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Reconversion ICC

Masterplan for the building cluster of the Citadel Park, reconversion and restoration of the ICC/Floralies Hal


In the middle of Ghent’s largest city park, the Citadel Park, lies a large-scale, impenetrable building cluster. The impressive Floralies Hall forms the heart of this cluster. It was built on the occasion of the 1913 World Exhibition as a gigantic Centennial palace on a spot where an old fort used to stand. The four building heads house the International Congress Centre (ICC), the Museum of Contemporary Art (S.M.A.K.), the velodrome ‘t Kuipke and the empty Casinokop. The Citadel Park itself is now recognised as a protected landscape.

Floralies Hall as covered urban space with the original roof light, construction of the Six Days cycling track in Ghent

Ghent is internationally renowned for its charming city centre, which is an attractive combination of historical heritage and quality of life. However, Ghent is much more than that. In addition to its historic centre, Ghent is home to a dynamic and diverse population and a rich social and cultural life. In recent years, initiatives of experimental and exploratory use of space have emerged in Ghent, strongly linked to neighbourhood work and cultural initiatives. This dynamic is mainly situated in the north-eastern districts of Ghent and to a very limited extent in the wider southern station surroundings.

The masterplan aims to redefine the urban role and the spatial integration of the cluster in the surrounding landscape. The reactivation of the ICC and the Citadel Park is a opportunity to connect all these qualities and give them an international resonance. The project contributes to strengthening the exploratory neighbourhood and city dynamics. It is an opportunity to create a destination where the city, culture, nature and social encounters coexist in an open and surprising way. It will be a place where the very direct experience of diversity – of people and atmospheres, of animals and plants – becomes the driving force for a renewed image. A place where a city like Ghent not only reveals itself, but also reinvents itself, in all its dimensions.

The S.M.A.K. and its important collection is an essential player in the building cluster. The museum programme must be greatly expanded so that it can assume its role in a qualitative manner. The master plan seeks the best way to integrate the S.M.A.K. and its dynamics into the objectives of the park.

The Floralies Hall and festival hall during the World’s Fair in Ghent, 1913

This creates an urban ensemble where a rich sense of collective ownership and freedom of appropriation are cemented as the foundations for a sustainable piece of urban development. This diverse place becomes the breeding ground from which conference functions, art exhibitions or neighbourhood events derive their experience and identity, and where the Floralies Hall and the historic park become a natural part of an urban experience.

A compact ICC

Concentrating the requested programme in one place makes it possible to create a compact and highly functional ICC. The new double entrance and circulation space form a meandering central foyer to which several rooms can be connected. This opens up the possibility of linking spaces which can also work independently of each other. The ICC functions as a well-oiled machine.

A stacking of relationships

The atrium as a central connecting space between the two new entrances of the ICC

An additional volume will be placed on the large roof of the ICC, which will be extended to the Floralies Hall. This is a lighter element that contrasts in relation to the strong centrality of the existing cluster. NU architectuuratelier, together with 51n4e, wants to reintroduce the original entrance area to the Floralies Hall as an Antechamber in the ICC.

The antechamber is the connecting space between the ICC and the Floralies Hall

The banquet hall will therefore be linked to the new double-sided foyer. This will give the Floralies Hall a side aisle in the ICC and strengthen the relationship between the two. In this intervention, the Floralies Hall will become tangible in the ICC and the ICC will become tangible in the Floralies Hall. The Antechamber will become useful both as a point of access and a space for use.

On the east and west sides of the ICC, the Parkpassage – with its double, interactive facade – creates a strong relationship with the park and the garden to the west. The passage forms the new entrance space to the central atrium. The strong verticality of this three-story space results in interesting stacking of relationships.

A walk through the ICC becomes an intense experience through the spatial play of its vistas. The ground floor will be a succession of spaces with varying lighting conditions and floor heights. This will be sensed from the park, through the winter garden and the Garden room, from the Parkpassage to the entrance, through the atrium to the foyer and through the Antechamber into the Floralies Hall.

On each floor, a foyer is created with a range of different breakout spaces and halls that can be woven together. The spaces, with their different conditions, make a link with the park and the various intermediate gardens, with the Floralies Hall and the heritage of the site, with flowers and plants, with the city. The ICC folds open.

  • client NV citadel finance
  • location Ghent, Belgium
  • date 2018 - present
  • status preliminary design
  • icw 51n4e, 51n4e eco inc.
  • engineering office Landscape: Plant en Houtgoed, stability: Bollinger + Grohmann, techniques: Ingenium, estimation: eld
  • team NU Bert Stoffels, Giulia Ciuffoletti, Konstantijn Verbrugge, Olivier Van Calster, Nathan Heindrichs