‘WADI’ IS AN Arabic word that means river or watercourse. In this youth hostel in De Hoge Rielen, an area of forest near the Belgian town of Kasterlee, the word symbolises the building’s closeness to nature. One example is the green roof, which takes care of rainwater. There is also a winter garden that accumulates heat during the day. At the same time, the roof extends a good way out to provide shade when the sun is at its fiercest.
The youth hostel was designed by Milan-based architects Bernardo Sechi and Paolo Viganó and is shaped like an O around a grove of old pines. The whole space within the building has been left untouched. A system of wooden beams supports the building, which has a façade of European larch cladding. The rooms are located along a corridor lined with glass to give views of the pine grove on the inside of the O.
Kasterlee once had several active ironworks. Way back in the past, De Hoge Rielen was used as a plantation to supply the smelting works with charcoal. During the Second World War, the military took over the area. De Hoge Roelen is still studded with bunkers, embankments and moats, but the 300 hectare site was turned into a nature reserve after the war. Hostel Wadi is part of a bigger plan to make the area more accessible to visitors.«