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Sergison Bates wins huge €100m Brussels job

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Sergison Bates has won another major competition in Belgium, this time for a major 74,000m² mixed-use regeneration scheme in Brussels

The London and Zurich practice – working with noArchitecten of Brussels and Korteknie Stuhlmacher Architecten of Rotterdam – defeated a shortlist of local practices to win the €100 million (£89 million) project.

The appointment comes just six months after Sergison Bates won a competition for a a new €60 million performing arts quarter in Leuven, Belgium. Meanwhile, last year, the firm defeated Caruso St John, 6a, Diller Scofidio + Renfro and OMA in the contest for Brussels’ £105 million Kanal-Centre Pompidou.

The latest project, planned to complete in 2025, will deliver around 400 social and affordable homes; 1,250m² of light industrial and commercial facilities; and a school with a library and sports facilities on a post-industrial site in the city’s Biestebroeck area of Anderlecht.

The two-stage competition was launched by Brussels’ Bouwmeester (chief architect) and the project is supported by the Brussels Regional Housing Company, regional development agency citydev.brussels, and the Ecole de Tous school.

Stephen Bates of Sergison Bates said: ‘Big projects like this are full of challenges. Building is a long, slow process. Politically sensitive projects like this one inevitably rely on strong solidarity between the city, the developer, the design team. I think that, with the Bouwmeester behind the project and the experience of the housing associations, the prospects are very positive.

‘But we have to be aware that this will take time to develop and this is why we have built into our masterplan a level of tolerance, so that it can evolve and adapt to inevitable changes. But at the heart of it, our aim is to make an exemplary neighbourhood, not only for Brussels, but for the European city, where workspace and productive activities are increasingly being pushed out of the city centre.’

Mark Tuff of Sergison Bates added: ‘Our strategy of collaborating with like-minded practices has proved successful once again. We think it is a great asset to bring together different ways of seeing, talents and expertise.

‘I’m sure our approach to collaborative work will prove an advantage in meeting the challenges of dealing with the large number of stakeholders on a project of such ambition and complexity. We are also delighted to be working on another project in Brussels, on a site that is part of the Brussels Canal Plan. It is a privilege to be able to explore the synergies with the work we are already involved in for the Kanal-Centre Pompidou project.’

 The shortlist

  • Sergison Bates, AHA, Korteknie Stuhlmacher Architecten, NoAarchitecten (WINNER)
  • Multiple / pool / Duplex / aaa / Coloco
  • Bogdan & Van Broeck / WIT / Robbrecht en Daem / OFFICEEU / Atelier Midi / Vers.A / Vogt
  • ORG / LIN / Cie O

Architect’s view

The City Gate II / Petite Île area is a district with a complex past, which has seen a number of significant transformations. Today it is an assemblage of largely disused industrial typologies and heterogeneous social environments occupied by a skate-park and other temporary installations. The area has recently been earmarked for redevelopment and is set to become a major mixed-use district with some 400 social and affordable homes, 1,250 m² of light industrial and commercial facilities, and a school with a library and sports facilities.

358 citydev.brussels citygate i, ii, iii vue aérienne avant 20180502 © gregory halliday (9)

358 citydev.brussels citygate i, ii, iii vue aérienne avant 20180502 © gregory halliday (9)

The ambition of the winning proposal is to create a city within the city, a social and functional mix integrated in the wider metropolitan area. The team call this ‘the assembled city’ and refer to typologies such as the Belgian and Dutch béguinages, English colleges and inns of courts: intimate, intense, interlinked spaces. Unlike the typologies from which they take inspiration, though, the focus here is on urban continuity and openness and the vision is that of a new neighbourhood with a strong identity rooted in its industrial past, but open to and continuous with the city.

The project explores how buildings and streets can create and support vibrant communities, where living and working spaces coexist, and residents can develop a sense of belonging. A mix of typologies and scales, the integration of existing buildings and complementary functions are the key elements of a strategy that aims to foster the social life of the neighbourhood through its form and use. Equally important to the creation of a cohesive rather than haphazard urban fabric is a set of clear ideas about spatial proximity, height relationships and material consistency, a clear code that informs the development of the neighbourhood.

Sergison Bates' competition-winning scheme for the City Gate II / Petite Île area of Brussels

Sergison Bates’ competition-winning scheme for the City Gate II / Petite Île area of Brussels

Sergison Bates’ competition-winning scheme for the City Gate II / Petite Île area of Brussels

A variety of typological forms are proposed – ‘sentinels’, pitched shed-like buildings, mansion blocks and gateway buildings – with an emphasis on cubic volumes with minimal adjustment that gives a common feel to the ensemble, an urban conglomerate that serves a mixed community of residents working, learning and living side by side.

Common materials and details are also used, which share some of the qualities of warehouse buildings and residential mansion blocks of the nineteenth century – a combination of robust materiality and fine form-making. The design seeks to project the ambitions of this new residential quarter by incorporating the existing urban fabric, creating urban continuity and a sense of permanence and permeability. Robust building forms are complemented by lighter workshop structures that bring a different, more delicate scale to the ensemble.

Unlike urban planners of the 1960s who placed mono-functional buildings in undefined public spaces, the team are as interested in the spaces between buildings as in the buildings themselves. They believe the city is defined by the public realm as much as by its buildings, and both should be capable of adaptation and multiple uses.

A central role in the implementation of this vision will be played by the ‘École de Tous’, one of the clients of the project, whose approach embodies the spirit of the project. A social microcosm, the school will act as a catalyst for the community by opening up to the neighbourhood, inviting residents into its courtyards and gardens and sharing its facilities.

Sergison Bates' competition-winning scheme for the City Gate II / Petite Île area of Brussels

Sergison Bates’ competition-winning scheme for the City Gate II / Petite Île area of Brussels

Sergison Bates’ competition-winning scheme for the City Gate II / Petite Île area of Brussels

The project is impressive in scale and in its ambition to work on the complementarity and compatibility of major urban functions, from economic activities to housing, to collective facilities and public spaces. Not least, it embraces the challenge of integrating with the wider Canal Plan and complying with the urban planning regulations of the ZEMU (Urban Enterprise Zone) and the PPAS (Special Land Use Plan) for Biestebroeck.

Presenting the development, Brussels Bouwmeester / Master Architect Kristiaan Borret emphasised the collaborative approach adopted by all players and added that within a Belgian political system which is notorious for its complexity, it was encouraging to see the parties in question working well together as this major part of the overall Canal Plan begins to take shape.

Sergison Bates' competition-winning scheme for the City Gate II / Petite Île area of Brussels

Sergison Bates’ competition-winning scheme for the City Gate II / Petite Île area of Brussels

Sergison Bates’ competition-winning scheme for the City Gate II / Petite Île area of Brussels

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