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Arcade Arcadia 2014

The ancient wilderness of the landscape has, over the millennia, attracted the attention of artists and writers as we have become more and more urbanised and sense a lack of something within us in urban life. In his film Arcadia Lost (2010), director Phedon Papamichael Jr. set his story in one of the last remaining, tranquil coastal villages with traditional stone houses of Greece. In this pastoral environment two teenagers are left stranded after a car accident. As they wander the dusty roads and staggering beauty of the landscape, they begin an adventurous journey toward the mystic waters on the sacred Mount Parnonas. A journey that takes them through a landscape both ancient and modern while events force them to confront the truth of their past and the frightening, beautiful reality of their present...

The arcade structure we propose is an elemental type. It allows for a connection of opposites, a harmony of dualities, it cuts and binds, is gentle and forgiving, and present a comfortable and joyous way to engage the city dweller with the delights of natural landscape. In a context where infrastructure has cut deep into the landscape, we propose an alternative superposition. An elegant timber arcade that ultimately connects the urban cores of Hasselt, Diepenbeek and Genk through their “Arcadia”, their lost land of eden. In essence the linear structure would become a bicycle and pedestrian super highway connecting the Vennestraat in the city centre of Genk to the Albert Canal and Demer bicycle network. Offering programmable spaces in, under and around the horizontal pathway. Simultaneously adding both small- and large-scale interventions to the landscape. It would become a mediator of polarities, including: city/country, hi-tech/low-tech, body/machine, rational/ romantic, micro/macro, inside/outside.

We imagine the 7,25km long structure as simple architectural arches creating recognizable points of reference in service of the hidden landscape when important infrastructures (such as the Albert Canal, N75 and the N702) are crossed. The fauna and flora itself would remain untouched, and could slowly be returned to its former state as a water rich peat landscape. In this concept the inherent power of the landscape itself becomes the life force for the project.

We live in an age of environmental doom-saying, mobility overload, greater lifestyle choices and increasingly sedentary living patterns. We live in a time of conflicting offers that confuse our desires, oppositional agendas and dichotomies that dilute our intentions. We are split and living in a time of dualities. Would it not be amazing if we could find Arcadia in our backyard?

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