Casino project Middelkerke receives the International Architecture Award

In December 2021, the architectural firm ZJA submitted a file to the ‘Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design’, the organization behind the International Architecture Award. The design for the new dune casino in Middelkerke was one of 650 submitted projects. The jury consists of recognized architects, designers and design experts and has nominated 150 worldwide projects.

The International Architecture Awards are the oldest and most prestigious global architecture awards. Awarded annually by the Chicago Athenaeum, Museum of Architecture and Design, along with The European Center for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies, they are considered leaders in architecture.

The task of designing a new event building on the coast at Middelkerke and at the same time strengthening the existing seawall was approached from the perspective of the original landscape. The design adds a renewed dune landscape to the existing coast. In the heart of the area is a striking building that stands as a new lighthouse by the sea.

The event building Middelkerke combines coastal reinforcement, viability and sustainability. It hosts a casino, a hotel, a restaurant, a multi-functional event area and an underground car park that ensures a pedestrian zone at street level. In addition to strengthening the sea wall and car-free zone, the design also contributes to the improvement of public space by merging the boulevard and Epernayplein.

The soul of the design lies in the intimate integration with the dune landscape, the transformation of Middelkerke’s center into a pedestrian-friendly area and the realization of a building that acts as an eye-catcher. At the same time, the seawall must be strengthened, which will give Middelkerke security, an urban renewal will be carried out and the city will receive an economic boost. The green dune-like square with ponds and fountains provides access to the beach.

The integrated design is a new chapter in the history of Middelkerke, which once arose as a fishing village after dunes were formed on the historic Testerep peninsula. The dunes provided protection against flooding, and the waterway between the island and the mainland was a direct connection to the North Sea. After a century of large-scale development and infrastructure projects, the original landscape has largely disappeared under stones and asphalt.

The design aims to restore the dune landscape to its former glory and creates a comprehensive public space with the existing Epernayplein as its centre. The dyke will be moved further out to sea, enabling an extension of Epernayplein while integrating it into the landscape. A large artificial dune is built to connect the city, the square and the beach with the casino, the public hall for exhibitions and concerts and a restaurant. Marram grass, water features and sand channels that open onto the beach simulate a dune experience. The new public space, with the climb to the green square at the top of the dune, is a tourist attraction in itself.

The beach hotel will be connected to the event building. With its enigmatic, sculptural silhouette, it is a low-key icon with an open grid of curved accoya beams. The entire design optimizes the processes of energy supply, waste treatment and production and uses recyclable materials where possible.

Technical sheet

  • Client: Middelkerke municipality. Bouwteam Nautilus is a Dutch-Belgian collaboration between:
  • Architect: ZJA (chief architect), DELVA (landscape architect) in collaboration with OZ (casino and hotel design) and Bureau Bouwtechniek (executive architect).
  • Developer: Debuild.
  • Consultants: COBE, VK Engineering, Beersnielsen, Witteveen+Bos, Plantec, MINT and Sertius.
  • Contractors: Democo and Furnibo.

Photos: Bouwteam Nautilus and Prologue

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