A TOWER FOR EERNEGEM
icw. Max Otto Zitzelsberger, Eernegem, 2017
Ichtegem is situated in a flat landscape near the coast. Its inhabitants live in modest houses along old roads between the fields. In the middle of this landscape, on the shore of a lake, stands the old tower of Eernegem. A long time ago it served the people to pump water from the lake to the station.
At weekends, people here like to climb onto their saddles to discover the varied landscape, cycling to the old tower of Eernegem where they can ascend to find clear views over the beautiful flat landscape. Surrounded by round columns and steel walls they overlook small villages and fields. Tracing the route from which they arrived, they are able to glimpse the sea in the distance.
The tower is freestanding within the landscape, clad in red brick and surrounded by old trees. The metal structure crowns the building, its galvanized steel plates shining silver in the light. Watching it loom above the trees, it could be as old as its brick base or the landscape around it.
Climbing the tower, visitors pass a series of large and small windows, quickly recognizing a new view that unfolds behind each opening. Through one window, the idyllic lake can be seen. Through another, one can look over Eernegem up to the Wijnendale plateau. An open view between the walls offers a view of the vast polder with its green and brown fields. At the very top, the view extends as far as the sea and the horizon.
A light staircase is situated within the old walls of the tower. Around a continuous spindle, folded metal steps spiral out towards the windows. The stairs form broad landings, allowing visitors to enjoy the view at their leisure. A linked balustrade leads them further up. The further they ascend, the more penetrable the tower becomes. The entire surface of the existing pump tower is soon at the visitor's disposal, moving freely between the galvanized steel walls that gently reveal surprising views. This cut clearly shows the constructive idea of the building. A light yet stable metal structure stands nimbly on the heavy old walls of the pump tower. The staircase runs in a continuous movement from the wide brick base to the top of the erected slender metal tower.
There is no ultimate goal when ascending the tower, as visitors encounter a special view from the very first window of the brick pedestal. The journey through the tower is different at every turn, making every window, balcony or platform a destination. Every visitor encounters their own route, ensuring that the tower will never be a linear attraction where each visitor is on the heels of the person ahead.
In the corners, visitors find plaques displaying short, pregnant sentences, revealing the history of the landscape. They tell about the migratory birds that pass through, about the war, the people, their past and their present. One reads about what was and sees what is, allowing these impressions to mingle.
Inside the spacious tower, the staircase slowly turns up along the old windows. One has the feeling of climbing a mountain instead of walking up a flight of stairs. After having discovered all the angles and views on the deck halfway, the surrounding landscape reveals itself more and more as visitors enter the sensory frame of galvanized steel, listening to the wind blow along its plates. Up there, the width of the staircase suddenly turns into a slender metal tower, concluding in an open viewing platform. Now the view of the landscape and its infinite breadth is free. Beyond the horizon lies the sea, a scene not easily forgotten.
ARCHITECTURE: Veldwerk Architecten, Ghent icw.
Max Otto Zitzelsberger, Munich STRUCTURE: UTIL Structural Studies, Schaerbeek