Type: Open competition (second place)
Location: Along the old railway line 87 near Ronse, Belgium
Client: City of Ronse
Railway House 87
The city of Ronse wishes to place a new art installation along the route of the old railway line 87 that connected Zullik with Ronse and Tournai and large parts of which have already been converted into a wide cycle path. The desired position of the art installation is near the border of the territory of the town of Ronse and the municipality of Russeignies, which is also the border between Flanders and Wallonia, and is ten minutes by bike from the center of Ronse. Here the route of the old railway line cuts like a straight line through the landscape that slopes down to the south and has a wide view of the farmland accentuated by a few church spires and trees.
Here we propose a design that is more than just an object or sculpture, but a real architectural art installation that, like the church spires, but on a smaller scale, forms an accent in this vast landscape.
Built from stacked old train sleepers, the art installation is reminiscent of a giant version of a Jenga tower. Instead of merely stacking blocks, the installation is built in the form of two nested houses. This form is not immediately legible and therefore ambiguous. It stimulates the passer-by to explore, to stop for a moment and to enter the work. Questions are raised: Is this a guard's cottage, a signal box, a field chapel? These questions are not answered directly, but consciously or subconsciously give the visitor the feeling that this is a place to stop and take in both the art installation and the surrounding landscape.
The old train sleepers are stacked with the necessary precision, resulting in a sturdy structure. By staggering the sleepers, the view of the surroundings is not completely blocked and the structure does not have a heavy or closed feeling. Inside, too, the view of the vast landscape is framed in elongated rectangular strips between train sleepers.
The installation is not only a striking and at the same time recognizable appearance in the landscape, but also has a deeper meaning in which it refers to its landscape and historical context. The railway sleepers symbolize the past glory of the railways and the speed with which time passes. By reusing them in a new context, the past is remembered while honoring the beauty of decay. The art installation revives the past in a unique way and at the same time makes a statement about the value of reuse and sustainability. Because without the railway line 87, this beautiful cycle path through the landscape would never have existed.
© Studio Jason Slabbynck