Academie MWD by
Carlos Arroyo

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From certain angles this performance centre in Belgium has a colourful stripy facade, but from others it appears camouflaged amongst the surrounding trees (+ slideshow).

Academie MWD by Carlos Arroyo Arquitectos

Designed by Spanish architect Carlos Arroyo, the Academie MWD is a school of music, theatre and dance at the Westrand Cultural Centre, which is located within a suburban neighbourhood in Dilbeek, outside Brussels.

Academie MWD by Carlos Arroyo Arquitectos

The architect wanted to come up with a design that mediated between the Westrand building to the west, gabled houses to the east and woodland to the north. "The question was how to harmonize the different situations, and at the same time produce a building with a quality of its own," he says.

Academie MWD by Carlos Arroyo Arquitectos

Arroyo added a system of louvres to the facade so that, like a lenticular image, the appearance differs depending on the viewing angle.

Academie MWD by Carlos Arroyo Arquitectos

When facing north-east visitors see a life-size image of trees but when facing south-west they see a mixture of blues and greys that capture the colours of the adjacent building, designed in the 1960s by Belgian architect and painter Alfons Hoppenbrouwers.

Academie MWD by Carlos Arroyo Arquitectos

Viewing the building straight-on reveals yet another image; a spectrum of colourful stripes and rectangles that are derived from one of Hoppenbrouwers' paintings, while the rear of the building is clad in a similar variation of metal panels with contrasting finishes.

Academie MWD by Carlos Arroyo Arquitectos

To reference the nearby houses, the massing of the building is broken up into an irregular series of gables. "The new building is a soft transition between the scale of the houses and the imposing presence of CC Westrand," says Arroyo.

Academie MWD by Carlos Arroyo Arquitectos

The entrance is located beneath a chunky cantilever that contains the main auditorium and theatre, while studios, practice rooms and classrooms are spread across two floors at the other end of the building.

Academie MWD by Carlos Arroyo Arquitectos

Other brightly coloured buildings on Dezeen include a kindergarten with rotating facade panels and a public passage and gallery with a large stained glass window.

Academie MWD by Carlos Arroyo Arquitectos

See more cultural buildings on Dezeen »

Academie MWD by Carlos Arroyo Arquitectos

Photography is by Miguel de Guzmán.

Academie MWD by Carlos Arroyo Arquitectos

Here's some more information from Carlos Arroyo:


Academy of Music, Word and Dance in Dilbeek, Belgium

The west part of the Dutch speaking belt around Brussels has an informal cultural capital in Dilbeek, home of the Westrand Cultural Centre and its various facilities. The Academie MWD reinforces this polarity, offering education in music, theatre and dance, as well as an auditorium-theatre.

Academie MWD by Carlos Arroyo Arquitectos

The Urban Challenge

The new building is located in the centre of Dilbeek, in a difficult context with a variety of contrasting situations: south, the main square (Gemeenteplein) with the City Hall and local restaurants; west, CC Westrand, with its monumental volumes designed by A. Hoppenbrouwers at the height of Brutalism; north, Wolfsputten, a protected area of natural forest; and east, a compact group of suburban villas with pitched roofs following the archetypal image of the farm.

Academie MWD by Carlos Arroyo Arquitectos

The question was how to harmonize the different situations, and at the same time produce a building with a quality of its own.

Academie MWD by Carlos Arroyo Arquitectos

First, with the volume. The new building is a soft transition between the scale of the houses and the imposing presence of CC Westrand.

Academie MWD by Carlos Arroyo Arquitectos

Then form. The gables along the street reflect the houses on the other side, but then become a great cantilever that looks CC Westrand face to face.

Academie MWD by Carlos Arroyo Arquitectos

Thirdly, with function. The only entrance is on the side of Westrand. Nothing happens in the other perimeters, being either domestic or natural. It is only on the side facing the cultural centre, where the auditorium rises from the ground, creating a covered public space leading to the academy entrance.

Academie MWD by Carlos Arroyo Arquitectos

Finally, with image. The dynamic facade creates an optic effect. If you walk towards trees you see trees. It is an image of Wolfsputten. If you walk in the opposite direction, see the colours Hoppenbrouwers. Alfons Hoppenbrouwers, architect of CC Westrand, was a colour expert. He spent much of its time painting, and in fact, the facade of the new building, as you walk towards that of Hoppenbrouwers is based on one of his paintings. His two-dimensional work is a combination of mathematics and colour. Lines, measure, proportion, geometry, rhythms, colour and texture. Those are also the ingredients of the music, and in fact several of his paintings are interpretations of musical pieces, e.g. the one that composes the elevation of the Academie. It is the Canon for 36 voices by the 15th century Flemish polyphonist Johannes Ockeghem.

Academie MWD by Carlos Arroyo Arquitectos

The rest of the elevations reproduce the same rhythms, but in metal panels with different finishing textures, reflecting the sky and the forest.

Academie MWD by Carlos Arroyo Arquitectos

Function and Flexibility

As the cantilevered auditorium rises above the covered public space, a transparent entrance leads to the main lobby. This is therefore at the centre of the building, which facilitates the separation of the public functions of the auditorium and the more intimate function of the Academy. Both share the main services, reception, cloakroom, toilets and dressing rooms, which are also connected directly to the auditorium stage at the top level.

Academie MWD by Carlos Arroyo Arquitectos

The classrooms, ballet and orchestra room are arranged on two levels with a central spine which includes the structure, technical services, and circulation, along a corridor that is wide enough to manoeuvre grand pianos and reorganize the function of the classrooms.

Academie MWD by Carlos Arroyo Arquitectos

Above: ground floor plan - click to see larger image

People

Place making is one of the keys of the project. The covered public space below the auditorium is a clear example: even before the building was finished, this space has been used by local associations in weekend activities. Inside, the lobby can be used for receptions, which may be supported from the teacher’s kitchen through a direct door.

At the other end of the building there is another clearly recognizable place, a double staircase with benches and forest views. It's easy to imagine people sitting on the benches, perhaps waiting for a lesson to start, or for someone to finish their practice, or just talking.

Academie MWD by Carlos Arroyo Arquitectos

Above: first floor plan - click to see larger image

Energy and resources

Volume and thermal inertia: The compact form reduces the surface/volume ratio and energy loss. The thin load-bearing walls are visible inside the building, providing good thermal inertia, and covered with a thick blanket of continuous insulation on the outside, where it is most efficient. The separating walls between classes are also massive both for the thermal inertia as for necessary soundproofing.

Academie MWD by Carlos Arroyo Arquitectos

Above: section - click to see larger image

Natural light: The windows are arranged to provide just the right amount of diffuse daylight, while minimising thermal losses. The fins on the southeast facade capture light, reflecting it inwards with different angles. The interiors are white so as to reflect light in all directions. Even the auditorium can function with only natural light.

Construction materials were selected to ensure maximum respect for the environment. The horizontal structure is laminated wood, fully FSC certified. The construction details are simple, no covering materials: the finish is simply white paint, showing the texture of the material on which it is applied. Rainwater is harvested on the roofs and used for the flushing toilets.

The Academie MWD opened on September 8, 2012.

Academie MWD by Carlos Arroyo Arquitectos

Above: elevation - click to see larger image

Architect: Carlos Arroyo Arquitectos, Madrid
Associate Architects: ELD partnership, Antwerp
Structure: Norbert Provoost, Ghent
Engineering: Ingenium, Bruges
Contractor: Kumpen
Site manager: Pieter Broekaert
Client: City of Dilbeek

Situation: Dilbeek, Belgium
Surface: 3554.76 m2
Proj. budget: 5.3 M €
Final cost: 5.4 M €
Competition: 2006 Open Oproep
Construction: December 2010 - April 2012
Inaugurated: September 8, 2012

  • noyz

    ”The new building is a soft transition between the scale of the houses and the imposing presence of CC Westrand,” says Arroyo.

    Haha, is this a joke? “Soft transition”, with that overwhelming cantilevered canopy of the entrance? Typical of architects: they can sell their mama trying to justify any arbritary form. Because you put gabled roofs, this doesn’t mean you relate with the houses of the context – it’s a matter of scale.

    ”The windows are arranged to provide just the right amount of diffuse daylight, while minimising thermal losses.” Another joke?. Come on!

    Poor inside, cool façade effect based on for example Cruz-Díez experiences.

    • music

      I was so surprised to find such a negative comment on this beautiful building that I actually took the trouble to Google noyz+Dezeen. I found dozens of comments by noyz, ALL negative! Not a single thing on Dezeen is good for noyz! wow.

  • LET

    Birds, noooo!!!!

  • h.a.

    Wow, noyz is angry. I actually find it very interesting. May not be exactly my type of architecture but I think this is a genuine piece of architecture.

  • Daniele

    Massive ugliness.

  • Greenish

    How odd, I expected to find much more positive comments down here! I REALLY like it – I think it looks surprisingly calm inside given the exterior, and engaging and bright on the outside without overpowering the surroundings or instantly dating.

    Each to their own I guess :)

  • Chris

    Greenish, I’m with you. Quite stunning actually.