A new hotel anchors itself to the Belgian coast

Silt was designed with sand dunes and sustainability in mind

The seaside resort of Middelkerke has taken a bet that its latest beacon can address the sustainable, social and economic needs of the area. Silt, a new beachfront hub designed by ZJA with the landscape architects Delva and the local Nautilus Consortium, is part hotel and part casino, an architectural anchor on a once dismal town square.

Inspired by this stretch of Belgian coastline, settled since the 10th century, Silt assumes the look of a giant sand dune and a glassy water channel. Its diaphanous silhouette is sculpted with an open lattice of curved Accoya wood beams, yet it sits on a stolid foundation that mimics the original defensive dunes. The building’s inherent strength will help it cope with extreme weather, including extraordinarily high waves and water that could rise more than two metres above current levels. It makes Middelkerke the best protected place on the Belgian coast.

Public and private spaces indoors include a guesthouse, spa, restaurant, cabaret and casino run by C Hotels. Outside, grassy paths lead up the new ‘dune’ for views across the beach.

‘The design rewrites the historical relationship between the seaside resort and the sea,’ says ZJA partner Reinald Top, ‘and with its modest hotel tower it adds a lot of new public space to the location while having a relatively small footprint.’

The addition of Marram beach grass and sand channels to the beach anchor the structure in its landscape and give back to the environment.

‘The design team sought a ‘landscraper”, a new and unique dune landscape with a programme inside,’ says Delva founder Steven Delva. ‘We have deployed the characteristic landscape as a means of integrating all the tasks set us in a way that looks natural. The result is a new dune landscape.’

Photography: Stefan Steenkiste
Photography: Sebastian van Damme
Photography: Sebastian van Damme

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