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Reassigning with respect

In 2014, instead of building a new infrastructure, the Uccle municipality acquired the “Fabricom” building, a disused 1970s structure. The set of buildings, characteristic of their time, presented real architectural qualities in the heart of a remarkable green area. The major challenge of the project? Transforming an infrastructure designed for private companies into space for an open administration, whilst preserving its heritage.

First, we redefined the private surroundings as a public park. The historic entrance on Gatti de Gamond street seemed too secretive and not very open to the public. So we conceived of a new entrance, installed in the park on the front of Stalle Street. To facilitate interactions between public officials and citizens, we have created a “citizen area” at the park entrance. This provides access to all floors and all services of the town hall, but is also a place in its own right dedicated to citizens.

A meeting invitation

The citizen space channels all public movement on the park side, ensuring the security of the town hall. We have also separated the movements of staff and the public, with the exception of the ground floor which is accessible to visitors. Parts of the building even remain accessible outside opening hours, out of the desire to maximise public access: the citizen area, the reception and conviviality spaces and the large conference rooms on the roof are independent of the town hall’s administrative functioning.

We have imagined flexible and fully modifiable office spaces to meet the evolving needs of an ever-changing administration. We have also anchored the project in the long term by including more permanent places like the cafeteria. We have given special importance to the quality of the halls and passageways, always linked to the park and bathed in natural light, so that they become places of informal meetings.

Typical floor plan
The entrance in the park and citizen space

Circular economy and sustainable development

From the start of the project, we have considered all our choices through the prism of the circular economy. We took into account social and heritage aspects, but also energy savings and environmental performance. We conducted a comprehensive study to identify elements that could be reused. We worked to drastically reduce energy expenditure, while preserving the external façade of architectural concrete. Innovative technical solutions have also been proposed: we will lead a pilot project in collaboration with Vivaqua, which uses energy from wastewater from the sewer system to heat and cool the building (riothermia).

Project U makes a strong statement at the entrance of the city and brings a refreshing diversity to the neighbourhood. Recognized as a remarkable example of sustainable urban redevelopment by the jury of the be.exemplary prize in 2017, the project is proof that it is possible to renovate a monofunctional Brussels building of the 60s and 70s in an economical, high-quality and efficient way. This heritage is currently too often demolished or transformed with little regard.

The project is proof that it is possible to revive a monofunctional Brussels building from the 60s and 70s. A heritage which is often faced with demolition or brutal transformation, this style’s qualities are frequently underestimated: we show that another way is possible.

Jean-Sébastien Mouthuy ir. architect, executive partner

Gallery of images

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