A library with a brasserie at its heart
Bart van Vlijmen
Michel Oprey & Beisterveld
Located south of the city of Eindhoven in the province of North Brabant, Waalre is described as the «Groenfontein» or the «green fountain» of Kempen due to its urban planning policy of planting a wide variety of tree species in its streets and parks.
Waalre is also one of the most affluent towns in the Netherlands and has seen its population grow by almost a thousand in the last 10 years. With a history that dates back to the early Middle Ages (it was mentioned in 712 by Willibrord), it boasts a number of sacred buildings, including churches that were constructed mostly from the 12th century onwards, initially in the Romanesque style and then Gothic and neo-Gothic in the following centuries. The characteristics of the sacred buildings also influenced the style of private and secular buildings, where the choice of dark coloured brick is a regular design feature.
A library converted into a brasserie
One notable example is the former school/library directed by headmaster Meester Keeman, whose name was given to the brasserie opened last January by the three Eindhoven-based restaurant entrepreneurs Sjoerd Bannier, Jan Joost de Jong and Coen Smulders. The project created by the trio, friends since their hotel school days, was submitted to a competition of ideas for the redevelopment of the former school building, where the intended use of the premises was to be indicated in the project. Evidently the municipality appreciated their proposal and felt it fitted in with their broader vision for Waalre’s future development. The municipality’s website mentions a range of cultural activities, including sports such as football, hockey, tennis, badminton and canoeing, and Meester Keeman fits perfectly into this context as an ideal place to spend free time, whether for a business lunch, an afternoon coffee or simply for a quiet break in a cosy and familiar setting.
Meester Keeman: the restaurant concept
The restaurant’s entrance opens onto the bar area, framed by Cocci Deco_1 30×30 cm collection tiles from Ceramica Fioranese. This in turn leads into the dining area at the rear of the restaurant, from where guests can watch chef Mark Meulensteen as he prepares traditional dishes revisited in keeping with modern tastes. Here as in other projects, ceramic tiles demonstrate their exceptional suitability for use in conjunction with other materials, enhancing their beauty and recontextualising them. The use of wood patterns placed side by side with ceramics creates a conversation in a language bristling with punctuation marks, including parentheses, quotations and loan words. The interior spaces can seat 140 people, the terrace 80. The Eindhoven-based design firm King Kongs successfully combined different styles and uses to divide the brasserie into different areas without using too many partition walls, instead exploiting the chosen products to define and delimit the areas. The sequence of furnishings and lighting fixtures and the use of wood and porcelain tiles creates a natural alternation of different spaces without overfilling them. The sofa-style seats and the marble countertops with magazines at customers’ disposal lighten up the visual impact, allowing the gaze to wander freely and enhancing the sense of warmth and hospitality.
Notes on the concept of brasserie
Meester Keeman is a 21st century interpretation of the brasserie concept, a kind of eatery that originally developed in the Alsace region as a place to enjoy a quick, cheap meal. This characteristic has been retained, as the restaurant features spaces where one can sit and spend time in the company of others. It is a courageous and ambitious project that has taken more than a year of intense renovation work.