Outstanding retrofit and regenerated part of the city, the Belle-vue Brewery complex is located along Brussel’s canal, in the Molenbeek district. The retrofit of these iconic buildings has exceptionally changed this part of the city. The site being huge, it was reassigned to fulfill multiple functions : hotel, housing and contemporary art museum (MIMA). On top of dealing with exceptional patrimonial value, this project also achieve highest performance with nearly 90% energy savings. Socially, the MIMA presents the most significant art of its time. After the deadliest attacks of 2015, this development brings back hope to the whole neighborhood . 1 History
The building of the Belle-Vue brewery is one of the best known reminders of the industrial past of Brussels. This remarkable specimen of heritage buildings dates from 1916. The brewery known as the “Cornet de Poste” [Post Cornet] was built by the brothers Louis and Emile de Coster against the canal for practical reasons: to brew beer where the grain arrived, i.e. in the immediate vicinity of the waterway. It was the great age of “gueuze beer” beer in Brussels. The brewery, which loomed large on the Brussels horizon, was subsequently taken over by De Boeck in 1966, and then under the name of Belle-Vue by Vanden Stock in 1969. In its heyday in 1980, Belle-Vue employed some 500 people. In 1990, Belle-Vue acquired a stake in Interbrew (Inbev Belgium). The activities would be moved to Leuven in 2005.
In 2009, a group of private investors (Nelson Canal) and the Municipality of Molenbeek acquired the site with an ambitious purpose sprung from the shared determination to use this building to new ends and secure a future for it embedded in the renewal of this district of Brussels. The aim was to deploy an innovative project that combined urban renewal, the showcasing of industrial and historical heritage, energy performance (“very low energy” and “exemplary building”), integration into society and the world of work, and the promotion of tourism for one of the oldest prospects of Brussels: the canal.
The project combines hotel accommodation, housing and spare-time activities. A 150-room, “very low energy” hotel was constructed in the main building (the former warehouse). The German Meininger hotel group introduced its hotel concept for young people and young families on the premises.
2 transformation The two buildings which straddle the facade of the main body, coupled with the adjacent buildings, generate an interior space facing the canal. Largely open and accessible however, the project accentuates this game between interiority bordering the building and the accessibility to the public space. The area in front of the building opens up this interior whilst also providing a more intimate space bordering the main road. It also puts into perspective the main warehouse of the Bellevue site by connecting it to the canal.
Similarly, the street between the main body and the front building, inherited from the previous industrial use of the site, plays on this re-articulation of the vacuum through a new dynamic by linking the Bellevue project to the one currently developed by the Brussels Commune. Based on the heritage of the site, the project ensures an interiority proper to the heart of the building block, while also making the most of this insulated situation near the canal and the opening up to the public space.
3 equity This work between preserving the intimacy of the project and its opening up onto the public space has a particular relevance in the development of Molenbeek. This set-up allows public facilities to be situated in a building block bordered with houses, to participate in the life of the neighborhood. The implantation of the white housing block with the rest of the surroundings delimits a significant point in the building front along the canal. The hotel itself employs social workers and allows budget travellors to find accomodation in the centre of the city in very comfortable conditions. Its influence permeates beyond its sole location. Indeed, the hotel itself works with other local shops and service providers and through it’s internal spatial arrangement and external public space offering, forms an integral part of the neighborhood atmosphere.
The size and multifunctional program of the project associated with the conversion nature of an industrial site and its urban restructuring of the area is very complex. Important work was carried out so as to integrate the hotel functions in the central warehouse and reassign specific areas for meeting spaces and lobby areas. The entire project (hotel, recreational center and accommodation) plays with different levels of façade openings making major functions identifiable from the street. These random openings in the warehouse emphasize its linearity while the regular openings found in the tower housing the apartments mark its residential function. This regularity is built into the whole by the more detailed perforations in the sunscreens, the pattern being a variation on oriental latticework. While integrating various uses, the project ensures an ease of use and optimal comfort to everyone. The readability of each function and accessibility to the buildings is the first requirement. Beyond the ergonomic design of the spaces, interior comfort is ensured by the building’s high energy performance.
The project is a “very low energy” standard renovation, as such it will consume about 50% less than a new building, and about 90% less than the existing building. To achieve this, we use “passive” strategies. Due to high thermal isolation users have a regular temperature for all surfaces and the high level air-tightness (0.4 v / h) means that no drafts are felt, even when close to the window. Next, through a high performance heat recovery ventilation system combined with a passive cooling system (adiabatic), all rooms have 100% fresh air, fresh and at the right temperature without further need to cool/ heat it and anyway, we can always open the windows ! Finally, the use of environmentally friendly materials and finishes containing no formaldehyde emissions help ensure healthy indoor air. The project won the 2009 call for Exemplary Buildings organized by the Brussels Region. This label is the BatEx. To win such an award the project has to be of high energetic performance, use materials with low environmental impact, have a high architectural value and demonstrate a simplicity in implemented solutions such that they are easily reproduced and affordable. The BatEx projects are representative of the sustainable development policy of the Brussels Region. They are the subject of regular visits and serve as reference for the market.