Arcade
© Matthijs van der Burgt

Arcade

Gijs Van Vaerenbergh Architects as Architects

"Arcade visually and symbolically connects the one side of the dike with the other"

In the polders of Kruibeke, at a stone's throw from Antwerp, Gijs Van Vaerenbergh have realised a new permanent work of art in the open space. Arcade is a zigzag-shaped gallery that consists of five steel plates in which classic arch shapes have been cut out. The artwork is located in the place where a new flood embankment abruptly cuts across the historic road that connects the village of Bazel with the polder. Through their spatial interpretation of the junction, artists Pieterjan Gijs and Arnout Van Vaerenbergh attempt to restore the original historic connection. The art project was initiated by the Agency for Nature and Forest (ANB). With Arcade, the ANB aims to offer visitors a new view on the vast nature reserve.


Between the village and the polder

A new flood dike was built in Kruibeke a few years ago. The structure forms part of the Kruibeke-Bazel-Rupelmonde Controlled Flood Area. While the dike provides protection against flooding and offers a panoramic view of the landscape, it also forms an obstruction that disrupts an age-old connection between the village and the polder. The dike cuts off the neighbouring villages from the polder landscape, which presently constitutes the largest flooding area in Flanders.


Gijs Van Vaerenbergh aim to articulate this tense duality in their artistic intervention. "Arcade marks the historic connection between the village of Bazel and the polder," Arnout Van Vaerenbergh and Pieterjan Gijs say. “We visually and symbolically connect one side of the dyke with the other. The artwork is located in the exact place where the original road turns into the new staircase on the dike."

Arcade consists of five monumental steel plates that have been placed zigzag-wise on the ring dike. Classic arch shapes have been cut out of the steel plates, together forming a portico of sorts. The top sides of the plates are all aligned at the same height – their legs becoming longer as the dike descends – which heightens the suggestion that the artwork is an artefact that already existed before the flood dike was built. The sculpture, in this way, touches upon the theme of memory.


Windows on the environment

Arcade explicitly engages with to the two directions - the lateral and the diagonal - that intersect at the symbolic location on the new flood dike. "The work is experienced differently from different places," says Pieterjan Gijs. “Those approaching the artwork from the longitudinal direction, from the flood dike, will experience it as a series of windows on the surroundings. As the viewer approaches, the planes seem to arrange themselves into folds, creating a tangible sense of depth. Viewed from the transverse direction however, the plates and their arches perfectly align behind each other, creating a sort of entrance hall over the stairway that restores the original connection between Bazel and the polder landscape.”
"Arcade formally refers to recognisable, traditional typologies such as the gallery, vault architecture or the aqueduct," says Arnout Van Vaerenbergh. “At the same time, the zigzag shape gives the work a sculptural feel. We create a tangible space out of a flat 2D figure.”

The artwork was made of 4 cm-thick steel plates. Gijs Van Vaerenbergh used weather-proof corten steel, whose rusted skin acts as a protective layer. The typical red-brown colour of the steel contrasts nicely with the green environment. Arcade weighs nearly 19 tons. The highest arc measures 10 meters; the total length is no less than 27 meters. The construction of the artwork consists of joined-together prefabricated steel elements. The five arch shapes were pre-produced in a local steel workshop and mounted on foundations and welded together on site.

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