December 2018 marks the end of work on HD54, delivering 10.000sqm of office space for client AXA BELGIUM after more than 18 months of heavy refurbishment. The transformed built and unbuilt forms and landscaping have considerably modified the initial 1980’s building. Notable changes outside include a new staggered skyline overlooking the Forêt de Soignes, a scaled down mass responding to low-lying neighbours north, and large carved-out loggias offering framed views of the surroundings. These inside-out loggias, along with re-organized circulations and fluid workspace spilling out onto stepped-back terraces, demonstrate that work has equally concentrated on qualifying what goes on inside. User-comfort for example has led to fine-tuned sun and glare protection. This detail-driven thinking results in delicately calibered shading and made-to-measure metal works on the facades. Well-being criteria have led to timber facades, carefully elaborated in order to maximise daylight inflow and minimise cooling needs. Their large-scale pre-fabrication off site has led to extra-ordinary quality control thus ensuring the sustainability of the ensemble not to mention minimum site-impact.Finally, the extent to which the building's original double-pane glazing, earth-toned bricks and good-as-new partitions have been convincingly upcycled elsewhere proves that large-scale efforts to integrate circular economy can work when motivated client, architect and contractor (BPC) put their minds to it.Time spent such important global issues have led to little energy left for formal antics. Indeed, given HD54’s strategic position marking Brussels’ eastern gate, just sitting there draws attention … thereby justifying a minimalist approach to facade design. Windows are straight-forwardly positioned following the initial 1980’s layout when possible and pertinent, opaque zones simply clad in glass-mosaic, and sun-shading self-evidently distributed following the 90cm grid present throughout. Nothing very savant, the whole very intuitive. But it remains crucial to understand that this whole is forcefully served by detail-oriented efforts made at all design AND building sub-stages, addressing head-on the humble down-to-earth task of getting things (well) done as shown below.architectesassoc wishes to thank all participants for the wonderful ride.

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Leopold Views, to be inaugurated this autumn

Leopold Views aims at pertinently converting an office building into a residential ensemble. The principal quandary here therefore is the squaring of the well-being of the future diverse occupants of the tower with living in what was essentially dry and dull work space. To achieve this, each interior area benefits from a wood-decked terrace which acts as a fluid transition between inside and out, so providing residents with a qualified relationship with their environment not often experienced in a tower. Owing to the modular perforated sliding panels fitted to each terrace, the occupants gain the novel freedom to create their degree of privacy at any given moment. A great deal of attention has been paid to light filled common spaces which stimulate natural interactions for all, including ground floor shops, spaces for professional activities, a large bicycle zone, as well as common 13th floor rooftop terraces and lounge for get-togethers available to all residents. The quality of this common qualified space is essential to the sustainability of the project. Developed for client Matexi, its first occupants are due to move in by the end of the year. The hope at architectesassoc is to exemplify how we can successfully shift from obsolete to innovative, from isolated to connected, and equally from bland to bold within a standard budget. From this point of view, conversion of office space into residential is a privileged road to pursue in order to respond to sustainability goals and higher demands for housing. Indeed, office construction offers the advantage of higher floor-to-ceiling dimensions greatly increasing the quality of the lived experience and the ease with which techniques fit for housing are integrated. In addition, avoiding demolition/reconstruction and engaging in upcycling remain important factors of sustainability as well as part of environmentally sensitive responses considered globally.

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163 new homes will be finished here by autumn, complete with street-level shops and offices, a day-care centre, and communal amenities. Facade details are now apparent  and notably white metal work contrasting with grey brick, while interior finishes progress. The busy boulevard relates with the sloped gardens behind via two generous double-height porches strategically positioned to create effective permeability between front and back. These passageways lead to a soon-finished semi-public square of more intimate character over-looking existing terraced homes on the opposite railway bank. Designed for play and informal encounters, the low-lying volumes defining its perimeter and their careful positioning together allow for maximum sunlight here during most of the day. Already partially occupied, the broad panoply of dwelling types and sizes will hopefully push occupant diversity, while division into digestible sub-parts should push appropriation.

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