Halve Maan

Competition design for creating the 'Halve Maan' bunkersite in Ostend as a recreational viewpoint.

Ostend, 2018, City of Ostend, in collaboration with Origin Architecture and Engineering and Buro Voor Vrije Ruimte

The ‘Halve Maan’ (Half Moon) site presents itself today as a rich and complex palimpsest of over a hundred years of military history. The seemingly wild landscape of dunes is in fact an artificial ramp upon which one finds artefacts of almost every significant stop in her history of origin: 19th century munition depots, bunkers from the first world war, turrets from the second world war, communication infrastructure from the cold war era. In the period of vacancy, starting in the 90’s up until now, the site was partly dismantled and at some points literally bricked up and buried. Today the site looks kind of dwindled and has troubles with illegal trespassing and vandalism. On the other hand this situation assured that valuable flora and fauna, specific to the dunes, was able to develop and is now living together with the concrete masses.

We want to open the gate again, not for the military this time, but for the interested bypassers. Two bunkers seem appropriate to make up for big panoramic viewpoints, aimed at the site itself, the sea and the city of Ostend. Taking into account many conditions, one has to think about the accessibility of a site in which both the buildings and the nature are protected. The team has the opinion that the site doesn’t require severe and interruptive gestures to let it blossom, and appropriately proposes to generate maximum effect with strategically chosen, minimal and compact interventions.

The asphalt road which tells the tale of moving around the site, is already a first interesting element of history in the landscape. Since the road has a historic value, since the road circulates around the site in a logical way and because the asphalt itself is in generally acceptable state; the team proposes to keep it and repair it where necessary. The path is demarcated with a low variable of a L-shaped element at specific locations. Not too high, but high enough to suggest a border. Animals are not obstructed by it. Between the elements are small seams, the sand kind of blows through it, and so does the grass, the border softens.

On the way to the two bunkers two resting places are defined. These are places for sitting down for a while and looking, places where groups or classes can gather around a guide, where something can be eaten, where there can be a deeper focus on the site. The spots are positioned in zones where the asphalt reaches an excess. Since the asphalt was once conceived pragmatically, these are in fact interesting places to stop. The places inscribe themselves in het landscape as half circles. They’re ancient shapes that could be both associated with the nature, as well with the brut, simple volumes of the bunkers. To reach the height necessary for seating, without popping out of the landscape, the figures dig into the natural slopes. The floor of the shapes is asphalt again, new this time. The borders are again constructed as steel L-shaped elements, with a sand colored finish and a rough topping on top to prevent slipping.

The command bunker makes up the first viewpoint and offers a 360 view of the site and the wide environment. The top level of the bunker is accessible via a staircase on the side, but it’s not without dangers. When the path reaches the bunker, it detaches itself from the ground and with a simple and understandable shape reaches a double goal: on the one hand if offers a worthy alternative for people that can’t use the stair and on the other hand the path conquers all difficulties that impede the accessibility of the top floor. The path shows itself as double-branched, slim pier. The shape seems to float above the bunker and that’s exactly the case. The pier has two round bowlike shapes at either end, like a balcony or a real viewpoint. The flooring of the pier and from the walking area around the top level is covered in steel with a dark grey bituminous topping that associates itself with the asphalt. The top rooms of the bunker are considered as a canopy with a wind breaker in outdoor climate and not as an interior space. The bunker is tactically consolidated.

An integral accessibility within the turret of the second bunker is -because of her architecture- not feasible or would require drastic measures. Because of this the bunkers is at most consolidated where necessary. The bunker is dug in again, the historic situation is hereby restored and at the same time some space is returned to nature. The visitor is free to enter the turret, however in the light of integral accessibility there is a again a worthy alternative. The team chooses to place a straight slope according to simple design, comparable to the floating path next to the other bunker, on top of the bunker all the way to the front. At the end of the slope the path cantilevers partly above the ground and actually detaches from the earth and grass.