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Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.

Backstay Hostel Ghent in Belgium by a154

 
December 24th, 2014 by Sumit Singhal

Article source: a154 

THE ASSIGNMENT
The construction of student housing and redevelopment of a protected interbellum period building in order to create a hostel.

THE LOCATION
The construction site is located in the heart of Ghent’s student neighborhood. The area is demarcated by rear facades and the gardens belonging to surrounding buildings. The only access to this inner area is along the street called ‘Sint Pietersnieuwstraat’. This entrance is characterized, in particular, by the office building ‘Het Licht’ (the light), erected in 1930, drawn by architects Fernand and Maxime Brunfaut. An 18th century building stands next to this light-giving city beacon and it too needs to be preserved and restored.

Image Courtesy © CO2

Image Courtesy © CO2

  • Architects: a154
  • Project: Backstay Hostel Ghent
  • Location: Belgium
  • Photography: CO2-images
  • Interior: Conceptfabriek and Nele Van Damme
  • Stability: Studiebureau Haegebaert / Dexco
  • Visualization: Animotions
  • Building A: 1.450 m2
  • Buildings B and C: 6.990 m2
  • Completion date: July 2014 / September 2014

Image Courtesy © CO2

Image Courtesy © CO2

Master Plan
The former buildings of the daily newspaper and printing company ‘Vooruit’ are completely demolished, with the exception of the editorial offices facing the street and the 18th century building next door. The vacant area created provides 2 underground floors, one of which functions as a commercial space and the other a parking and storage floor. The roof of the building’s base features an urban roof garden. Two buildings are installed on top of this roof garden. On the left-hand side the student house B, on the right-hand side, within the demarcation of the existing project wall, the student house C. Both buildings look out onto the roof garden. On the street side ‘Het Licht’ with adjacent building is completely restored and refurbished as hostel and launched under the name Backstay. The commercial spaces underground are accessed by wide staircases and an access ramp leads out onto the St. Pietersnieuwstraat. Buildings B and C are accessible from the courtyard garden.

Image Courtesy © CO2

Image Courtesy © CO2

Building A. ‘Het licht’ (the light) as Backstay Hostel
“Architect Fernand Brunfaut (1886 -1972) designed the building in 1930 for the editors of the newspaper ‘Vooruit’ and the printing company ‘Het Licht’. From the outside it is most recognizable by the six-sided bay windows of glass and ironwork which give the building its elegant and recognizable look. In that manner, the original facade of an existing 19th century town house came to be full of exuberant and colorful geometric art deco elements.

At night the lighting of the facade and the entrance section not only symbolized the name of the printers but they also illustrated the nocturnal activity involved in the production of a newspaper.

Image Courtesy © CO2

Image Courtesy © CO2

It was clear that the socialist movement was very proud of their new building and this was also made evident in architecture magazines, posters and flyers. The majority of the authentic interior, designed by Maxime Brunfaut, the son of the architect, was unfortunately lost during the bankruptcy of the printing company ‘Het Licht’ and when the newspaper editors moved. The building remained empty for a long time until it was redeveloped in the early 90s as the new cultural center Backstage. It is still known to many citizens of Ghent under that name.

Image Courtesy © CO2

Image Courtesy © CO2

This cultural center came to an end in 2009, after which the buildings were sold to the current owner, Upgrade Estate. Since this building calls for a special approach, this particular renovation project was executed in close cooperation with the Department of Monuments and Heritage. The valuable floor, wall and ceiling finishes were, as far as possible, preserved and revalued throughout the entire building. However, the focal point of the restoration lies in the entrance hall, the ticket counter hall and the staircase but also in the beautiful glazed facade which will be restored during the next phase.

Meticulous studies, such as drawing up historic color schemes, were conducted in order to remain as close as possible to the techniques originally used in the execution of the building work. The colors were chosen in accordance with this research. The painting technique was copied.

Image Courtesy © CO2

Image Courtesy © CO2

The facade of the adjacent building, the former bookstore ‘De Vlam’ (the flame), was also restored. The stained glass windows with external joinery was restored. The green color is good in keeping with the original view. A budget-friendly hostel with an extensive range of rooms containing, in total, some 108 beds is realized after restoration.

Image Courtesy © CO2

Image Courtesy © CO2

The first floor is occupied by the ‘daily functions’. The former ticket counter hall located at street level is transformed into check-in location for the hotel guests. Deeper into the building, the cafeteria and the breakfast room, open onto both an internal patio as well as an outdoor terrace. The rooms on each floor are furnished with bunk beds and regular beds. The lighthouse is occupied by a ‘blog space’ where it’s possible to work in peace and quiet.

Interior designers arranged the interior layout using multicolored and often fixed furnishings. Moreover, each room also refers to a major international newspaper.

Image Courtesy © CO2

Image Courtesy © CO2

The student houses B and C
As mentioned earlier, these two buildings have been positioned more deeply with in the courtyard garden.

Building B has 7 building levels and connects to the Backstay building with the face end. This U-shaped building consists of a base of five levels crowned with two floors. It forms a pendant in relation to the adjoining, adjacent building. In order to give each of the 93 rooms sufficient light and to disperse the volume into the courtyard, it was decided that a recess should be made in the center of the volume to obtain a systematic U-shape.

Image Courtesy © CO2

Image Courtesy © CO2

This incision ensures that the building has a far greater articulation than when the entire permissible surface area is fully built up. The facades of the base are provided as stacked surfaces in various shades suggesting thereby the abundance of student rooms. Program becomes facade, each room is given an identity. The division composed of base-crowning creates a reduced dominance in the inner area. This receded crown with vertical lattice work in dark color favors the incidence of light.

Building C consists of two levels and is situated opposite the garden. This building connects to the rear facades of the adjacent buildings. Conceptually, it has been devised to fit seamlessly into the existing provisional and rear facades of the project edging.

Image Courtesy © CO2

Image Courtesy © CO2

It was decided that the best way to resolve the excessive construction length would be by allowing the collective circulation to run via the outdoor terraces, which are an extension of the rooms. For this purpose, the building’s front facade was removed and replaced by several steel tubes, creating a great degree of openness towards the square. The rest of the building’s structure is retained. The vertical circulation takes place via sets of stairs that are hung on the building. At the height of these stairs the terraces become wider and this results in fully fledged outdoor spaces. This building consists of 12 student rooms.

Image Courtesy © CO2-images

Image Courtesy © CO2-images

Image Courtesy © CO2

Image Courtesy © CO2

Image Courtesy © CO2

Image Courtesy © CO2

Image Courtesy © CO2

Image Courtesy © CO2

Image Courtesy © CO2

Image Courtesy © CO2

Image Courtesy © a154

Image Courtesy © a154

Image Courtesy © a154

Image Courtesy © a154

Image Courtesy © a154

Image Courtesy © a154

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