The project is sited in an industrial zone of the province of Hainaut, a region rich with industrial history. As with many zonings, aesthetic grading is the norm, and here, notably, the most prominent feature is… the absence of architecture that provokes any emotional reaction. Against this deficiency, the project ventures what may be seen as pioneering architecture, offering an industrial design that, with only a small sacrifice, favours the emotional over the rational, attractiveness before utility, and the vernacular ahead of economy.
Recognizing the scope and impact of the building on the image and quality of the products and the brand, the project highlights the contrast with the environment in order to emphasize its own poetic presence. It is a reminder that 19th century industrial architecture in these regions was sumptuous and on a grand scale, in contrast to the functionality of the 20th century. The building comprises the headquarters and storage-distribution facilities of a company that imports/exports designer furniture. A distinction is made between the implantation and appearance of the logistics operations and the management area. While this is made obvious by the use of different materials and a break in the main facade, the overriding intention is to integrate the two functions within a single architectural and technical gesture.
The resulting impression is of productivity – a concept that is too often alien to architecture – which is the core purpose of this site. Therefore, the architecture can perform a highly symbolic role in presenting the company. The architectural language, composed of straight lines, sharp angles and points of inflection, translates a dynamism that should be legible from various aspects. And while it presents an immediate reflection of a company’s vitality, it is, above all, the expression of advancement in the means of distribution, and the techniques and modes of organization. In contrast, the black plinth, raw and inert, conceals as much as it reveals of the high flexibility of the building, yet it reflects also the continuity of an industrial process that has a far older lineage than the means employed.
Materials used for the facades (wood, glass, and metal cladding), simple in nature and application, allow emotion to be an economically competitive element in an environment where cost is a crucial factor. In this context, the creative process must integrate the costs related to the life-cycles of materials (cradle to cradle design), the optimization and the technical adaptability of the building over time, and its operating costs. Here, the architect’s inventiveness has found a unique manner to integrate these multiple and essential dimensions that guided the creative process. As a place of economic activity is a workplace but primarily a living space, then the use of wood in the facade contributes to the creation of this human dimension. Its natural nobility and its warmth transform these places into areas for living, blending the human dimension with that of production.
Wood, echoing the factory workshops of old, adds a historical reference to this project. And metal and glass are materials that recall, of course, the golden age of industry, and which today address the challenge of sustainability that is central to the building criteria, “Environmental High Quality”. Indeed, the project incorporates a high insulation factor, low-temperature heat generation, active flooring slabs, double flux cooled ventilation (instead of air conditioning), optimization of natural light with Sun Tracker, integration of energy from photovoltaics, retrieval and management of water, etc… All these measures avoid the emission of 132 tons of CO2 each year. It is a reduction of 44% compared to a conventional solution. Over 30 years, this represents more than 3960 tons of CO2.Location: Hainaut, Belgium Architect: Urban Platform Date: 2008 – 2009 Program: Low energy mixed-use building which includes headquarters and warehouse of an import-export company
Client: Fancy Home Collection sa Project name: “Fancy” retail headquarters Area: 10759 m² Budget: € 7,400,000