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Market Hall
Exercise in Renaissance
Following two demolition campaigns for a world exhibition in 1913, and an administrative center never built in the 1960s, Ghent’s historic heart degenerated for decades into a desolate parking lot in between a suite of three adjoining, Gothic towers. In two consecutive competitions between 1996 and 2005, Robbrecht and Daem Architects and Marie-José Van Hee Architects proposed their own program, countering the initial competition requirements. Rather than just providing an open space for events,
they sought, by meticulously positioning a market hall, to rectify this deficiency and reinstate the presence of old urban areas that had become unrecognizable.
The building positions itself between Poeljemarkt, Goudenleeuwplein, and a new lower green space connecting to the brasserie, bicycle park, and public toilets below the hall. And although the building clearly occupies a position on the 24 000-square-meter site, it fits in well. Compared to
St. Nicholas Church, Belfry, and Cathedral, it assumes the heights of a lower group of buildings such as the adjacent town hall, from which it derives, mathematically, its profile.
As an urban interior, the inside embraces the passersby with a dual modulated wooden ceiling with small windows that scatter light inward. The exterior, and in fact the entire building, seems to assume a respectful role relative to the nobler, historic stone buildings by using a wooden, almost humble, finish. A glass envelope protects the wood and provides an integrated soft shine with the reflected sky.
Large buffer basins to absorb rainwater – principles of low-energy consumption for the brasserie – as well as the use of truly natural materials, the contribution of public transportation, and a clear vision about giving new value to the historic center with its old spatial structures broadly flesh out sustainability for the future. The center of Ghent will again become
a social spot for people and will be recognized in the industry for its architecture. In 2012, the Market Hall was chosen as a finalist by the jury of the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture – Mies van der Rohe 2013.
Robbrecht and Daem Architects & Marie-José Van Hee Architects were both founded in 1975. Since then, they have worked closely together on numerous projects. The main theme throughout the work of Robbrecht and Daem is the relationship they maintain between their architectural designs and the visual arts. The work of Van Hee is renewing the tradition of building timeless architecture with a particular attention to space, natural materials, and light.

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