Gapende Muur

During WWI, Hundreds of thousands of Belgian refugees fled the country to seek asylum in the Netherlands.
In that time the refugees participated to the construction of a memorial in Amersfoort.
For the 100 anniversary of the monument, the plan is to build a folly or other architectonic feature that would sustain the significance of the ancient monument.
2 walls in foolproof, all welded galvanized steel invite themselves in the forest to document the site, the monument, and stories of refugees.
They are actually from one wall, a fence, a separation, opening up to display facts written in words.
There is always a fence in those stories.
This disposition means the visitor will experience tight enclosure on his path through the document.
The impact on his memory and cultural awareness will gain a more intimate significance than a distant, openly displayed grand picture.
This shift is also a mean of preserving the integrity of the monument, and all its features, as a whole, by standing aside of the scenery, “backstage”, and informing with other medium, turned outside-in.
Though it is a shift, it echoes the monumental buildings in many ways:
– Orientation (to be slightly adjusted when clearance in the tree is located exactly).
– “Wall” typology.
– Footprint of the plateau, “peach color”.
– Scale of steel blades folds and stripes recalls of masonry.
– Large scale pictures on the outside, materialized through the effects of shades in the steel folds, though in this case they are blurred on purpose, as to get the clue one needs to get in.
The exact location is the crossing of a clearance in the forest, where a lengthy device can be squeezed in without disturbance, and the natural track we follow today when entering the site after passing the monument
This track has nothing to do with the ad-hoc approach to the monument, when it was planned by the architect in 1916, but that is the reality today. The original access cannot be restored due to the changes in the territory.
All the information is simply displayed in plain words, possibly with pictures, like a giant newspaper page. This is stamped on the steel directly, and covered with a protection layer against graffiti.
The building is shaped to fit between the need of having people reading inside and the wish to leave the trees and other elements of the forest follow their regular life around, taking very little of their space.
The construction itself is actually two gantries on which the skin is tensed.
The design is made in 2 materials:
-Galvanized steel (durability 80 to 120 years)
-Clay concrete, pigmented in the same “peach color” wanted for the fountain of the monument.
-To minimize the impact on the surroundings, there are no concrete foundations, but steel screwed piles, and as indicated before, the building is shaped to leave space for the trees, as it is said earlier it is a guest.
-The story is embedded in the detailing following contemporary/innovative construction techniques, the subdivision echoed the traditional brick size, the small folds evocate the art in the brick work. This is important also in relation to the message of the monument, who tells a story also in its own making, the work of men.
Jury report (translated from Dutch, Original Document, p 17):
The design consists of two adjacent galvanized walls, which, because of the smooth curve, form an open space, where the visitors can walk. Two walls in fully welded galvanized steel as guests in the forest landscape to document the monument and the story of the refugees.
All information is presented in clear terms, with photos, like a giant newspaper page. The information is listed on the thin steel plates, covered with a protective coating against graffiti.
The addition was conceived by the designers at the intersection of a slack in the forest, in which a longitudinal volume can be pressed without disturbance along the natural way that visitors followed when entering the premises after passing the monument.
The construction itself consists of two portals on which a steel curtain is tensioned. The property is extensive. The design restrained character is a conscious choice of the designers, in order to minimize the impact on the existing Belgian Monument.
The jury greatly appreciates the design and the intriguing, poetic form of the added element. The combination of light, sculptural form, where some tightness is assumed, and through text and form has an added meaning, make the proposal attractive. However, there are doubts about the functionality and the durability. The jury wonders whether the written information at this height and in wavy lines will reach the visitors.