The Bakala Academy, designed by the Belgium studio, Bogdan & Van Broeck, creates a marriage with the surrounding landscape with its circular design for a sports research facility. The building responds to a need for a state-of-the-art research and testing center. It comes from the public-private partnership between the University of Leuven and a high-level cycling team. It seeks to provide excellent services focused primarily on performance for cyclists as well as athletes from all disciplines.
The program consists of laboratories to evaluate and improve physical performance, meeting rooms, and an “altitude center”, where athletes can stay for prolonged periods in conditions of low oxygen level, similar to what one would experience in the high mountains.
Bogdan & Van Broeck consider the site as one of the most important criteria in the creative process before beginning the design. The Bakala Academy is included in the sports campus, as an architectural icon. Understanding the circle as an idea of perfection and excellence, the building in an autonomous structure, which achieves hierarchy by color and shape. Differing from its surroundings, it delineates new spaces and forges relationships between the new and the existing.
The circular form adopted by the Bakala Academy, not only alludes to the idea of “rolling” by cycling but also responds to the concept of dynamism and movement. Bogdan & Van Broeck, are not only concerned with creating a beautiful building but also understand architecture as a means to give support and solutions, therefore making its functionality one of the most important aspects.
The Bakala Academy combines the autonomy of its own centrality with a multidirectional opening to the surrounding landscape.
The Belgian studio, in charge of carrying out this project, gives equal importance to non-built spaces, as well as to the architecture that surrounds it. This project demonstrates a balance between both spatialities. The Bakala Academy is the result of two circles, one inner and one outer. Meanwhile, the overlapping space is continuous and due to the use of a central courtyard area, creates a permanent relationship between the inner circle, the circular building, and the outside environment.
This conceptual idea is reinforced in the constructive operations that make up the building. The limited number of load-bearing walls and translucent enclosures allow flowability in the facility. The façade is composed of thin columns of steel and slabs without beams, which make up the building and extend in two directions, from façade to façade. This allows for open plan occupation and great flexibility in the design.
Photography by Frederik Vercruysse