Towards A Mixed-Use Eco-Neighborhood
Built between 1902 et 1907, Tour & Taxis used to be a large customs clearance and storage complex in the 20th century, located at the river, road and railway gates of Brussels. Covering 40 hectares (c. 100 acres) of former wetlands, this industrial park is a worldwide symbol of industrialization’s golden age – its engineering, ironwork, stonework and natural light. The Tour & Taxis neighborhood is currently undergoing a major renewal, and is once again on the verge of becoming an important vehicle for the economic and cultural development of Brussels.
The warehouses and sheds have been repurposed with corporate sustainability and the knowledge economy in mind, and a dedication to energy saving and the reuse of renewable energies. The ultimate goal is to create a genuine mixed-use eco-neighborhood where it is pleasant to be, work, live and play; an eco-neighborhood along the Brussels canal, articulated around three axes: revitalization of the built heritage, sustainable communities, and water.
The project presented herein focuses on the “metamorphosis” of the Gare Maritime (Marine Terminal) into 50,000 square meters (c. 538,000 square feet) of mixed-use space composed of professional activities (offices, workshops, etc.), retail activites (markets, showrooms, shops, fablabs, etc.) and public amenities. Across from the pediment of the Gare Maritime, the project also includes the eco-design of three residential “vertical forests” totalling 85,000 square meters (c. 915,000 square feet), as well as the creation of a large pond bordered by a natural and biological pool which links the Tour & Taxis park to the Brussels canal.
The Metamorphosis of the Gare Maritime
Our concept proposes to bring the new public park and the canal inside the Gare Maritime along the 280-meter (c. 920-foot) length of its naves, creating a genuine BIOCAMPUS (eco-campus) where it feels good to work and relax. The two median naves are thus “innervated” with vegetation and water. These interior gardens – tropical to the east and continental to the west – climb along the façades of the various functional spaces, forming cascades of exotic and endemic plants.
The BIOCAMPUS is built in solid wood and cross-laminated timber (CLT) to reduce the intrinsic carbon footprint of the construction, while bringing warmth and comfort to the microclimatic interior landscape. The spatial organization of the BIOCAMPUS promotes innovation, interdisciplinarity and transversality – all aimed towards co-working and the circular economy of this early 21st century, based on the “Triple R” theory: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. The BIOCAMPUS establishes an individual architectural identity for each of the five naves – enhancing the industrial heritage while guaranteeing visual permeability between the large three main naves:
– The “Waves” in the western nave: include retail on the ground floor and open-space offices on the upper floors.
– The “Containers” in the eastern nave: offer leisure space on the ground floor, with modular offices and a hotel on the upper floors.
– The “Boat hulls” in the central nave: act as genuine idea labs for meetings and brainstorming sessions.
– The “Geodesic domes” between the two median naves: incorporate restaurants and bars, as well as sports and leisure spaces.
– The “Greenhouses” along the Main Street : bring agriculture back into the heart of the city, with urban farms dedicated to organic farming.
The rule for all these architectural entities is to be completely detached from the existing structure and façades. These spaces are linked together by ground-level bicycle paths, while over 6.6 meters above, tree-perched footbridges offer unique perspective views of the wrought iron floral motifs designed by Frédéric Bruneel. Wrapped in waterproof and airtight façades with high thermal inertia, the majestic “vessel” forms a microclimatic space that reduces energy needs. It also incorporates the concepts of passive bioclimatism and cutting-edge renewable energies, as: rainwater harvesting; earth-air heat exchangers for natural ventilation; evapotranspiration gardens; biomass cogeneration; geothermal stations; a wind farm.
The Eco-Concept of Vertical Forests & Sky Villas (Zone B)
The concept of the “Vertical Forests” is to build “Sky Villas” surrounded by vertical gardens, i.e. individual homes with private food gardens and community orchards high in the Brussels sky, thus combining the advantages of both rural and urban living. The project takes advantage of the trapezoid-shaped area bounding the construction zone. Large rooftops with elegant curves outline fruit and vegetable corbel balconies, with unparalleled views of the Brussels historic core and the Koekelberg basilica. Tilted south, these rooftops are covered with solar panels (12,500 square meters) that provide some of the housing units’ energy needs.
The three vertical forests total 85,000 square meters align along the width of the Gare Maritime, and are separated from each other by gardens. The façades reveal the social diversity of the project, like a giant Tetris that fits vertically together with all the sky villas – from the smallest to the largest one. Using inclined ramps that shelter the ground-level orchards and common areas, the Tour & Taxis park extends over green roofs, offering strolls overlooking the large central pond. Three distinct urban components articulate between the vertical villages and the Gare Maritime: 1. a large marsh pond attracting Brussels’ biodiversity; 2. the former Halle aux Poissons et Huiles (fish and oil covered market) converted into a bar and restaurant; 3. a giant lilypad offering exhibit and event space, as well as an open-air rooftop auditorium.
This urban complex connects the large esplanade located nord-east of the Entrepôt Royal (Royal Warehouse) with the parc created to the north-west on the old rail forks’ trail. Each master plan zone is thus stitched to the other like an avant-garde “TEGPOS” (Positive Global Energy Territory), as a symbol for the desired perfect symbiotic relationship between man, technology and ecosystems. Our proposal for Tour & Taxis attempts to turn this ambition into a reality – step by step. Source by Vincent Callebaut Architectures.