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CCN: DOING THINGS DIFFERENTLY

Extensive evaluations of the existing CCN complex sitting atop Belgium’s busiest multimodal pole have come to an end pending its dismantling, while work on the 160.000sqm project replacing it is underway led by architectesassoc+ with engineers Greisch, Arcadis and TPF. Careful investigation has convinced indeed all parties that the worn-out ensemble’s flimsy structure, its haphazard, very (un)modular grid and deep dark volumes imagined way-back-when when daylight levels were no one’s priority together distinctly validate first intuitions: demolition+newbuild is future’s best bet, leading to intense option testing shown here. This is an unusual decision given that the debate usually tips towards maintaining existing structures to avoid pollution and waste, but in the long haul a sustainable option here given the huge people-positive impact a reciprocity-based design is capable of offering to generations to come compared to the aloof 1970’s behemoth. In effect a walk around the present CCN is revealing: today the whole bulk is obsessively me-centered, a self-serving configuration imperiously ignoring the world outside its walls. Its sheer mass overbearing to the point of consistently throttling the delicately proportioned Gare du Nord’s waning efforts to play its due role articulating Brussels’ dense city center on the one hand and its canal-side outskirts on the other. And perhaps most dismally, CCN’s perimeter at pedestrian level is close to repulsive on all fronts:  dark dreary holes, ominous crooks and crannies, foul-smelling exhaust coughed up by a horde of taxis, cars and buses everywhere keeping you from getting close if you ever even wanted to. Everything here pleads for doing things differently.  So after almost two years spent inspecting boreholes, assessing data and inventorying parts and pieces, architectesassoc+ assisted by studios ELD and Eupalinos have introduced _ not a demolition permit _ but a deconstruction permit. City Authorities and the Commission de Concertation have studied the proposition closely and notified their approval, adding pertinent requests and issues still to be addressed, clearly demonstrating how complex the project really is.  It is nevertheless clear that dismantling will predominate, fueling the circular routes implemented. What cannot be reused will essentially serve as sublime counter-examples of what we must no longer do, shining the light on what we must do instead this time around: design reversible, flexible, cradle-to-cradle, accessible to all, in a nutshell responsible. Obsessively not-me-centered, searching to connect dialogue enrich animate wherever we touch ground: entrances wide and welcoming energizing street space, shops of all sorts level with sidewalks, spilling out onto them, a continuous promenade along animated facades front back left and right, an uninterrupted canopy protecting us from rain and wind currents. Bus routes simplified, train and metro station accesses unscrambled. A life-filled mix of housing, offices, retail and public amenities connected by and interacting with qualified unbuilt space. Straightforward things designed hand in hand with urban planners Atelier Horizon such as sun-filled plaza’s, benches galore, a tree-lined bus stop, or an uninterrupted softly sloping 300m long traffic-free mall nonchalantly herding the throngs flowing in from the canal scape beyond towards the new low-lying hub and disencumbered Gare du Nord reigning above it, its elegant light-colored stone façade carefully restored overlooking a green leafy square where you can sit and wait for friends have coffee read a book before your train is due. Building permits will be introduced early 2022.

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PACHECO: TENDER DOCUMENTS READY, PERMITS DUE

With three unfruitful demolition-newbuild drafts consummated, the fourth draft _ heavy refurb of the maintained existing building _ has finally been approved by City Authorities and public alike, proving to be both the most complex and the most rewarding of options. Indeed, close collaborations with invested client Befimmo, Brussels’ Heritage experts, engineers Arcadis and Ney&partners/WOW have brought to light a vast panoply of generous urban opportunities, along with both sustainable and marketable solutions compatible with conservation priorities. Accent is on mixed use (offices, retail, HORECA and co-living), specifically targeting animating connections with surroundings. This means purposely developing lively touchdowns sidewalk level on the whole of the block’s perimeter. Thus along the eastern facade shops, HORECA, office and co-living entrances interact with the bustling boulevard Pacheco. West along the Rue du Meiboom the bicycle hub entrance generates a strong flow of ins and outs, next to shops and HORECA stretching all the way down to the foot of the Rue des Sables stairs. At this strategic corner another co-living entrance is implemented, as is a large shared living room for residents overlooking the streetscape. Positioning 24/7 occupation here on the corner and upwards on the entire length of the South-facing façade leading back to the Boulevard has been a priority in all four drafts, thereby intensifying the relationship between inside and out, and the visual-social control that goes with it. Inside, timber prevails with a vast federating atrium around which open and partitioned offices are organized, topped with a glass roof flooding all floors with generous daylight.  Extra attention is paid to qualified dialogue  with the strong 1970’s architecture characterizing the existing volume, to circular aspects, re-use and material choice, and as is already customary in Brussels, to energy efficiency.  Public access to the rooftop restaurant and terraces confirms the project’s intention to celebrate its connection with the urbanscape surrounding it, sharing the exceptional view with the city it serves. Hence the present self-centered volume will, as early as spring 2022, be the setting of a long-awaited transformation _ from introverted bleakness to extroverted reciprocity. 

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UNICITY: PERMITS DELIVERED

Permits for architectesassoc’s UNICITY project in the city of Luxembourg for clients IKOGEST and THOMAS&PIRON LUX have been delivered by local Authorities. Discussions with the latter have been long, intense, challenging but more than worthwhile, resulting in an atuned mix of housing, retail and offices geared for regeneration in a neighborhood full of potential, and already booming. A public open-air plaza is purposely positioned on the street corner for maximum visibility coming from the train station nearby. Shops, a restaurant and café animate the ground floors. Housing completes the existing street alignments, large terraces along its facades at pedestrian level, and carved out of its singular volume roof-top. A covered court greets occupants and visitors entering the office ensemble, federating workspace organized around it. In effect, these two commons, one outdoors and one indoors, are projected as lively federating easy-to-feel-comfortable-in unbuilt space nourishing built space. In turn the latter and notably material choice defining it is nourished by the ambiance to be established: light-colored softly glowing glazed brick generates a cheerful atmosphere for housing and retail, iridescent aluminium cladding with automated mesh louvers pivoting as the sun progresses bestow a dynamic enterprising image upon the staggered offices overlooking the surrounding Hollerich neighborhood. Sustainability and heritage issues equally impact design, resulting in modular, flexible layouts for all functions, energy efficiency, lightweight timber panels hovering above listed 1930’s brick façades, terracotta elements for housing and locally resourced stone for the plaza.  Work on site will start by the end of 2021, due finished in 2024.Go to: https://unicity-luxembourg.lu

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