Multifunctional building by Bogdan & Van Broeck connects Molenbeek and the quay

The Amal Amjahid project has been completed along the Brussels Canal on the border with Molenbeek. The building offers space for a sports hall, a boxing club and a nursery. A central courtyard and a gallery with generous arches play an important role in Bogdan & Van Broeck’s design.

The Amal Amjahid project was commissioned by the municipality of Sint-Jans-Molenbeek and is part of the canal landscape development plan. It is considered to be the showcase of the Sustainable Neighborhood Contract action plan around Leopold II, Bogdan & Van Broeck explain.

The public and multifunctional building, located on Koolmijnenkaai, allows for a better connection between the width of the canal and the Molenbeek neighborhoods behind it. On the other side of the canal, the districts of Dansaert and Kaaienwijk stretch out towards the historic center of Brussels.

Amal Amjahid contains a large sports hall, a room for boxing and other martial arts and a nursery for 84 children. This program is organized around a series of communal or outdoor spaces called the Giants Gallery, the Patio of the Power Fathers and the Gardens of the Little Ones.

Although it would be logical to place the sports hall’s large, empty space at the top of the building for reasons of load-bearing capacity, Bogdan & Van Broeck chose otherwise. The office has placed this large volume on the lower floors of the building for a number of reasons: to facilitate access to the sports hall, its visibility from the street and natural light in all areas.

Outdoor space
The floors for the martial arts and the nursery are located on top of the sports hall, around a central terrace that extends over three floors. The boxing room and a multi-purpose room are located on the first floor; nursery and caretaker’s house are on the two upper floors.

The central Patio of the Powerhouses not only brings daylight into the heart of the project, but also connects the different spaces. The outdoor space also makes it possible to increase visitor capacity – for example during events.

The nursery has outdoor spaces in various places along the facades and on both levels. These gardens for the little ones are suitable for playing outside when the weather is good or for organizing activities for the little ones.

Gallery of Arches
From Koolmijnenkaai along the canal to Werkhuizenstraat, the Giant Gallery stretches as a spacious reception area within the building. Giant Gallery unlocks all features in the building. Huge vaults highlight the gallery and almost symbolically connect the canal quay with the (former) stream Kleine Zenne in Molenbeek. However, the arches also play a significant role from a constructive point of view.

In order to realize the choice for the programmatic layout, the wall with arches and the dividing wall on the other side of the building are supported by four large metal trusses. These rafters (‘rafters’ – which was the building’s working term for a long time) are each two stories high. They were transported by water to the construction site, says the architectural firm.

“The Amal Amjahid project thus confirms the importance of water in the city,” say Bogdan & Van Broeck. “From the start of the design, the construction process and means of transport were taken into account.”

The project is an example of the ‘smart shell – low tech’ concept, the agency further explains. The building is passive without the use of complex technology. A highly insulated prefabricated wooden frame surrounds all the project’s volumes. The night-cooling chimneys provide natural ventilation of the rooms in summer and utilize the thermal mass of the structure.

The project arose in a participatory process. The design has been repeatedly revised and adapted in consultation with stakeholders: the government, future users and local residents. The residents of Molenbeek could vote on a name for the project. They chose the name of the young Amal Amjahid – a martial arts champion who represents Belgium and Molenbeek in several international tournaments.

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