Aloofly poised at the fringe of the dense Forêt de Soignes, one of Europe’s largest sub-urban forests on UNESCO’s World Heritage inventory, the competition site borders the cross-shaped Royale-Belge headquarters, itself a listed building. Impressed by the magnificient natural environment, the design team’s mindset was immediately drawn to Lawrence Halprin’s 1960’s master plan for south California’s Sea Ranch, inspired by his efforts to « land lightly » on the rugged coastal terrain, and to create community nurtured by and profoundly connecting with that astounding landscape.
This explains why the natural topography, vegetation and ecosystems surrounding S23 are left untouched, with four slender people-hives built in wood tenderly poised on concrete stilts touching ground where it hurts the least.
Already very present, the existing biodiversity is supported by an eco-systemic approach developed with Arcadis. For example, the present aquatic environment is completed with a carefully crafted phyto-purification network including wetlands, reedbeds, ponds and marshes. Thus nature becomes the largest common denominator amongst inhabitants, its soothing presence enjoyable by all. Consequently shared space, built or unbuilt, focuses on it : covered walkways and galleries look over the exuberant vegetation, accesses zig-zag through indigenous planting, communal rooms and individual entrances clustering around overflowing greenery.
Thus built forms easily interact with context, like second-nature. The straightforward 90° rapport between the four buildings, with gaping corners promoting fluid perspectives, echoes the adjacent Royale-Belge just as their cornice heights do, a respectful nod to their illustrious neighbor. This disposition, coupled with proper distances between volumes, leads to maximum sunlight in flats whatever their position.
Private space follows the cue. Typical floor plans privilege see-through views out onto the bucolic surroundings, organized on a über-efficient repetitive structural grid precisely calculated with Ney&Partners in order to optimize the use of CLT slabs and walls. This grid widens at touchdown level in order to perfectly match the existing concrete structure maintained under-ground. Volumes of S23 are thus intently compact, only continuous gently flared terraces protrude, their skewed geometry conveying an organic almost anatomical ambiance to the ensemble.
Competition: Urban planning and construction of 199 middle-income flats on an existing socle Blvd du Souverain in Auderghem
- Ney, Arcadis
- 23 850 sqm above ground level
- n/c € htva