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International Competition for Bruges Concert Hall

Client: Gemeente Brugge

Designers: Jo Coenen, Willem Jan Neutelings and Michiel Riedijk

In readiness for 'Bruges 2002, Cultural Capital of Europe’, Bruges city council holds a competition for the design of a new concert hall. The winning design must meet very specific acoustical specifications, in addition to aesthetic and functional criteria.

In the early 1990s Bruges, and the province of West-Vlaanderen, realised that the region was in need of a larger cultural venue designed particularly with the needs of classical music in mind, to attract more international orchestras and ensembles and thus offer the culture-loving West Flemish a venue for music and the performing arts outside of the traditional triangle of Ghent-Brussels-Antwerp. ‘Bruges 2002’ was the perfect context within which to propose such an ambitious project; there is also a clearly formulated pre-completion of the construction phase.

A design brief is drawn up for the architectural competition, which is circulated to international architects. Submissions flood in from architects such as Stéphane Beel, Jo Coenen, Peter Eisenman, Groep Planning, Kisho Korokawa, Neutelings-Riedijk and Paul Robbrecht & Hilde Daem. After an initial selection round the jury – led by Gerard Mortier – picks the design of Robbrecht Daem, two Ghent-based architects. The design is chosen for its aesthetic and functional force although the project’s most convincing feature is its superbly designed acoustics.

Opinions of the architectural appearance of the finished concert hall are divided. Some Bruges locals feel that it is a heavy edifice that doesn’t chime with the historic style of the city, while others delight in the harmony between the contemporary concert hall and the historic architecture of Bruges. 

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