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There can be few more bizarre examples of Post-Modern styling being used to attempt to make a slab block welcoming and rectify erroneous demolition.

Is this the shape of things to come? Ostend's marina has just acquired this new residential complex in which a zip-moderne slab rises bizarrely from a podium of four-storey Olde Flemish houses. Closer inspection reveals that both elements are completely modern and in effect part of the same building. The Olde part is even more crude than the topside, which is at least a fairly honest precast concrete cakestand. The brickwork of the 'houses' is in lifeless stretcher-bond; the arches are clumsily assembled without tapering the bricks (which even a nineteenth-century pasticheur would have done); the ornamental balustrades, tympana, mullions and so on are obviously cast. The result is a blurred image of real architecture seen through dirty spectacles.

The design, by architects ARCAS of Knokke for developers Gebroeders Vandekerckhove of Ingelmunster, is the result of one of those cock-ups (comical and tragic, and sometimes an absurd combination of both) which seem to beset Belgium at the moment. Ten real old buildings were demolished 'by accident'. The developer sportingly offered to produce replacements, and the architects presumably did the best they could within the limits of their budget and knowledge. Planning permission was granted retrospectively: the row in the town has not yet died down.

Of course the result is funny, but it is also sinister (rather like Belgium). Will ungainly craftsmanship become a standard for the repair of real old buildings? Will the happy discovery that if old buildings are demolished, they can easily be replaced with pastiche that happens to fit the developer's desire to develop the site to the full become the norm? In many Belgian towns, these questions would scarcely need to be asked. But Ostend has been destroyed by development far more than by the War. Perhaps this is its future.
COPYRIGHT 1996 EMAP Architecture
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Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:The Architectural Review
Date:Nov 1, 1996
Words:296
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