An Old Belgian Fortress Breathes New Life as a Charming B&B

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By Michele Koh Morollo
With barracks dating back to 1785, this former fort has been carefully renovated and extended to now house a family, as well as their small business.

When a client acquired Fortress Hazegras in Belgium, many of the enclosed structures were at the brink of crumbling. Yet thanks to the strategic design of Brugge–based firm Govaert & Vanhoutte Architects, the historic site has been beautifully reborn into a contemporary complex that features a single-family house, along with a bed and breakfast business called The Bunkers.  

The historic site consists of an old farmhouse, stable, and shed, along with bunkers and artillery foundations from the both World War I and World War II. The stable has been converted into a modern 5,683-square-foot bed and breakfast establishment called The Bunkers. 

The historic site consists of an old farmhouse, stable, and shed, along with bunkers and artillery foundations from the both World War I and World War II. The stable has been converted into a modern 5,683-square-foot bed and breakfast establishment called The Bunkers. 

"The original structures—the bunkers, farmhouse, barn, and shed—are completely reinstated as they were," explains Benny Govaert, a co-founder of the firm. 

The original farmhouse structure has been revamped into a 5,038-square-foot house for the owners of the B&B. 

The original farmhouse structure has been revamped into a 5,038-square-foot house for the owners of the B&B. 

"Two new volumes take on the same silhouette as the existing volumes. The wooden skin for the new entities is made from small lamellae. This expansion clearly contrasts with the existing, though blends in through tone and texture."

The architects removed the three old pig stables, which weren’t listed as heritage structures, and built two new volumes of the same scale in their place.

The architects removed the three old pig stables, which weren’t listed as heritage structures, and built two new volumes of the same scale in their place.

"The focus of heritage care today lies on preserving the ‘memory’ that heritage material bears. The broadening toward heritage ‘care’ means valorizing the intrinsic heritage value of our surroundings, and creating possibilities to allow new positive developments," continues Govaert.

For the farmhouse residence, the team has removed all the elements that did not have any significant heritage value. "Valuable historical constructions are thus brought into equilibrium with the scarcely added volumes," says Damiaan Vanhoutte, a co-founder of the firm.  

For the farmhouse residence, the team has removed all the elements that did not have any significant heritage value. "Valuable historical constructions are thus brought into equilibrium with the scarcely added volumes," says Damiaan Vanhoutte, a co-founder of the firm.  

Streamlined sections of metal-framed windows with triple glazing stylishly connect the brick and wooden volumes. 

Streamlined sections of metal-framed windows with triple glazing stylishly connect the brick and wooden volumes. 

One wing of the fort’s U-shaped plan extrudes to the north. This wing contains office spaces, which lends continuity to the floor plan, along with sectional proportions.

One wing of the fort’s U-shaped plan extrudes to the north. This wing contains office spaces, which lends continuity to the floor plan, along with sectional proportions.

Incisions made in the façade amplify the contrast between the red and yellow brickwork.

Incisions made in the façade amplify the contrast between the red and yellow brickwork.

The materials that have been used for the façade, together with the enfilade of spaces of the new volume, echo the local architecture of the elongated farmhouses in the area. 

The materials that have been used for the façade, together with the enfilade of spaces of the new volume, echo the local architecture of the elongated farmhouses in the area. 

Concrete, which reflects the color of the surrounding dunes, serves as a coherent binding material that connects all the interior spaces.

Concrete, which reflects the color of the surrounding dunes, serves as a coherent binding material that connects all the interior spaces.

For the B&B, the architects have retained the sectional proportions of the existing buildings.

For the B&B, the architects have retained the sectional proportions of the existing buildings.

The contemporary guest kitchen has been designed and built by Danish brand VIPP.

The contemporary guest kitchen has been designed and built by Danish brand VIPP.

Rough, scrubbed concrete and rounder plastering contrast with the restored timber roof beautifully.  

Rough, scrubbed concrete and rounder plastering contrast with the restored timber roof beautifully.  

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Reading and working spaces have been oriented toward an inner courtyard. A new subterranean passageway connects the transformed farmhouse with the enlarged barn.

Reading and working spaces have been oriented toward an inner courtyard. A new subterranean passageway connects the transformed farmhouse with the enlarged barn.

Concrete has been used for the bathroom floor and shower tray.

Concrete has been used for the bathroom floor and shower tray.

The original beams, walls, and foundational structures of the buildings have been refreshed, and washed-out concrete has been selected for the floors, kitchen counters, and basins. 

The original beams, walls, and foundational structures of the buildings have been refreshed, and washed-out concrete has been selected for the floors, kitchen counters, and basins. 

The indoor swimming pool now features a tall wall of glass.

The indoor swimming pool now features a tall wall of glass.

A site-plan drawing.

A site-plan drawing.

Project Credits:

Architecture: Govaert & Vanhoutte Architects

Builder: Deblaere  

Kitchen: VIPP