Ukkel (Bosvoorde)
Hippodrome
Architect: Origin Architecture & Engineering

Brick renovation restores hippodrome to its former glory

 
Brick renovation restores hippodrome to its former glory
Bosvoorde 'hippodrome' (horse racing circuit) is gleaming again. The large and small stands dating from the late nineteenth century have been thoroughly restored, as has the weighing building built in the early twentieth century and the modernist starting tower designed by architect Breydel.
 
After the final meet was held there in 1995, Bosvoorde hippodrome deteriorated considerably. Only recently did the Brussels Capital Region find a new use for the capital's last remaining horse-racing circuit. The site is to become a recreation area with a focus on sport, culture, nature and relaxation, to be known as Droh!me. In the summer of 2018, the so-called 'melting park' will be fully open. Ahead of that time, the operator of the 32 hectare green space beside the Zoniënwoud forest will steadily extend the site with sports pitches, a farm, an ice rink and a brasserie alongside the existing golf course.

The old infrastructure of the hippodrome is part of the Droh!me project. For example, the brasserie will be housed in the weighing building. Over the past two years, Monument Vandekerckhove has thoroughly restored the weighing building and the starting tower for the Brussels Capital Region.
 

Picturesque character

 
Picturesque character
"When setting out the restoration, we wanted to emphasise the picturesque character of the buildings", says architect Julie Scandolo of the Brussels practice Origin Architecture & Engineering, explaining the philosophy behind the work. "We have also made the functions of the buildings easier to understand. In order to do so, we have eliminated all outbuildings and inferior alterations."
 
"The large stand dates from 1875 and the nearby small stand was built in 1878. Edouard Keilig's eclectic style is still visible, although the wooden building was later improved with steel, brick and concrete", Scandolo adds. "When restoring the stands, we basically took as our starting point the situation in the 1920s. The weighing building was constructed in 1900 and a modernist extension was added in 1951.

We have retained that extension, designed by the architect Breydel, because it is in character with the nearby tower and the staircases which Breydel added to the stands. Originally, the concrete starting tower was not among the buildings to be restored, but fortunately we were able to add it to the project."
 

Extensive restoration work

 
Extensive restoration work
"The restoration and repair works were extensive", stresses project manager Timothy Messiaen of Monument Vandekerckhove. "The buildings were in a very poor state. Rain, wind and vandals had been wreaking havoc for years. We worked on the site from August 2014 to May 2016.
 
I estimate that one in five of Monument Vandekerckhove's employees have worked on the project." The most notable restoration was the painting of fake bricks onto the plaster. "From a distance the large and small stands appear to be brick buildings, but that is not the case," says Messiaen. "We have meticulously imitated bricks and joins on the plaster. The plaster itself rests on a brick wall. A family of restorers made the imitations, after which Altri Tempi, a subsidiary of Monument Vandekerckhove, carried out the painting work. In order to find the right colour nuances, we performed a lot of tests with Origin. The real brick walls of the weighing building were the inspiration for the brick imitations on the stands.

Another eye-catching restoration involved hot rivets being applied in situ. The rivets were hammered into the elaborate steel structure of the large stand. "We applied all the visible rivets in the traditional, artisanal manner", says Scandolo.
 
 
The large stand involved a lot of work for Monument Vandekerckhove. "After stripping the non-original elements, performing a thorough clean and taking stock of the damage, we repaired the concrete stand platforms and the Breydel staircases, reinforcing them and treating them for concrete rot. We also carried out the bricklaying, repaired the stone steps and restored the metal stand and the roof structure", says Messiaen. Just like in the old days, the roof of the large stand will once again be accessible to the public. For this reason, a liquid waterproofing system was used for the 750 m² terrace (Alsan PMMA) and the authentic handrail was accurately restored. The decorative joinery, Belgian marble frames and ornamentation give the building its character.
 
"The adjacent small stand consists mainly of wood", adds the project manager. "Our joiners had their work cut out with all the decorations, such as friezes and pediments." Monument Vandekerckhove also carried out stability work on the weighing building. Following substantial subsidence, the building had come to a new equilibrium. The restoration company stabilised the situation using micro piles. The weighing building also had its lantern tower entirely restored in the workshop and was given a refurbished slate roof, restored wooden window frames and restored metal billboards.
 

Teamwork

 
Teamwork
The various specialisms of Group Monument came into play on this project. "We brought in several of our sister companies for the restoration works", says Messiaen.
 
"Monument Vandekerckhove carried out the general restoration work. The stonemasonry workshop not only provided the stone, the masons also repaired the existing stone in situ. Monument Hainaut was responsible for the joinery restoration and reproduction. The specialists from MRT tackled the damaged concrete elements and carried out the stabilisation work. Altri Tempi performed all the decorative painting work."

For the company from Ingelmunster, the hippodrome makes a great reference. "Because so many employees worked on the project, we even held a visitors' day there for the employees and their families", concludes Messiaen with an anecdote that illustrates the connection between Group Monument and the project.

5.000.000

Amount of the work (excl. VAT)

1875

Original construction

5

Group Monument companies