Experimental Beguinage (Home for Elderly People)

The construction of this Experimental Beguinage is the fruit of four years of hard work carried out by architects and landscapers in order to embody the ambitions of the Mayor of Vieille Eglise. The Mayor aimed at offering a new way of living by encouraging the encounter of generations, and bringing together children, adults and elderly people. Based on exhaustive and intense thinking about rural landscape forms and practices, an innovative architecture that truly respect human and natural environment, has been developed. Located at the entrance of this village of french Flander, this Experimental Beguinage site is embraced by the curve of a “watergang”, local name of drainage network particular to this polder zone. This 7500m2 area site is divided into two plots, linked together by creating a new street, and a large grassy square accessible to all village residents. A long wall of human scale is punctuated by the emergence of few cantilevered over-hangs volumes that maintain a strong connection with the rest of the village.

This wall protects the interior of the Beguinage which includes 15 housing units for elderly people, composed of 6 constructed entities of 1240m2 that spread over the great scenery of the countryside. The alternation between full beveled gables and highly measured intervals recall the historic Beguinage in Flanders. The attention paid to the rhythm of life of elderly people has produced a type of housing that strengthens social solidarity in its intimate and collective relationship. The material unity between walls and yellow brick floor confirms the interiority of the courtyards of which abstract mineral area composes a sober, bright and confortable environment. The implantation of facades and the soil geometry form a slow choreography of pedestrian paths that lead to shared gardens planted with orchards and maintained by children from a nearby school.