Reflection of present and past in the courtyard of the abbey of Averbode: The rejuvenated courtyard of the abbey of Averbode invites anyone to enjoy this century-old décor. The eye-catcher of the square is without a doubt the grand water mirror located in the center of the square which is generated by a water film of only a few centimeters thick where the frame of impressive buildings are reflected in. Aside from a unique perception the water mirror evokes you to explore the square and enjoy the tranquility seated on one of the benches near the water.
The abbey of Averbode was founded in 1134. Since then the courtyard has undergone many changes. Around 1800, the square evolves towards the configuration it has today with the church, the abbots quarters, the presbytery and the gatehouse as the surrounding buildings. In the very beginning the arrangement of the courtyard is limited to three slim cobble stone paths and a lawn. Later, the use of the area increases due to a larger number of visitors and the organization of activities in and around the square. In 1976, the primarily green square transforms into a practical, stone space which is more and more predominated by vehicles. The bad condition of the pavement, the parking habits of visitors and the renewed demand for tranquility and simplicity, all lead to the decision in 2010 to rebuild the square.
The design strives towards a homogeneous and serene square, a space that draws strength from its simplicity. The new configuration receives visitors with a spectacular perspective after passing through the gatehouse. The view on the complete abbots quarters is enhanced by the shimmering reflection of the facade in a large water mirror (900 m²). The mirror fills up with rainwater flowing down from the square. The flexibility of the courtyard is guaranteed with the ability to drain the water from the mirror, creating a larger useable area for events. In one of the edges of the square, in front of the presbytery, a few parking spaces are maintained for less mobile visitors. In front of the abbey-shop there is a large grass carpet where one can be seated. Sufficient parking spaces for bicycles are available, stimulating non-motorized means of transport for a visit to the abbey. The ancient linden trees and the cobble stone path adjacent to the enclosure walls are integrated in the design without alterations. The light plan creates a relatively dark square with bright facades. Two LED light strips accentuate the direction of travel.
Every object in the courtyard has been designed especially to match the historical frame. Information panels, bins, bicycle brackets are manufactured in the same dark rust coloured steel, referring to the iron ferrous sandstone typical for the region and which is also visible in the facades of the abbey buildings. A subtle detail in the courtyard is the monastic rule: ‘Één van hart en één van ziel op weg naar God’ (One in heart and one in soul heading towards God) incorporated in the curbstones on either side of the church.
Landscape Architecture: OMGEVING
Designers: Peter Seynaeve, Tompy Hoedelmans, Koen Moelants, Luc Wallays, Evi Lefevere
City: Scherpenheuvel-Zichem, Belgium
Street: Abdijstraat 1
Client: abbey of Averbode
Year of design: 2010
Completion date: 2012
Area: 5.000 m²
Photos: Pol De Wilde