The general approach of the urban vision, when addressing specific design issues, is to look upon the renovation of the Moulart complex as a starting point and gradually expand from there towards greater challenges which lie ahead. The objective is to build a broad vision for the district that is compatible with its industrial and commercial activity, while opening it up as much as possible to the surrounding neighborhoods.
The back of the Moulart complex reveals a very large yard which serves as a starting point for a corridor overlooking the verdant embankments of the railway. Meanwhile, an expansion of access to the site from the Demets dock to the plot of Elia offers the opportunity to create a forecourt at the Centre of Interpretation (CI), connecting to the bike path. This secures the crossing for visitors. Both of these public spaces will respond and allow the site to open up to the city. The visitor enters and therefore comes in contact with the two most structural elements on the site - water and iron - and with two very specific forms of ecosystem – the canal and embankments.
With high visual impact, the new building creates a dialogue with the two existing volumes. Not by imposing upon them, but instead in the background connecting to their main facades which face toward the centre of Brussels. The new building runs next to the two blocks along the adjoining side of Biestebroeck. Perpendicular to the channel and Birmingham Street, this building acts as a passage extending from one to the other as to connect them, thereby forming the Centre Moulart in 3 parts.
The organisation of space forms part of an architectural and scenographical promenade. Because most areas of the old buildings are of a generic 19th century architectural typology, we have allocated these to SMEs, and have retained spaces with a special character for the CI. Strategic spaces are developed on the ground floor relating to the canal and its banks. From the lobby visitors can take the main stairway with its large landings which offer a taste of what is to come. Otherwise they can take the elevator which is placed in a silo. Both rise to the fifth floor where temporary exhibitions and workshops take place, or to the 6th floor which hosts the permanent collection along with a panoramic roof space. The cafeteria, between the IC and the SME promotes interaction between these two programs, uncovering a diverse atmosphere unique to urban life. It extends over the roof terrace with a commanding view of the city and the canal.
A multipurpose space is a sustainable space. This reflection concerns the whole building: with a long-term vision, the workplace can become the CI and vice versa. This rational logic allows a functional and economical approach, flexible in time.
As a method of communication, multimedia technology is used in conjunction with smartphones to allow the users and visitors of the building to discover the site and locality, activities in the workshop and information about exhibitions. Thereby the activities of the CI become more accessible. Learning is not just a matter of cognition but also physical and emotional experience. The main engine of the communication is the infrastructure of theatre. The temporary exhibition space is designed as a theatre so that it can be the scene of life and creativity of the neighborhood, a space for creation and representation, near the workshop located on the same floor.
The museography and the interactive method of communication are a testament to the theory and practice of Otto Neurath, who developed a graphical communication technique based on images and isotypes, which could explain the social, economic and cultural relations by means of simple and understandable images and animated films.
In the future, consideration is given to larger urban scale foreseeing a natural extension of the path of the railway embankment. The CI complex would thus be directly connected to the Jacques Brel station, 400 m away. A new green space would be created next to the Birmingham Street, resulting in linear route ways between Demets Street and Birmingham Street. A new linear path would connect the base of the former railway to the slaughterhouses of Anderlecht. This succession of large terraces, a veritable matrix of public spaces, would boost not only business but also culture, leisure and housing, especially along the streets of Birmingham.
Status : Competition
Client : SCFS ANDERLECHT MOULART
Place : Brussels, Be
Architecture and Scenography : SHSH & Koen Van Synghel
Urbanism : Karbon'
Execution : Bureau Bouwtechniek
Heritage : Atlante
Structure : Greisch
Building services and energy : Sophia Group
Acoustic : A-Tech