August is a minimalist hotel located in Antwerp, Belgium, designed by Vincent Van Duysen. Contained within the original complex was a convent, whose diverse typology of buildings served as home to the nuns who looked after the soldiers, a place in which they could withdraw from the demanding task of assisting the ill and wounded. The front building housed a reception area for visitors and guests, while a more elaborate, centrally located chapel facilitated worship. The main residential building and its gardens are slightly separated from the others – in fact, most passers-by hadn’t even noticed that this part of the hospital existed; yet, by way of its function, it forms an inseparable part of the magnificent monument.
The project consists of three gardens and five public buildings, all in the neoclassical spirit. One can still sense the sober, understated life of the convent nuns. The chapel and public entrance are much more elaborate than the rest, in keeping with their important purpose. Utilising new technology – well known in the shipyards of Antwerp’s harbour – the military performed tests on the contemporary steel structure that complements the master plan of brick buildings. All design decisions have been guided by a respect for the existing architecture, with the wilful intent not to let the necessary structural works create any visual impediments.
The interior scheme nourishes the existing features, highlighting the grey-green timber panelling, the white mouldings, and so forth, reintegrating original elements and reproducing others that have been damaged or diminished, while selectively introducing black components to distinguish the contemporary from the classic. This design approach has been consciously applied throughout the project, reviving the classical feel for a new public.
Photography by Robert Rieger, Mark Seelen and Frederik Vercruysse
View more works by Vincent Van Duysen