The transformation of the land around AZ Maria Middelares in Gentbrugge includes major works to give the neighborhood a new meaning, where housing and care go hand in hand. Project developer Revive will build 36 apartments and 11 homes, a new sports medicine center and at the same time take over the empty floors of the existing hospital building. Today, the car park is still completely asphalted, but it is to be transformed into a neighborhood park of no less than 6,500 square meters. The parking itself will soon be largely underground. A state-of-the-art MedTech hub will be built from the third floor of the hospital.
The overall plan for the site has been drawn up by Archipl Architecten, who is also responsible for the architectural design of the multi-family housing and the sports hospital. KRAS architects designed the design for MedTech’s entrepreneurial hub and the single-family houses. The landscape design is in the hands of Atelier Arne Deruyter.
The vision of the building stone
In March 2021, the Ghent city council approved the building block vision. This new policy will ensure that the quality of life in densely populated areas is improved by creating green zones, filling space for employment and facilities such as nurseries and medical centres. The project that Revive is realizing on the site of AZ Maria Middelares is the first major project that fits into this new vision through the construction of a public park.
Entrepreneurial hub for MedTech companies
In this project article, we zoom in on the MedTech business hub that will take place in the hospital, based on a design by KRAS architects in collaboration with boydens engineering (part of Sweco) and Studiebureau Riessauw. The lower floors of the building were recently converted into a medical center and will remain in use during and after the work. The upper part of the building, especially floors 3 to 6, will be transformed into an entrepreneurial hub for companies that can support the existing clinic with smart technology; so-called HealthTech companies. This includes IT companies that develop medical software, companies that focus on scanning equipment, 3D printing, robotics, and so on. In addition, part of the ground floor is to be renovated and converted into a small coffee bar, which can become a central meeting place for the neighborhood, the employees on site and the clinic’s patients.
The original building is still visible today on the upper floors. It consists of a skeleton structure in concrete and ribbed floors, with a facade in prefabricated decorative elements in concrete and brickwork. It is a typical building from the 1970s with a number of qualities such as a rational modular construction in precast concrete elements, an honest appearance and a number of sculptural brutalist elements. On the other hand, there are also a number of obvious flaws: a remarkable break in scale with the environment, lack of insulation according to current standards, a large number of thermal bridges, a very limited floor height, etc. In addition. account must be taken of the Hospital, which must remain active during the work and which has already undergone a facade renovation. These conditions form the prerequisites for design by KRAS architects.
Quirky facade design
The new facade respects and reinforces the modular grid of the existing structure, but also gives this facade a new, modern expression. While the horizontality of the existing facade reinforces the break in scale with the surroundings, the new facade has a distinct vertical articulation that integrates better into the environment. The joinery is provided in aluminum with a white-green shade, which is in line with the already existing matte glass with a green shade. The included horizontal and vertical fins in aluminum reinforce the graphics and the modular design of the facade. Profiled ceramic tiles are installed between the vertical fins, also in a white-green shade. These special facade elements give the building a unique character.
Integration into the environment
An underpass from Kliniekstraat to the new inner garden will be integrated into the building. At the level of this underpass, a new terrace tower has been provided at the back, the design of which refers to the existing stair cores. The terrace structure is conceived as a structure of round concrete columns and floor slabs rounded at the corners, and is in line with the common interior spaces (meeting places, coffee corners, informal meeting areas, etc.). This idiom is repeated on the Kliniekstraat side in the form of a small concrete awning, which marks the coffee shop, the entrance to the inner garden and the entrance to the entrepreneurial hub.
On the top floor, visitors are treated to a breathtaking view of Ghent’s city centre. This floor also houses a large number of common spaces, including a lunch area, function rooms and meeting rooms. These will be linked to a roof terrace on the 7th floorthat floor.
The concrete floor slabs from the 1970s are perfect for concrete core activation. In addition, an ingenious arrangement of the techniques in the building was carefully searched for, which was carefully incorporated into the existing construction.
On the one hand, the new high-performance building screen validates the building’s existing qualities. Together with the new layout, which preserves the flexibility and designability of the original clinic building, it ensures that the building will be ready for at least the next fifty years.
In the first phase, the buildings next to the hospital will be demolished, after which the renovation of the hospital and the furnishing of the MedTech hub will begin. Then the construction of the houses and apartments begins. If all goes according to plan, the work will be completed in 2026.