Coal was a huge industry in this region due to the industrial revolution. Binche was part of the economic wave that swept Europe. This brought about many positive factors for the small mining town. However, there are also some negative impacts to the town. After the fossil fuel era, it is left abandoned as a shadow relic of the past.
The tower of saint albert was a symbol of economic power and energy. A distinct tall monument that will continue to tower over all other structures in the area.
Today, the tower of saint albert is left vacant and empty. There are no plans for demolition.
Why build a new monument building when there’s already one that the people know? Tapping into a rich heritage history that is deeply connected with the people will only encourage the usage of it once again, breathing new life into historic monuments of the coal mining era. This would spark a new form of monumental-heritage architecture.
Coal was the primary economic fuel source for the people as the towns around exist to extract this power. The tower is seen as the extractor, the gateway to the mines, a way of tapping into that power. Today, water is the primary economic fuel source. A large portion of Binche is dedicated to agriculture. This agriculture uses large amounts of water from the freshwater river Meuse.
In the 21st century, this primary economic source is under danger as researchers and authorities predict many droughts and floods in the coming years. The need of warning and storing water has never been greater. The recent floods of 2021 in Belgium and Germany are confirmation.
To continue the role and hallmark of the tower as a secure livelihood of Binche. The proposed architectural intervention would be - A TOWER OF WATER - a water beacon. A central water haven that stores and alarm the community of the importance of the coming dangers with a commercial market wing that showcases the agricultural products that is fuelled from the water. A public building that will be seen as open and welcoming to people around the area, safeguarding the primary economic fuel source past, present and future. The method of broadcasting this message shall be the action of drowning.
The idea of water reflecting from the ground, in a sense flooding and engulfing the tower which brings curiosity that there was something below (tower appearing upside-down from its reflection). The act of flooding creates the sense that water is important and that it is everywhere. Hence the need for people to be aware, taking visual cues from the tower.
Therefore, instead of erecting a brand-new building, reviving a recognised monument tower of the past would bring about a stronger change that impact the surroundings. Empowering the people to protect the region. Uniting the community towards a common goal of their livelihood and the environment.
LOCATION: BINCHE, BLEGIUM
BUILDING HEIGHT: 68M
CURRENT STATUS: ABANDONED COAL MINE TOWER
RENOVATED STATUS: WATER CONSERVATION CULTURAL TOWER
Design: Benedict Chew
Advisor/Tutor: Marc Dujardin