The current Potterij and office building in Graaf van Egmontstraat will be transformed into a place for innovation and circular economy. The city council and Stadsmakersfonds jointly selected a designer to draw up new plans for the renovation and the future of the site. It was WIT architects from Leuven.
The location is very centrally located, between the station and Grote Markt in Mechelen. The project includes the Pottery and an adjacent vacant office building owned by Stadsmakersfonds. A new building to be built on a residual plot at the rear, which previously served as a parking lot for the Hof van Egmont care center, was to connect these two buildings.
“In addition to putting the puzzle together, we expect the designer above all to have a smart and fresh look at the use of circular and change-oriented construction and a level of finish that succeeds in making the two existing buildings and one new construction work. as a whole and to give the right appearance. We also choose flexible use, where the layout must be able to be changed smoothly over time,” explains Greet Geypen, councilor for economy and urban development.
“In the design, we aim for maximum preservation and reuse of existing structures, both for the Pottery and for the office building. We therefore preserve the structure of existing spaces as much as possible, the interpretation is adapted to the space instead of the other way around. It will also make it easier for the rooms to have a different function if needed in the future. The same applies to the material used: What is possible is kept or reused, new materials can later be reused or biodegradable,” adds Patrick Princen, Councilor for Sustainability and Climate.
The original task was to extend and connect the two buildings with a newly built structure on a new square to be built, the so-called ‘city balcony’. The WIT architect surprised the jury by separating the buildings from each other, creating a relaxed but interesting dialogue between ‘big and little brother’. A common entrance hall on the ground floor with space for greenery will form the lively link between the square and the buildings.
“In Potterijen, it is primarily a challenge not to lose the atmosphere that is there now. This is a building with a tangible history and instead of restoring it until everything is clean again, we want to make visible the traces of the past. This also applies to the repair work we have to carry out on the structure today. We consider defense and recovery as bearers of beauty. In this way, the circularity is made tangible and visible”, replies WIT architects.
In the design, approx. 700 m² of floor space available as offices in the existing office building. These spaces will be rented out to entrepreneurs by Impact Factory and allow startups to grow. In addition, there must also be space for coworking, meeting rooms, multifunctional rooms and a number of studios.
The city also wants to give some parts of the Impact Factory a public character to make the circularity more tangible for the people of Mechelen. “De Potterij and the new building on the square will be open to the public. This is where the activities of the Impact Factory are made visible. There will be three to four larger rooms that, depending on the users’ needs, can be furnished as laboratory space. These lab spaces can literally and figuratively be Impact Factory’s showcase. Passers-by and the curious can look inside and experience what happens in this building and what the circular economy is all about,” says Patrick Princen.
“The project fits in well with the city’s urban development. It is right next to the core retail area and we think it is important to create economic functions around it. With this project, we aim at entrepreneurs and citizens from the Mechelen region who are interested in the circular economy, but Impact Factory also wants to be a knowledge center for all entrepreneurs in Flanders with circular ambitions. In this way, we transform a brownfield into an exciting and economical urban development project”, concludes Greet Geypen.
Andelsforeningen Stadsmakersfonds, together with a number of entrepreneurs active in the circular economy and external investors, will finance the majority of the development. The city of Mechelen is responsible for the public investments. The project can count on a European ERDF grant of 1,403,246 euros. This budget will be used to finance the design and construction of the project.