Collaborator: Chenyu Huang
Project: Arts House
Location: Brussels, Belgium
Date: May, 2021
Brussels has a contrasting mix of cultural heritage and novel technology. The city is known as an important cultural and trade node of central Europe since the Middle Ages. By 1958, Brussels’ World’s Fair Expo 58 marked a milestone on Belgium’s industrialization and technological advancement. Today, Brussels is uniquely characterized as both historic and modern, national and European, regional and cosmopolitan.
The project starts with diagraming the flow of pedestrians. By lifting the wavy topographic objects in between pedestrian flows, it emphasizes the intersecting path of movement and centers the historical fountain. The wavy roofs mark the entries of the program space of the arts house underneath, resulting in no back-side and no front-side building condition to regain the plaza and urban square in the city.
The three raised island roofs are the only above-ground structure. The grass-covered roof serves as a seating area for public gathering, while the glass roofs bring nature daylight into the art laboratory and fabrication shop. Transparent coated glass allows certain program activities to be seen from the street level, thereby encouraging communication and attracting engagement from the public ground and underground activities in different levels. The above-ground glass is deliberately selected, with its aesthetically modern symbolism contrasting the surrounding historical building façade, and echoing the mixture characteristics of contemporary Brussels. The glass façade of the new arts house reflects the sky and historical context, representing a new relationship between the old and the new. That is its essence - in the mediation between presumed opposites. It is this reality that the project intends to express. It is borne out of the creative tension between and excitation for the future, and respect for futures past.
The site sits in the heart of Brussels, adjacent to the landmark Grand Place. It is bordered by classical style buildings with ground level storefronts and restaurants, and serves as a significant traffic node with more than six streets intersecting here.
The arts house aims to become an attraction for the concentration of leisure and cultural life in Brussels, with artistic activity underground and urban retreat at ground plaza. The goal of the new arts house is to create a plaza of spatial fluidity, by integrating the programmatic space as a new urban landscape, while having minimal impact on the ground level. The place-making process preserves the historical fountain and it’s location, the pedestrian flow pattern, and heritage trees, to emphasize the existing attractions that have continuously enlivened the plaza.
Below the ground, there are stacked workshops and other flexible space that can be adaptive for different needs, such as auditorium and exhibition. All back-of-house service spaces are grouped on the north of the building, to ensure maximum efficiency for the rest of the program space.