Brussels, Belgium - 2015
The heritage of the Citroën garage at the Yzerplein Brussels includes an architecture that refers to a glorious and modern industrial past, in which light and space orientation are key. The buildings form an icon for the district and the city, even in a contemporary context their identity determines strongly this place. Even though the buildings practically occupies the entire block as a coherent whole, it seems to divide itself visually and functionally into two parts. On the one hand, the showroom located at the Yzerplein and in addition, the workshop situated at the rear side. However, the central nave acts as a physical connection between the two parts.
Just like in many cities, the industry is increasingly disappearing from the cityscape. What once represented a location full of bustling economic activity, is now abandoned and dilapidated with only an industrial architectural heritage in the background. From the vision to elevate this location, the creation of opportunities for urban life all around is a fundamental starting point.
The young and multicultural audience that is attracted around these neighbourhoods defines strongly the idea to house a major incubator for start-ups. The scale and the open nature of the workplace adopts ideally. The (in)formal character provides a creative work atmosphere that encourages social contact and provokes a certain dynamic.
To highlight the relationship between the environment and the channel and to create a buffer with the rest of the ensemble, the incubator space is placed on a pedestal. The horizontally expansive glass façade that characterizes the face of the old workshop thus becomes the showcase for start - ups and the city becomes the image of the working individual. The different character of the showroom and the workshop incites to programmatically disconnect these firmly. The orientation and structure of the showroom allows to incorporate a residential program. It is essential that the characteristic elements of the original architecture are preserved and even accentuated.
In order to provide sufficient air and light on the rear side of the showroom, the existing apartment buildings and the former Citroen office will be taken down. A new residential building detaches from the original building line and will follow that of the adjacent workshop of the Citroen garage. This creates a more coherent block, which gives a perspective to the monumental showroom. The new, smaller building gives way to an open courtyard between residential programs providing new qualities.
Where once the monumental central nave made the physical connection between the showroom and the workshop, the public domain now provides for a mental connection between the different parts of the design. The public program wriggles under, over and between the residential program and the incubator. In conclusion, we can pinpoint that attention to social and public factors provide an incentive to allow the location to be integrated in the district again.
Photography by Sami Bouchafrati