046 Lo-Reninge Town Hall

Restoration and extension of a former convent to create a town hall

Procedure Architecture competition
Client Dexia / city counsel Lo-Reninge
Surface 940 m2
Phase completed
Date 2008 – 2011

The town of Lo-Reninge, a rural and distinctly historical place, has a good 3000 inhabitants. Visually, it is dominated by buildings in the characteristic yellow brick made from local clay. The centre of the village has since the Middle Ages been bisected by a main street with the market square on its south side. This is the site of the former sixteenth-century convent which the town council recently acquired to use as a town hall.

The old convent consisted of an elongated main building on the side nearest the square and two wings at right-angles to it. Inside is a complicated maze of passages, stairs and rooms. It can be used as a town hall, but not for most public purposes. For this reason, a wing added later was replaced by an open building for the public. A new glazed corridor forms a transition between the market square, the forecourt and the garden. This is where one enters and this is where everything is linked together.

The new building unfolds like one of the typical long-gable farmhouses of the polders, with living quarters, barn and stables all in a single row. Everything is built in wood to contrast with the brick outer shells of the buildings. The choice of wood as a structural material defines the atmosphere of the public area and the weight of the extended archives on the floor above is reflected in the wooden columns and distinctive beamed ceiling that plays a defining role in this small but elongated space.

This good neighbour to the old convent was intended to resemble it closely, thus creating a unified whole. We examined the relationships between window and wall, wall and building, brick and brick. It is topped with a tiled roof with no gutters. We used recycled brick whose shades of colour, form and size relate to the brick of the convent. The brickwork is scintled and pointed using a traditional lime mortar. The same mortar is then applied to the bricks in a more diluted form as a wash, softening the fa├žade and making the individual bricks less distinguishable.