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Umicore

Newly built and renovated administrative building with visitors’ centre

Olen, Belgium
2011-…
Umicore
a2o-architecten
5.300 m2

The location in Olen presents itself as an autonomous, selfcentred entity. The site is like a village, composed of various buildings set in an orthogonal pattern. Roads and pipes cross the premises, constituting the infrastructure.

The public areas, including the entrance, parking facilities, reception, meeting rooms, and the restaurant, are difficult to recognize in the existing situation.

Our design creates a new centre and embraces in a single grand gesture the entry, car park, reception, service centre, and offices.

This is a structural gesture, arranging the space and enhancing its interpretability, accessibility and security.

A large rectangle, set in the middle of the site, constitutes the centre – the first chamber. Within this rectangle, various spaces have been created. From the existing fabric, the diagonal access road has been retained. This diagonal has an organizing effect. The street ends in a new rectangle: the second chamber.

This square is a collection of a variety of functions and rooms, each of which has its own relation with the location and the various production units.

Three building volumes have been set within the second chamber.

Disconnecting the various elements has made it possible to build in stages and to provide each building with a unique identity and character. This reinforces the concept of a village. Each volume has its own central space, acting as an interior chamber.

An important element of the second chamber is the central building, which was already present on site. Considering the clear, logical structure of the building, it seemed a good idea to retain it in the new design. It is given a new shell and the use of its innate qualities is optimized. In terms of energy levels, the building is able to match contemporary buildings. The ground floor incorporates the restaurant and supporting facilities. The exhibition room with reception area links two of the three outer chambers and gives the impression of a covered outdoor space. From this central zone, which is frequently used for exhibitions and events, one proceeds to the various other rooms. The remaining two volumes represent the service building and the administrative centre.

The focus of the design is primarily on organising space. Creating the main spaces results in interspaces that play a supporting role. At every level, these interspaces relate to the location’s context, thus creating new connections and a clear structure.

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