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Steven Holl Designing Casino in Belgium

Images Courtesy Steven Holl Architects

Art, architecture, and gambling will soon come together on the Belgian Riviera to create one of Europe's new tourist hotspots. In July, New York-based Steven Holl Architects won a competition to restore and expand the Albert Place Casino in Knokke-Heist, a resort town on the North Sea. A René Magritte mural, The Ship Which Tells the Story to the Mermaid, provided the inspiration for the tripartite design, centering on a 20-story, 354-foot sail-like hotel and apartment tower. The existing early-Modernist casino, built in 1930 by famed Belgian architect Leon Stynen, will have its facade restored with a new curtain wall, and its interior modernized to create a grand entrance to the hotel. A convention center resembling a mermaid's tail will extend the complex inland.

The overall design will be a mixture of functions and architectures. Shops, restaurants, galleries, and pools will join an auditorium, a spa, and a public observation deck as parts of the 150 million euro ($185 million) project. With its glass curtain wall, the thin hotel and casino tower will supply all rooms with views of the sea. The convention center will have a glass exterior covered by a perforated-metal wall. The hexagonal, laser-cut holes in its walls will vary in sizes to create interesting shadow effects inside the building. "This is a way to make a new international destination through a great work of architecture," says Chris McVoy, the project's partner-in-charge. "It's not your typical tall resort building." While the seaside resort tower, a rarity for northern Europe, will soar above Knokke-Heist, the complex will interact with the city through an adjacent pedestrian space called Casino Square. The city and developers will shortly put the resort out to bid, and construction will begin soon after.

Gregory Hafkin