New casino building to be integrated into dune landscape

Published on {{ $filters.formatDateWithYear(1600984800000) }}

The Nautilus construction team, of which Witteveen+Bos is a member, has won the competition to build a new casino in Middelkerke on the Belgian coast. Nautilus has opted for a holistic and sustainable approach, merging the building with the landscape. 

Holistic approach H2

Holistic approach H3

Holistic approach H4

Holistic approach H5

As a member of the design team, Witteveen+Bos was responsible for the sea wall; this has to be safe enough to withstand a 1000-year storm for the next 50 years. As the sea wall forms an integrated part of the design, we worked closely with the landscape architect and the architect of the building. The result? A seamless connection between the sea, the beach and the building.

The Nautilus designers saw the construction of the new casino as a chance to also address water safety (dyke reinforcement), the quality of the public space and the connection to the sea and to make the sea wall car-free. A unique feature of the design is that the building typology of a casino – often a closed box – has been turned inside out and integrated into a multi-faceted project in a public dune landscape.

‘This project will give our coastline a new landmark that also reflects the character of Middelkerke,’ says Mayor Jean-Marie Dedecker. ‘It exudes strength, sobriety and refinement, as well as affection for the sea and the dunes. This project could also mark the beginning of a revived centre for Middelkerke, as a town where people enjoy living and spending their time.’

Inspiration for the design was found in the history of the municipality. Middelkerke originated on the island of Testerep and developed into a thriving fishing village thanks to the natural protection provided by a dune and a direct connection to the North Sea via a water channel. Over the last century, Middelkerke's dunes and water channels have disappeared from view as a result of urbanisation. The construction of the casino building at this location represents a springboard for restoring a piece of the historic coastal landscape to Middelkerke in a contemporary way.


The design minimises waste and makes extensive use of recycled materials and more efficient production processes. Environmental criteria are just as important as functionality, aesthetics, ergonomics, safety and economic value. A good example of a thoughtful, energy-saving application in the project is the cantilevered dune on top of the ground floor and the terraces of the hotel tower. These protrude from the exterior joinery and provide shade during the hot summer months. This, combined with night cooling, will significantly reduce the need for active cooling.

Under the dune

The building blends in naturally with the landscape. The brand-new events hall, restaurant and casino, for example, will soon be hidden behind transparent façades beneath the dune, offering spectacular views of the beach and sea. The hotel, with its modest footprint, rises like a bollard, a solid structure in the midst of this elevated landscape. It is an eye-catcher, but one whose design reflects the restrained strength, sobriety and refinement of the Flemish coastal landscape. The shape of the building fits in well with the coastline, reducing the need for beach maintenance.

Similar to the wood in the quays, lock gates and dolphins, the hardwood voile surrounding the hotel will change colour under the influence of the elements. From a distance, the hotel is an inviting visual beacon, a sculpture with soft contours.

The Nautilus construction team, selected by the municipality of Middelkerke as the winner of the design and construction competition, consists of Witteveen+Bos, the developer Ciril, the main designers ZJA (architecture) and DELVA (landscape architecture), OZ (casino and hotel design), the executive architect Bureau Bouwtechniek, the contractors Furnibo and Democo, and experts from COBE, VK Engineering, Beersnielsen, Plantec, MINT and Sertius.

Photo: Nautilus construction team