office category, public choice award
from the LILA award ceremony, September 29th, 2017, Ljubljana, Slovenia
In an ever more urbanized world and with a rapidly changing society, the divergent needs for exercise, recreation, meeting, and open spaces also increase. Exact compositions that bind and facilitate must create implicitly attractive and natural public spaces through which visitors can wander carefree. After all, landscape architecture does not employ visible rules to transform nature through spatial interventions, but tangible ones. This often goes hand-in-hand with innovative ecological design and existing historical landscape values. That’s because the leading role is not played by the object, but by the dynamic space surrounding that object, and the outcome is a place of concealed relationships, ready to welcome users and objects.
OMGEVING Landscape architecture chooses not to let space compete with its context. What this implies is that a profound analysis of what is extant becomes a genuine quest for the essence of the landscape by means of unraveling all the layers of the existing character traits of that terrain and city. Focus points and structures are discovered and clarified, and OMGEVING Landscape architecture often finds the solution in the location itself. The challenge is then to highlight that aspect or element by means of a sustainable, timeless and simple gesture. This means the office is not influenced by trends or vogues in materials, but instead its modest designs create the impression that the space has been there forever (or that complex problems have suddenly become disentangled). OMGEVING Landscape architecture chooses a project-oriented approach, one where a design team specifically selected for the task at hand enters into an interactive dialogue with the client. Meanwhile, close collaboration with manufacturers and experts also ensures continuous refinement in terms of sustainable design, environmentally friendly materials and innovative ecological applications. With a focus on creating landscape, water, and nature features and through respect for our human heritage, OMGEVING Landscape architecture aims to be socially engaged and endeavors to assume a prominent position in the debate concerning present and future public spaces.
Spectacular in its simplicity, OMGEVING Landscape architecture‘s balanced projects are positioned on various scales in urban and natural landscapes. Furthermore, the company handles an extensive range of tasks, from master plans to communication to construction specifications and site management. Our range of designs and construction specifications covers parks, playground landscapes, city and town squares, streets, tramways, highways, and residential and work environments.
The square’s design strives towards simplicity and homogeneity with its context. Rather than competing with the surrounding historical buildings, it only works to enhance their strong presence. Walking through the gatehouse of Averbode Abbey one is confronted with a picturesque view of the abbots’ quarters and its shimmering reflection in the water. On the rainy days the water mirror is filled up with rainwater flowing down from the square which is collected in a slightly depressed surface creating this large puddle. The flexibility of the courtyard is guaranteed with the possibility to drain the water from its resting place, thus increasing the usable area of the courtyard for various events.
Along with the water mirror, the quality of this public space is improved by the integration of its ancient Tilia trees with old periphery wall and cobblestone path, as well as the integration of new parking spaces for visitors with reduced mobility, and sufficient facilities for those who choose to visit the abbey by bicycle. Taking into consideration the rich history of Averbode Abbey, it was imperative not to bombard its visitors with historical information, but instead to subtly introduce its history in the square itself. Hence, out of respect for the context, all of the information panels, bins, and bicycle racks have been custom designed and manufactured in dark rusted steel reminiscent of the ferrous iron sandstone appearing in the façades of the abbey buildings.
The Flemish Plain contains a vast landscape which shapes a gentle swampy basin at this point of Hofheide. This basin is the setting for the crematorium, underscoring it and propitiating the permanent formation of a larger reservoir. The building is part of a walk through the park that spreads across the entire precinct, at the end of which are two cemeteries (one for burials, the other for niches). The layout around the building includes a parking area, a field for scattering ashes and a variety of areas for urns and a number of columbaria. Large embankments shield the area from the nearby regional road. An orchard and an expanse of water containing water plants create an atmosphere for silent contemplation. In consultation with the architects, materials were proposed and paving and details designed that connect seamlessly with the building. The temporary partnership of RCR Aranda Pigem Vilalta S.P and COUSSÉE & GORIS architects appointed OMGEVING as a subcontractor to work out the landscape, technical details of the work required around the new Holsbeek crematorium. The land around the crematorium comprises around 5 hectares.
The Bluff in the notorious ‘Ypres Salient’ has remained intact since the end of the World War I. You can still see slight differences in levels, the result of bomb blasts. Many underground passages still exist. And buried in the ground are bombs, munitions and soldiers, who met their end fighting here. The works in this unique landscape have been executed subtly and without disturbing the underground. From the car park, visitors are led to the war zone. The visit starts at a covered information pavilion with an information film. Between the mine and bomb craters, which are now often under water, a long decked pathway provides for a rare experience. The path leads visitors to The Bluff, where the English positions were 10 metres higher than and just 40 metres from the lower-lying German line. At the highest point, there is a lookout with extensive views over No Man’s Land, the neutral zone between the front lines.
What is unusual about the interventions is the staging, which provides ample opportunity for walking. The removal of trees in certain places that had sprung up naturally has allowed the image of the raw, bleak wartime landscape to be recaptured, while other areas have deliberately not been opened up. The former lines are indicated by steel strips in the ground and differences in level are emphasised by steps. The materials used (wood and steel) are a reference back to the war.
The team of OMGEVING and Carve won the international competition to design an adventurous play-scape and landmark on a ‘terril’ in Beringen Belgium. The spectacular scale of this site – regarding both the height of the terril (60 m) as well as its industrial heritage – is unique in the relatively flat surrounding landscape. The intervention is a landmark on a large scale, but through its playable character it also reflects the small scale of a child. The values of the industrial heritage have been a continuous leading theme in the design process that resulted in an unprecedented playscape. The mining ‘terril’ has been given a new meaning, rooted in both the past and the future.
The design consists of three parts, that create a unity with the mountain and its past: a pole forest as a landmark and as reference to the mining past, an adventurous prismatic play surface on the flank of the mountain and an empty coal square on the top of the ‘terril’. The spine of the ensemble is a straight stairs that provides access to all levels. At night, a light line along the stairs makes the topography of the terril visible.
Based on historical analysis of the site, OMGEVING proposed the design of a public ecological swimming pool within the conceptual framework of 18th century English Garden. The concept was to bring the visitor to the already narrated and carefully arranged romantic natural setting and to confront him with emotionally charged dramatic “events.” Therefore the degenerated landscape had to be brought to its ideal form and 20th century concrete pool, transformed into a forest pond merging gently into its surroundings. Keeping in mind that the water quality must correspond with the current health and safety regulations, it was proposed to use an ecological water treatment technology which in turn allowed for a new aquatic ecosystem to be created. Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the water three pavilions emerge. Designed as a group of independent artifacts, their forms evoke images of the dramatic rock formations seen in 18th century paintings of Hans Gude or Peter Balke. The gaps between them, like chasms between cliffs, gently frame the views of the old woods on the opposite side of the water. This creative reinterpretation of the history allowed the designers to take action whilst maintaining respect for a site’s history, catering to the modern standards of comfort and sustainability.