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Monoblok

Living in transition

Vilvoorde, Belgium
2014-2017, built
Vilvoorde Development NV - Matexi
a2o-architecten
15.290 m2 (above ground)

 

Photographs by Stijn Bollaert

A devalued industrial strip, hemmed in between railways and a canal, is being converted into a valuable district of Vilvoorde. Within this strategically located reconversion area on the edge of the European capital, we find the ‘t Sas project. It is surrounded by a canal, the Zenne river, a square and a park. Landscape and Brussels literally meet here.

 

The development of the project area runs parallel with the transition of Vilvoorde from an industrial to a media city. Urban development solutions are provided for sustainability issues. Cleaning of the brownfield site brings this part of town back into circulation. The redevelopment, and not cutting into the open space, is a basic sustainability decision. This is emphasised by the fact that this redevelopment is an example of the use of sustainable and environment-friendly building materials.

 

Optimal accessibility, through a dense infrastructural network justifies the location for this project. The construction of the HST network and a new station offers even more perspectives and meets the sustainability requirement of living only in places with good accessibility. In addition, the internal access structure promotes slow traffic. For example, the introduction of a new bridge for cyclists and pedestrians ensures that - for the first time - the Drie Fonteinen park becomes part of the Vilvoorde city centre. Together with the setup of the masterplan as a park structure, this creates a closeness to nature the importance of which can hardly be overrated when it comes to sustainable living.

 

’t Sas has a clear form and folds itself around the inner area, at the same time creating interesting apertures, connections and sightlines to the surrounding areas. The building's footprint thus becomes a passable outdoor space that allows users to optimally experience the broad quay along the canal and the previously marginalised Zenne. The natural composition of the courtyard garden has a clear form and structures the use of the communal space, while lowered paths protect the privacy of private terraces.  More than just providing access to the houses, the courtyard garden thus becomes a pleasant meeting space and privacy buffer.

 

The link at ground level is always carefully and intelligently designed. The ground floor is lifted at the sides of the quay and the square, providing optimal privacy to the higher, internal terraces. At the same time, the terraces look out onto public life and the public space is literally ‘lived in', which always adds to the quality of living in the public domain.  Large decorative openwork in the staircases and double-height entrances constitute recognisable architectural elements that increase the interpretability of the building and create interesting meeting places in the facade surface.

 

‘t Sas succeeds in responding to the multiformity of the site and the diversity of the environment with a universal block. This results in a highly sustainable, robust and connective building, which offers an optimal combination of individual quality of living and collective experience. The minimally slanting roofs create a dynamic image. The rational division of the surfaces and the subtle three-dimensional effect in the brickwork is highly refined. The alternation of internal and external terraces creates both depth and playfulness. The restrained architectural vernacular of the courtyard garden and the finely detailed facades provide architectural solutions for the acoustic pressure of the nearby viaduct, school building and the public domain. In this way, ‘t Sas - a monobloc structure that references to the monumental industrial architecture that once characterised this site - now reconnects this regained part of the city at the human scale.

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