Facing the challenge of losing its industrial and economic base and acknowledging the fact that newly developed urban neighborhoods were gradually encroaching on industrial facilities, the municipality of Brussels initiated studies of how best to address the question at hand. Case in point is the project to integrate an existing concrete mixing facility within what had become one of the city’s most dynamic and culturally diverse areas. The project offers an alternative to standard contemporary approaches, suggesting to keep the mixing facility on site rather than relocating it to the city’s edges, while adding a range of functions – both public spaces as well as privately funded workspaces – to densify the site.
In addition to the project’s overall strategy, the jury appreciated the range of architectural moves, which give credence to the ambition to combine what at first sight might have seemed improbable, namely, the literal co-habitation of otherwise incompatible functions. The jury acknowledged in particular three specific measures: first, the introduction of a wall made of interlocking precast blocks produced from recycled concrete to encapsulate the facility from its surroundings; second the introduction of a canopy with public functions suspended over the work area to control sound and dust from the mixing process; and third, the establishment of an urban public connection from the city to the existing canal just below the canopy’s cantilever. All in all, the jury applauded the project’s underlying vision as well as the author’s ability to transform an otherwise inauspicious industrial facility into a promising piece of architecture – part and parcel of Brussels’s vibrant mix-city.