Fort Asperen is one of the most treasured fortresses of the so-called New Dutch Waterline. This longstretched military com-plex of a series of inundations was made in the 19th century to protect the Netherlands against invasions from the east. The Waterline is so unique, that it was nominated for Unesco World Heritage in 2011. Fort Asperen has been open to the public since 1986, hosting controversial art- and design exhibitions. The fortification is not only popular with people: bats also love it. Each winter the fortress tower closes its doors to make sure that the hundreds little mammals have an undisturbed hi-bernation. The fortress island used to be completely closed during the winter season, but from now on visitors can visit the renovated monumental armory all year round.
Originally, the armory consisted of little more than a bare wooden shack next to the fortress tower. Wooden beams, wooden floors, wooden walls and wooden window frames with wooden shutters. An Austrian ski hut, really. The designers of bureau SLA made sure that this rather rustique atmosphere of the armory was fully kept. This was against the given brief: the inten-tion was to insulate the wooden shack from the inside and to make sure that the place could be used through summer and winter in comfortable climatic conditions. To provide the necessary spaces bureau SLA did a trick: they lifted the shack by a few meters, poured a concrete basement and placed the wooden building back in its original position - now on a new foun-dation. The insulated basement spaces take care of perfect climatic conditions, while the old armory provides the authentic feeling of the military past.
The basement extension peaks through the ground floor with a shiny white little house. The cladding of the white house is made of the smooth and seamless composite material Himacs/Corian, so that the contrast between old and new is maximi-sed. In the white house we find the main exhibition and conference room. Daylight enters through big windows, that also allow spectacular views from both sides. Bureau SLA strategically placed custom made glass tiles on the roof, so daylight pours in abundantly where needed.
The new Armory is an example of bringing back life to a (state) monument in a new and unconventional way. By not restoring the original wooden monument ‘to death’, the look and feel of the building is not destroyed in the name of sustainability. Bureau SLA had a similar approach with their design for the New National Glass Museum - not far from Fort Asperen. Their restoration philosophy is simply put: Repaire what is broken, do not touch the rest, make outstanding new additions.
Bureau SLA also came up with the design of the tables. They are made from leftover wood from the removed attic.