BRAKEL – The new police station in a largely-agricultural community in Belgium isn’t quite what it seems. In an area characterised by green hills and valleys (and the egg-laying Braekel chicken), multidisciplinary studio Organization for Permanent Modernity (ORG) took the rural landscape into consideration when designing the facility, which contains offices, training classrooms and gathering facilities for 50 officers. The building’s footprint cantilevers off the sculptural typography of the natural environment, opening up a visual connection from one side to the other.
The project’s architectural concept is based around two key details: the curved façade, made up of four rows of oversized blocks – so’called ‘megabricks’; and a collection of columns under the guise of standing men (atlantes). Neither element is loadbearing, despite the initially deceptive appearance of structural integrity. In fact, the entire station is built from an invisible reinforced-concrete post and beam construction, internally disguised by the distraction of the aesthetic components.
Twelve statues, each measuring 3.6-m tall – a scale of 2:1 – stand guard around the car park at the entrance to facility. ‘A police station, through its strong austere programme, can express brutality in form,’ the architect comments. ‘The atlantes offer human form; in once sense overpowering but, at the same time, humorous, playful and therefore a means to question authority.’ As if building Duplo blocks from micro-Lego, the large-scale ‘megabricks’ appear to be constructed from smaller members, although the pattern is actually composed of clay tiles.
The deceptive nature of the oversized components adds a personably sense of frivolity to what could otherwise be considered to be a very serious building typology. ORG uses this playfulness to open up a dialogue within the community without overly imposing on the agricultural land.