AgwA . architecten jan de vylder inge vinck
The design of the project presented in the BNP competition is influenced by three ambitions.
First, investigate the nature of the massive brutalist building of the former CGER by Erauw Lievens Douglas (AB), the elegant housing typologies by Wybauw, De Doncker and Samyn (F), both listed in the heritage inventory of the Brussels Region, and the strangely remote Rothschild building in the back of these two structures.
A second but equally important point of focus is the material sustainability of the project. Including the performance of the project as a built result, but certainly not forgetting the construction process, the impact of demolitions and the construction site in such a dense urban space. Socio-economical sustainability is central, and the drastic limitation of demolition is a first and essential step in any coherent circular approach
These two first reflections have led us to outline several architectural interventions:
The existing patios are extended downwards, providing light and air to the exceptional “datacenter” level with its almost 5m height, to the ground floor (rez-de-chaussée) and even to one additional level below (rez-de-jardin), which is directly accessible from the communal garden in the back.
Then, the circulation is organized by a straightforward cross-shaped colonnade. This crossed colonnade adapts itself to circumstances. Inside, open air, along the patios, wide or narrow. It unfolds the building in a very readable way and creates three clear, differentiated entrances.
The periphery of the building is also corrected to bring in light and views to the entirety of the building. The periphery on the back is already occupied by smaller patios, ventilation shafts and technical spaces. Without losing much space, the AB is provided with a new series of façades. It is to be noted that all these cuts strictly follow the hyperstatic nature of the structure. The unfolding of the curtain also addresses the front façade locally to mark entrances with the subtle replacement of some heavy stone pillars by slender steel columns.
Third (…)and mainly, we reflected upon the urban role of such a large development in the heart of Brussels. The actions (the crossed colonnade, the peripheral curtains, the extended patios) and our approaches (diversity of actors and of buildings, circularity, etc.) provide a new bank – a bank of spaces (offices, housing, retail spaces, public infrastructures, parking), spread over 9 levels.
We suggest to open part of the project to the wider community. With this objective in mind, we did not design a project for the Rothschild building. We simply detached it from the neighboring building. This newly independent building can be sold “as is” to a third party. It could be a cohousing project, a social economy project, a mixed project. It could be sold based on a call, for a fixed price. Inviting the changing world inside the global project.
Furthermore, the F building is almost perfect as is. Therefore, we propose only very slight changes (…). Instead of renting out this building, it could be sold as a medium scaled co-ownership. Part of this building could potentially be sold as mid-income housing.
Facing the F and the Rothschild, the lower level of the AB building is housing “community services” which may also benefit from a more attractive price. This level must be “curated” with a topic to become readable as an entity on a neighborhood scale.