Until 1974, de Hoge Rielen was a military domain in a Kempen landscape. To safeguard this historical context for the long term, the domain invited several engineering offices to participate in a tender for developing a Master Plan. The jury awarded the contract to Secchi-Vigano from Milan, which had beautifully linked the natural, military and educational landscape with one another. This resulted in a Master Plan based on the following major pillars:
• Respect for the original military character of the domain;
• The introduction of 'shed camping’;
• A forest management plan leading to more varied woods and biotopes;
• Repair of central road and circular traffic route, turning the domain into a low-traffic area;
• The construction of a hostel with 20 rooms and views of the surrounding nature.
The architecture must show respect for the original footprint of the domain. As such, the old military sheds acquire a quasi-sacrosanct status. They are renovated one by one and are used as shelter near some camping sites (K2, K) or can be used separately (sheds 341, 317, 325). Shed 333 (near car park 4) is intended for horse camps.
This road connects important functions with one another such as sports hall - restaurant and pub - reception - theatre - Hostel Wadi. Car traffic is still mainly following a circular traffic route. The central road is being repaired and will be made completely traffic-free. This strengthens the low-traffic character of the domain. Also the car parks are enlarged and have a direct connection with the circular traffic route. On this circular traffic route, additional and direct accesses to the domain have been created via Gate 5 (and Car Park 5), Gate 4 (and Car Park 4), Gates 2, 3 (and Car Park 3), Gate 6 (for events on sports fields) and Gate 7 (access to K1 East).
The old sheds of camping sites K1, K3, K7 are being renovated and are extended with boxes: a sleeping and kitchen box inside the shed and sanitary boxes outside of them. The plan also provides for a surrounding area that creates a soft transition between building and nature.
Hostel Wadi will be built near Pavilion 9 and will have 20 rooms, each containing four beds and sanitary facilities. The hostel will be a cylindrical building with Wadi and transparent views of the surrounding nature.
Forest management plan
The Agency for Nature & Forests ('Agentschap Natuur & Bos') drew up this plan together with de Hoge Rielen. It draws inspiration from the master plan. Pine trees are gradually making way for mixed deciduous woodland. In the dune area, about 25 acres of pure pine woods is being retained. This area still includes many old sheds.
The plan also provides for the creation of 'patches' (passageways) between the different nature areas. This promotes biodiversity and makes the nature areas bigger. Of the five nature areas, only two are not open to the public. The other three will also be extended but remain open to the public. Whoever stays here, should realise though that these open nature areas are not managed from a 'safety' perspective. Dead trees are not chopped and thorny bushes are not necessarily cleared. Here, nature goes its course, creating varied woods and biotopes.