Neutelings Riedijk Architecten bv | Gare Maritime in Brussels

The monumental Gare Maritime on The Tour & Taxis site in Brussels was commissioned by Extensa city Neutelings Riedijk Architects transformed into a new part of the city. Once the largest freight station in Europe, Gare Maritime has now become an inspiring place where young and established companies can move in with a cozy public space for large and small events.

Neutelings Riedijk Architects designed this covered ‘city where it never rains’ is entirely made of wood. This makes Gare Maritime a good example of sustainable development and currently the largest CLT project in Europe.

Structure of parks and squares

The Gare Maritime dates from the beginning of the twentieth century and is no less than 140 meters wide and 280 meters long. The entire space under the seven linked steel caps, three large and four small, is now made publicly available. Under the corridors of the existing roof structure, Neutelings Riedijk Architecten has placed twelve wooden pavilions, which together contain the new program of more than 45,000 m2.

That pavilions join the rhythm of the cast iron rafters and columns. A structure of boulevards, streets, parks and squares is created in between; like a real city.’ – Michiel Riedijk – architect

Public space

Under the roof, a large monumental space remains open for public events with a pleasant climate that follows the seasons. Inspired by ‘Ramblas’, a cozy green promenade has been created on each side of the event space. The boulevards are so wide (16 metres) that generous inner gardens with tall trees could also be created here, which provide a pleasant atmosphere. The design of the public space and the greenery is provided by landscape architects Miljø. For the squares, the Brussels visual artist Henri Jacobs designed eight mosaics in which he could reuse the original cobblestones.

Largest CLT project in Europe

Together with Ney & Partners, the construction of the new built-in volumes is done in Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) with oak facade finish (FSC). This results in a huge reduction in the amount of cement, in concrete the building would have been five times heavier. The choice of wood also had a positive influence on the construction process: Thanks to prefabrication and the dry finishing method, the construction time was significantly shorter than with traditional construction. During the preparation, the circularity of the construction was also monitored by designing removable connections and modular building elements.

Sustainable restoration

Gare Maritime is completely energy neutral. The glass facades on Picardstraat are equipped with solar cells, and the highest roofs have a total surface of 16,000 m2 of solar panels. Far-reaching sustainability measures have been taken at all levels – construction, installation, circular use of materials, greenery, health – in consultation with Boyden’s engineer, such as heat and cold storage and rainwater recycling. Gare Maritime received the BREAAM Outstanding certificate.

The existing monument was carefully restored in the first phase by Jan de Moffarts Architects, Bureau Bouwtechniek and Ney & Partners. The supporting structure, consisting of riveted lattice girders and characteristic three-hinged trusses, has been sustainably renovated and reinforced where necessary. To meet today’s standards, the ‘skin’ has been renewed and the roof fitted with insulation and solar panels.

Flexible pavilions and a healthy working environment

The design of Gare Maritime focused on creating a healthy working space: no closed office spaces under low system ceilings, but light, open and inspiring workplaces.

The wooden pavilions consist of a ground floor, a first and a second floor – the so-called “creative loft” – with a raised floor under the ridge. Oak display cases on the ground floor also form balconies to the offices above. Different functions can be accommodated in a modular system with freely divisible floor areas, such as offices, workshops, shops, showrooms and production areas. By building twelve separate pavilions, each office will have its own address and it will remain a human-scale project. The pavilions are connected by several sculptural oak ‘cross-stairs’ above the inner streets.

Development Tour & Taxis

The combination of the old station hall with a contemporary interpretation and an innovative work and retail concept makes Gare Maritime a unique project. Not only will it create a comfortable place to stay for everyday users, the project also has the ambition to become one of the tourist attractions of the Brussels region. In this way, the development of Gare Maritime also makes an important contribution to the expansion of the Tour & Taxis square and to the development of the entire canal zone of Brussels.

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