Completing a borrowed structure
a2o-architecten & AAC
Rather than a traditional renovation, we opted for a ‘systemic completion’ as the new lease of life for the Pacheco Institute. This means that we consider this Brussels place of worship as a ‘borrowed’ structure, an ‘open plan’ for which we provide a temporary purpose. Thus, yesterday's building fulfils tomorrow's needs. Its design is as it were a performance in the city. A kind of prefabrication of solid wooden walls, which constitutes a modular system that fills the mirror-symmetric wings of the building with houses, apartments, care hotel rooms and student flats.
These symmetrical axes running through the building, the garden and circulation are being restored as community spaces for the building's intergenerational users. On the East-West axis, we reconfirm the social and semi-public functions. The cross-sectional axes are restored by their original grandeur in the landscape architecture. The garden, consisting of enclosed beds, regulates the traffic - the entries to the various staircases, houses and community rooms - and serves integrally as a recreational outdoor space.
The existing circulation system of staircases and corridors is retained, but by opening them up and by their layout, the function of these circulation areas is elevated to that of meeting places. The residential modules have direct access to the galleries, the dimensions and design of which make resemble streets rather than corridors. The galleries’ historic setting and the central entrance halls as extensions of the public space, is restored and even reinforced by adding new architectural elements.
The future new buildings at the eastern side of the institute, respond to gaps in the existing wall of the building and complete the urban fabric that was created around Pacheco. The axial effect within the place of worship is extended into the direction of the public space. This powerful relation between indoor and outdoor, the passableness and universality of the location prove that Pacheco is not an isolated project, but a real urban district. Just like any residential module is part of a larger organic unity, the place of worship itself is also part of the larger structure of the city. The whole is visible in the details and vice versa.