The Glass Center
The Glass Centre, Flemish Centre for Modern Art, has been constructed along the length of the “De Vryheyt” passage, right in the heart of the town of Lommel. On “Dorp” square it completes the cultural ensemble for- med by the Aerts house and the regional tourist cent- re. In the “De Vryheyt” passage, a new glass gallery links “Dorp” square with the “De Adelberg” cultural centre and its future theatre.
The nature of the project required us to design a glass building, and it has been designed in such a way that the space it provides blends in seamlessly with the art it displays and produces, forming a unified whole. Furthermore, the structure emphasises the Glass Centre’s multifunctionality (education, information, ser- vices, exhibitions and glass production). The building’s architecture adapts to this multifunctionality, using glass in varied and innovative ways. The Glass Centre is composed of two interconnected glass areas that interact with each other: first, there is a parallelepiped composed of a stainless steel frame covered with an ultra-clear glass curtain wall; second, there is a glass cone made up of triangles, which clearly identifies the building as the Glass Centre. The roof is considered to be the fifth facade and will receive a special treatment in the future.
The range of colours used for the finished interior decor includes only white, black and a range of pure greys, composed exclusively of white and black pigments. The result is a neutral canvass that maximises the impact of the art works and their colours. In practice, we have retained white and two shades of grey with 35 and 45 percent black.
From the outset, the building’s sustainability was considered to be an essential element of the project, both by the owner and by the architect. Heat from the kilns is therefore collected and used to heat the building and rainwater is used for the glass production work.
The 6 m high parallelepiped houses the exhibition areas, which are laid out on three levels around the cone (the lower level, street level and the first floor). The luminous street level floor attracts visitors’ attention and entices them into the Glass Centre. This area overlooks the exhibition hall situated in the lower level, the access to the cone and the two-storey glass kiln. As a result, visitors are naturally drawn to the lower level.
The lower level, which benefits from little natural light, is particularly well adapted to exhibiting art works made from glass. The exhibition area has a direct link to the workshop: it is separated only by large glass panels, enabling visitors to follow the manufacturing process whilst remaining at a safe distance.
The glass cone, which is 8 m in diameter, reaches a height of 30 m, dominating the other buildings in the town centre. It is clearly visible from all directions, but it is not an imposing presence in the urban landscape thanks to its filigree structure and the ultra-clear cove- ring that makes it almost transparent. At night, however the cone stands out as a real landmark thanks to a sea of electroluminescent diodes, as well as its illuminated point. Its point, which is made of perforated steel plate, is lit from the inside by a projector that shines upwards. The electroluminescent diodes that light up the structu- re in varying patterns are attached to the joints of the frames. They snake around the walls and come to a point at the top, constantly changing the building’s visual impact.
Architects: Philippe Samyn and Partners
Location: Lommel, Belgium
Architects and Engineers: Philippe SAMYN and PARTNERS sprl, Architects and Engineers
Conception and Direction: Philippe Samyn
Client: TOERISME LOMMEL vzw
Partner in Charge: L. Gestels
Associates: J.P. Buse, D. Debougnoux, S. Konincks, R. van Lammeren, M. Van Rossen.
Structural engineering: Philippe SAMYN and PARTNERS sprl with SETESCO sa (J. Schiffmann, Ph. Samyn).
MEP engineering: Philippe SAMYN and PARTNERS sprl with FTI sa (J. Michiels, Ph. Samyn).
Documentation management: Philippe SAMYN and PARTNERS (A. Charon)
3D renderings: Philippe SAMYN and PARTNERS
Pictures on site: M. Scheepers – M-F Plissart – I. Tömöri
Models: AMA (F. Van Hoye)
Modelspictures: A. Fernandez
Main contractor: REYNDERS B&I
Workshop equipment: INTEGRATED GLASS SYSTEM
Monumental lighting: MAGIC MONKEY
Type: Cultural Center
Photographs: Marie-Françoise Plissart