CONSTRUCTION OF A NEW ENTRANCE AND FRONT-OFFICE FOR THE BOTANICAL GARDEN OF MEISE | OPEN CALL (0031.02) ORGANIZED BY THE FLEMISH GOVERNMENT ARCHITECT.
The Botanical Garden of Meise, one of the most beautiful botanical gardens in the world, wants to prepare for the future: whilst having a huge collection of specimen and a vast amount of plants and trees, it does not have a representative front-office. Atypically located distant from an urban setting, it is a destination rather than a strolling place in the city. Our proposal addresses both the need for visibility to the outside world, as well as a flexible framework for future evolution of the Botanical Garden.
A series of simple yet powerful steel porticos materialises a long path, creating a ‘vestibule’ as a welcoming zone for the Botanical Garden. It gives the Garden identity, and a clear landmark for passers-by on the high-way, tram and main regional road.
The entrance strip links both existing entrances, and forms the spine on which various pavilions are plugged into: two entrance pavilions on both ends, the guest house for academic residents, the garden shop, a contemplation pavilion, etc. Its high level of flexibility allows extension and transformation in time: structures can be added or changed, depending on the requirements or changing conditions. The pavilions refer clearly to greenhouses, which light up at night. The functional program in the greenhouses is clustered in wooden boxes. The overall language of the architecture is very low-key: basic, vernacular techniques based on agrarian buildings are used.
Visitors are allowed in this ‘welcome garden’ without admission: the Botanical Garden is given back to Meise. Everyone is offered a glimpse of this marvelous piece of patrimony, where the human being is inferior to the majestic trees, the scents of flowers, the stillness of the lake. Entering the Botanical Garden thus becomes a poetic experience: the vestibule forms an antichambre in which the visitor is merely guest, intrigued to discover the absolute richness of the Botanical Garden. The sequence of porticos and greenhouses gives shape to a transparency that merges inside and outside, that brings this valuable heritage closer to the visitor, without compromising it.