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Docks Bruxsel - Brussels

Much more than a shopping centre, this complex creates a dynamic space in the capital city for collective experiences

Located in the heart of the old industrial area of Brussels, overlooking the canal at the Van Praet Bridge, Docks Bruxsel guarantees an exceptional urban experience. Indeed, this new complex, which is the first in the capital city for more than 25 years, is part of a much larger mixed-use development that combines shopping, leisure, cultural and entertainment facilities to revive the area and create a dynamic and attractive district.

Discover this new complex in the video below as well as the interviews with the architects, Luc Deleuze and David Roulin.

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  • Project description
  • Interview with Luc Deleuze
  • Interview with David Roulin

As the Internet plays an ever-increasing role in our daily lives, it is also transforming consumer shopping behaviour. Now, when consumers visit shopping centres, they are looking for experiences that go well beyond traditional shopping. Docks Bruxsel perfectly captures this new trend by providing diversified services including shops, entertainment facilities (cinema, concert hall, restaurants…), offices and an exhibition area tracing the site’s history.

The complex was built as a real district with streets, squares, green spaces and street furniture to create a convivial public space that encourages social interaction. It was also designed to be an exemplary project from an environmental point of view, by using the site’s natural resources and developing innovative solutions; a huge glass roof enables visitors to enjoy the natural light and protects them from bad weather, canal water and heat recovery from the nearby incinerator. The same approach was adopted for the lighting by using energy efficient LED technology for the entire site.

Architecture in general, and sites like Dock Bruxsel, have to come alive at night, especially in winter when the days are much shorter. Lighting plays a critical role in creating a safe and vibrant environment at night. The architectural practice Art & Build collaborated with the lighting designer, Patrick Rimoux, to light the roof and façades in an original manner that would enhance the public spaces. 

They chose the SCULPline, as its flexibility and efficiency enabled them to sculpt the light and transform their vision into a dynamic illumination for the outdoor façades. The light can be adapted to the real needs of the space and to different periods of the year to create an engaging and memorable visit. 

 

The illumination of the roof, a distinctive feature of the project, required special attention. This emblematic architectural element by day, had to be as visible by night. The designers opted for the SCULPdot and SCULPflood luminaires, which allow them to shape the light and adjust it according to the ambient light outside and events happening in the complex. 

For the outdoor spaces, they wanted a luminaire that combines high technology with sobriety. The Shuffle was ideal as this modular column perfectly captures the future of public spaces. As the architects explain, “Public spaces must ensure safety and provide facilities and services like WiFi and sound, in an almost invisible way. With this technology, Dockx Bruxsel is driving the public space of the future.”

A total of 46 Shuffle columns fitted with light modules, WiFi and loudspeakers harmoniously blend into the space, for the safety, comfort and convenience of all the visitors.

Contracting authority: Equilis
Architectural practice: Art & Build
Lighting designer: Patrick Rimoux

Architect & Senior Partner
at Art & Build 

 

Could you explain the philosophy behind the Docks Bruxsel project?
Docks Bruxsel is primarily a complex and not a shopping centre. It is a city district located along the canal banks of the Van Praet Bridge. It was created on a site that was previously owned by the Godin Factories to spark urban renewal. In this complex, we wanted to create paths, connections, to reconstruct a city district. Moreover, we designed this complex by thinking about the development of the 30 hectares of abandoned land around it. We thought about housing, industrial offices, a school and public sector buildings.

Docks Bruxsel is the first realization of this project, what makes it original?
The area was cut off from exiting urban structures. Docks Bruxsel has solved this urban problem by creating the most natural connection possible between the canal wharf and Lambermont Boulevard. Docks Bruxsel has served to reconnect a wasteland and mark access to the city. In this mixed development, housing, shops, restaurants, leisure facilities and businesses can be found.


How did you envisage this complex?
We imagined this complex as a city district in its own right. We wanted a very open development with streets and squares lined with shops and entertainment facilities. The idea was to create a district, which we simply covered with a glass roof. This roof covers all of the public spaces to protect visitors from the bad weather, while maintaining an outdoor ambiance. The roof also bathes the complex in natural light, which was an essential element of the project for us.

Architect & CEO at
Art & Build 

 

How would you describe the architecture of this complex?
Architectural projects are fascinating, because they not only enable you to make a customer’s vision come alive but also feed on the broader context of their origins. In this case, Docks Bruxsel is located along the Willebroeck Canal, opposite the Royal Domain park, on an old industrial site that housed the Godin factories at the end of the 19th century.
As the preliminary report highlighted the patrimonial value of the site, at the heart of Brussels’ first industrial zone, we had to preserve certain buildings, which impacted the urban design.
Thus, the architecture is not only linked to the urban composition of the site, but it is also influenced by the use of the space. As business is the main purpose, we created the simplest and largest spaces possible, free of constraints, and low-cost. The result is a rather traditional orthogonal frame.
However, spaces dedicated to relaxation or walking had to provide an experience, arouse curiosity, which is why we created a hybrid composition between orthogonal and curved elements, by providing surprises all along the paths as well as large openings. It provides a variety of different spaces, material and light, as envisaged for this district, to create a lively and welcoming environment.

Light plays an important role in projects like this, how did you choose the technology?
Architecture has to come alive at night, even more so in winter. Lighting, whether it is for a building, an indoor or outdoor space, is a very important element in making the place comfortable, welcoming and significant. For this project, we collaborated with Patrick Rimoux, a well-known French lighting designer, who with the customer and ourselves, created a lighting plan for this project. We called upon Schréder’s expertise to give us the right technology to bring this vision to life in an efficient and sustainable manner.
The glass roof is a dominant feature of the project, as it unifies all the spaces. We were really careful to illuminate it in a way that would avoid any light pollution. We literally sculpted the light with the SCULP floodlights that can adapt the light according to events, seasons and the ambient light.
For the public spaces, we chose an innovative system that would perfectly fit with a project of this scale; the Shuffle column which integrates light, WiFi and loudspeakers. The columns perfectly blend into the public space in a very low-key manner, merging technology with sobriety. These high-tech Shuffles already offer what we envisage for the future of public spaces. Indeed, public spaces will have to offer sound and connectivity in a seamless manner, without any constraints.

If you had to highlight one aspect of this project, what would it be and why?
What is exciting about an architectural project of this magnitude, which is after all one of the biggest in the city of Brussels in the past few years, is the collective dimension, from the design to the completion. It is a long process, which everyone nurtures with his or her intelligence.
As for the lighting, we had some really positive exchanges that enabled us to choose solutions that we would never have imagined by ourselves. I really like this notion of collective intelligence, surrounding ourselves with very proactive experts, showing great flexibility, as Schréder did.

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