Reconversion of an old mill into an interpretation centre and an incubator for small and medium enterprises.
The program for the conversion of an old mill along the canal in Anderlecht combines a centre for Small and Medium Enterprises and an “interpretation centre”. An innovative restoration approach has been used as a form of ecological recycling and cultural sustainability for the re-valuation of the industrial heritage.
– The elements of the program are not considered as fixed “spaces” or “buildings”, but rather as evolving “projects” in constant interaction with each other.
– Time (and therefore change) rather than space is taken as the main context of architecture. Flexibility and permanent adjustability therefore become key qualities.
– The project interacts on both local and supra-local levels and presents a low threshold towards the neighbourhood and the city.
The two existing listed buildings are stripped and used as large flexible containers. In between these two – within a “light architecture” shell – all the ancillary functions are inserted: stairs, elevators, techniques, service space, etc. On the ground floor, the open plan reception and administration spaces link the project to the neighbourhood. A panoramic roofscape including a restaurant, a roof garden and terraces, functions as a lighthouse along the canal and a landmark that links the site with the city.
Old and new industrial constructions enter into dialogue:
The existing brick, concrete, and plaster bare traces of the building's rich history, while the new volumes combine a transparent skin with lightweight steel skeletons and composite steel-concrete floorplates.
Rawness and robustness, complemented with the warmth and lightness of wooden and polycarbonate inner partitions, create a low-maintenance, non-intimidating environment that lets itself acquire patina and be appropriated by its users.
The sustainability of the project lies in first line in its program: together, the incubator and interpretation centre work as social, cultural and economical catalysts in the neighbourhood.
Beyond the new energy-efficient technical installations, envelope elements, or rainwater recuperation, the act of transforming an existing structure into a flexible and adaptable place to work, discover and exchange, constitutes the biggest ecological gesture of the project.