In “All along the water tower,” my irregular series of posts featuring derelict water towers converted into unique, stair-heavy residences — yes, there are enough out there to make a series of it — I’ve examined several fine specimens first from Australia and then from Western Europe — Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. Today, I return to Belgium for a look at a remarkable conversion project in the town of Brasschaat involving an elevated water storage container and a whole lot of chutzpah.
Located on the outskirts of Antwerp stands Woning Moereels, a hard-to-miss six-story abode that, once upon a time, was an active water tower until it was decommissioned in 1937. The structure's years-long transformation (17 years, to be exact) from a hulking, early 20th century concrete reservoir into a modern, stair-heavy dream home of local landscape architect Jan Moereels was overseen by the late, great Belgian architect Jo Crepain.
The structure's towering concrete skeleton is enclosed in semi-transparent glass facade that surely had local voyeurs all worked up when the "lantern-like" home was completed in 2006, two years before Crepain's death. Moereels tells The Sunday Times in 2004: "I first bought the tower with no plans for converting it and just because I was interested in the building itself in the woods. It became all about finding a solution that kept the frame of the tower visible. The location is inspiring, that together with this wonderful open concrete water tower.”
Lovely. And with that, I'll let the folks over at Crepain Binst Architecture take it away ...
Water towers form part of our industrial heritage; often with the ambition of a second childhood in the long term. The symbolic strength of such a landmark in the landscape became a particular challenge as a basic structure for the organization of a family home. The space was reduced to all its naked beauty and clad in a semi-transparent glass covering as an architectural layer and beacon around the rooms of the upper floors. As an anchor and a foot on the ground, the glass tower is supported by a 6 M high living space with a view over the forests of Brasschaat. Steep stairs as one high ladder through the tower and together with the polished concrete floor reinforce the ambition of an industrial symbiosis between old and new. The cylindrical reservoir remains an untouched crown on this timeless adventure.