The Brakel Police Station is the police headquarters for the town of Brakel (pop. 13,700), a largely agricultural community in the Belgian province of East Flanders. The building provides offices, training classrooms, and gathering facilities for 50 police officers, 2 detainment cells, and parking spaces for 25 security vehicles. By positioning the building carefully on the site, new outdoor spaces for private and public use were created including: parking and logistics under the building structure, a topographic landscape entry plaza, and an exterior stone patio.
This modest public facility, functionally efficient and economically conscientious, has a number of significant architectural features which account for its adoption as a significant landmark for the townspeople and local political establishment. The Police Station’s architectural concept is largely composed of two key details, or elements: Megabricks and Atlantes statues.
The building is built with large blocks, called megabricks, similar in size to the stone monoliths that were used in the architecture of antiquity. The megabricks consist of thick sandwich panels (cladding, insulation, vertical structure, and wall cabinets), fit within steel frames, and not actual bricks but thin clay tile strips glued onto cement plates. The megabricks are structurally deceptive (not load-bearing) but utilize precise detailing to give the impression of large blocks. The vertical structure is much more economical and efficient than load bearing brick, and consists of typical reinforced concrete post and beam construction, hidden in the overlap of two megabricks.
The megabricks, stacked one atop the other, meet the ground on top of a ‘green’ public space. An S-curved ramp contributes significantly to the sculptural topography that denotes the principal entrance to the facility. The mega bricks cantilever beyond this artificial landscape, elevated to give framed views to the agricultural landscape beyond. Underneath there is space for security vehicle parking, logistics, and the maximum security private entry point to the facility.
Twelve gargantuan statues (Atlantes), measuring nearly 12 ft. (3.6m), scaled 2:1 of a person, stand effortlessly in the place of each column. They give a noble stature to the facility akin to the Atlantes of Renaissance architectural vocabulary or the Caryatids of Ancient Greece. Here at the police station the figures are made of two plastic halves not stone, are gentle not heavy, and express a distinctly androgynous being. They both support the weight of facility above, and project an institutional dignity of the officers and town public.
The Atlantes were digitally fabricated. First, the form materialized via a 3d scan of a human body, this process was led by 3d artist Mark Florquin, then digitally refined to obfuscate any gender bias. The final digital model was then sectioned into planar geometry and CNC routed in medium density fiberboard (MDF). MDF sheets were glued together and further tooled with drill bits to create a smooth positive mold. The positive mold formed one half of the final column. Each half was then “painted” with layers of polyester to create a negative (final) mold, the pieces that form the final statue. The two halves were fastened together with a seamless glue joint in situ. The hollow Atlantes statues protect 30cm round structural concrete columns and dignify their structural function.
ORG is a design company which thinks, designs and delivers across scales: from building technology (Elements), buildings (Architecture), to urban and regional developments (Urbanism), offering a broad range of professional services. ORG has an international network with office locations in New York (USA) and Brussels (Belgium) and an affiliated research lab at MIT. ORG was founded in 2006 by Alexander D’Hooghe, Natalie Seys and Luk Peeters. In 2015, Marcel Smets joined as partner at ORG Urbanism. ORG has a multidisciplinary team of professionals, including high-level designers, project managers, expert consultants and technical specialists with backgrounds in architecture, civil engineering, building technology, computation, real estate, landscape and urban design, and planning. Recent works include: Antwerp Ring Road (2018), Beveren City Hall & Police (2018), Tervuren Plaza and Garden (2017), Brakel Police Station (2016), Brussels Market Building (2015), Asse Fire Station (2014).
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