'Multi' set to be an open project at De Brouckere

Tim Harrup

The latest piece of the jigsaw to transform the very centre of Brussels around the Stock Exchange and the Place de Brouckere, is taking shape. ‘Multi’ (the former Philips or De Brouckere Tower) is being converted to what is described by CONIX RDBM Architects and developers Immobel, Whitewood and Cordeel as an emblematic, contemporary office building that links public space with an accessible city platform. It is a large-scale reconversion that overcomes a number of major urban challenges: the reassignment of an emblematic, modern office building, the creation of a connecting link by opening the lower storeys, and by reinforcing the building’s attachment to the public space via an accessible city platform.

The Multi project has set itself ambitious and stringent goals, the parties go on to say, in regards to re-use, with as many components as possible from the original building being retained in the renewal. The ambition of large-scale reuse is innovative and serves as an example for other projects of a similar nature.The building is being transformed from a heavy, black box into a bright, transparent and inviting construction. By understanding the current role and the potential of the building, the new project has been proposed as an ‘Urban Platform’. The project serves as a connection between the different surrounding neighbourhoods.

Video - courtesy of CONIX RDBM Architects / Whitewood / Immobel / Cordeel

The building consists of a base crowned with a heavy ‘galette’ level. Above this base, the tower virtually hovers, offset against the construction below. Despite the use of a series of refined elements during its original construction, the developers believe that the existing tower comes across with an intense, dull and heavy feel. This is due to a combination of reticence and dark colours. The renovated Multi is to be a very light and transparent unit. This will be achieved by offsetting the building against the existing plateaus. The facade itself is to be given extra depth. This will be achieved through a structuring aluminium profile that creates extra depth with extra shade. Structured matte aluminium is being used. In combination with the non-reflective glass, the building absorbs its environment rather than reflecting it.

In the video, the major players explain some of their thinking.Frédérik Jacobs, CEO at Conix RDBM Architects, speaks of light, transparent and open building, while Valerie Vermandel Chief development officer at Whitewood explains that the positioning of the building within the Brussels pedestrian zone was much discussed. Frédéric Vanderplanken, CEO of Whitewood Group, points out that this is the first building to be ‘fossil free in use’ in Brussels. From a technical point of view, Kevin de Hainaut, CEO at Cordeel explains the importance of ventilation in the heating/cooling process. And finally, Gwen Vreven, Development Director at Immobel highlights the location of the building in the city centre and the focus on well-being and comfort for users.

It is further pointed out that investigations into the current performance and potential of the existing building in the areas of sustainability and transformability have led to the creation of a high-performance, city-living project. As an ‘Urban Platform’ and ‘Urban Connector’, the project aspires to support and strengthen the creation of the pedestrian zone. This is possible by maximising public access through the building, updating a number of public places and their potential - such as the urban terraces and city gardens - and by establishing the open spaces around the building as valuable public areas with character. BREEAM and reusability are central focal points and the project was selected as one of the laureates for ‘Be Exemplary 2017’.