces.
Two neighbouring suburbs, Hasselt and Runkst, on either side of the railway tracks will be linked, making the area more accessible for further development.
The design of the project is based on a master plan by Rotterdam-based landscape architects West 8, headed by Adriaan Geuze and Edzo Bindels, and Greisch Engineers, based in Leige. The plan was completed in May 2006 and construction started in early 2008. It is expected that the build will be completed by February 2011.
Phase one includes low-rise blocks for offices, hotels and housing. Down the line, Phase two development includes the 23,000m² governmental office building including the Court of Justice, for which J Mayer H is the design engineer.
Engineering company Eurostation and architects a2o and Lensºass will be building the project with an overall budget of €1,000/m² or approximately €2.5bn in total.
The development takes the tree emblem of Hasselt as its theme, with a nine-level block rising up to represent the leaves, branches and six base levels as the trunk.
Offical departments that were previously spread around the city will be housed under the same roof and the vacated buildings will be used for residential housing.
The structure is located 6m from the railway tracks, making it an unmissable sight for visitors to the city. "The first glimpse of Hasselt will be this building, so it's a good entrance to the city, with one high and one taller building," says Jo Berben, a2o architecten.
a2o, which is working on the Houses of Justice wanted the building to convey a positive message and therefore it has been designed with a glass façade and light, bright interior to contrast with the more austere image of traditional law courts. Ceilings are low because the architects wanted to avoid creating deep spaces for the same reason.
There is a main, low-profile, entrance at ground level to act as a reminder that the building is always accessible to local residents.
The development contains offices for lawyers, magistrates and jury people with a grand law library, cafes and restaurants as well as official offices for other government departments.
The main construction materials are steel and concrete. There is double façade with glass on the outside and an interior 'second skin' 1m in from the exterior which acts as insulation.
The 'tree' form is made out of wood and some parts will have aluminum cladding for aesthetic, as opposed to structural, reasons.
"The wood is a bearing construction that helps us make the façade," says Berben. "It's a structural form that we put on the outside and it has a certain rhythm."