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PRIVATE BRUSSELS

G u i l l e m Po n s D i s s e rt a t i o n Ju n e 2 01 5 M P h i l i n A r ch i t e c t u r e a n d U r b a n D e s i g n A r ch i t e c t u r a l A s s o c i a t i o n S ch o o l o f A r ch i t e c t u r e P r o j e c t i v e C i t i e s 2 01 3 – 2 01 5


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A ck n o w l e d g e m e n t s Abstract

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E u r o p e ’s C a p i t a l N e v e r S l e e p s Ty p i c a l O ff i c e Design Project: Interiorisation

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Interiorisations Infill Fr a m e Tr a c e Threshold

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Ty p i c a l E u r o p e a n P r o j e c t Europe in Brussels Pri vatisation Landmark reliance Preservation Centrality Interior as Urban Category

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Bibliography

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Appendix T h e O ff i c e Ty p e Administrative interiors Ty p i c a l s p a t i a l c o n f l i c t s Maps of Brussels RDL Competition


A ck n o w l e d g e m e n t s

This book is the result of a research developed in the Projective Cities course 2013–2015 at the Architectural Association. During the programme I was supported by La Fundació La Caixa which awarded me with a full-time student Scholarship, and the unconditional help of my parents. I am grateful to them. I would also like to thank those who have been present during this time, since conscious or unconsciously have helped to shape this work. I have also a very special gratitude to Carme de Cara for her restless help and key insights, crucial and always at hand when needed.

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Abstract

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Offices and administrative buildings are ultimate redoubts of the economic sector. Accordingly, they are projected by managers and profit-oriented developers, and therefore, they have become total commodities of the real-estate market. As a symptom, European Union’s administrative buildings are almost identical to commercial offices, despite representing a public and democratic institution. Hence, the EU has become the result of a post-political situation –in which the economic consensus prevails before any social or democratic intention– rendering its own developments devoid of any civic ambition to contribute and ameliorate the city. In this regard, administrative buildings have become dysfunctional to the city, sealing containers with none or very little interaction with its surroundings. In Brussels, the office typology has developed in its most agonizing form, since public institutions have no control over its premises –only driven by the opportunism of the market. Thus, the dissertation departs from an analysis of the alienating case of the European district in Brussels, challenging the failures and missed opportunities of privatised architecture and restrictive technocratic masterplanning. As an answer, the ‘interior’ appears as a meaningful instigator of truly civic space, and as a means to subvert these administrative buildings from within. Especially, since normative provision of public space seems insufficient and unsuccessful, only reinforcing self-symbolisms. Hence, the ‘interior’ opens up the possibility to reason urban space beyond conventional notions: streets, squares, parks, and so on. Yet the ‘interior’ allows to integrate both inside and outside from the building itself, expanding the disciplinary competences of urban design.


The Leopold Quarter in Brussels Left: before the European occupation (1950) Right: once transformed into the so-called ‘European Quarter’ (2007)


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Europe’s Capital Never Sleeps

Brussels is the de facto capital of the European Union, a politico-economic union that operates through a system of supranational institutions.1 Since the EU’s main task is to produce legislation, regulating almost every aspect of human activity in Europe –from boiling mussels to growing apples or building parapets–, its own premises should be under control as well. However, the EU buildings in Brussels are far from representing a civic or democratic institution. Instead, European offices are hardly different from typical corporate buildings. Their architectural ambitions are generic, a sort of efficiency combined with the vanity of very idiosyncratic materials –namely laminated-glass curtain walls, natural stone claddings, or streamlined ornamentations. The eclecticism on the facades contrasts with the drama of the ground floor, where blank facades are only interrupted by parking entrances, fire exits or service accesses. Thus, the pomp of its outlook highlights the well-known dysfunctional story of commercial architecture: one that alienates outsiders while consuming the existing urban fabric. The buildings of the EU in Brussels therefore, represent in its most explicit form, the reluctance of commercial architecture to contribute to the city, mirroring a post-political situation in which civic institutions are driven by market economy.


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Rue de la Loi, main street of the European Quarter in Brussels during off-working hours.


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Recent practices in the European Quarter of Brussels are evidences of this problem, and neatly describe a process, which far from civic or democratic, has always been profit-oriented. Indiscriminately occupying the former Leopold quarter, the EU has historically accommodated its premises in an ad hoc basis, without any planning, and only following the opportunism of the real-estate market. The result today is an alienating and mono-functional quarter that is perceived as a free-standing episode disconnected from the city. By the 2000s –and especially after the Treaty of Nice of 2001–2 the negative impact that the institution was already having in the city, forced the European Commission to mobilise a competition to expand and renovate its obsolete premises. So in 2008, after a series of official debates regarding the impact of the institutions in the city, the European Commission in partnership with the Brussels Capital region, and the municipality of the City of Brussels, launched a competition to put an end to the general discontent. The brief was mainly interested in the creation of a ‘landmark’ that could highlight the symbolism of the institutions, while encouraging the improvement on the liveability of the area.3 This a priori stress on the legibility of the institution, albeit under a landmark, was finally a conscious ambition to propose an explicit engagement with the city. However, the winning proposal was far from a truly ambitious civic project, but rather unfolded its most technocratic vision: the masterplan seemed only concerned with the real-estate speculation and its own feasibility, away of envisioning a better urban environment finally lead by the European institutions. The winning proposal, by the Atelier de Portzamparc, fails to amend the failures and missed opportunities of the past, and proposes again a field of autonomous and unrelated office buildings. In a way, it elucidates the post-political situation in which the feasibility and the economic consensus of the masterplan seek the requirements of the market, prevailing before any deliberate contribution to

The Berlaymont, headquarter of the European Commission and ‘icon’ of the European Quarter in Brussels.

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that can foster a typological regeneration for administrative buildings. Brussels therefore, is the test-ground to propose the four designs that challenge the contextual conflicts arisen from private development and technocratic urban planning. Considering the private developer too eager to increase his revenues, the transformation of administrative buildings from commodities to civic or political functions, is understood in the dissertation, as an ambition and responsibility ultimately lead by democratic and public institutions. Perhaps opening the door to other agents to explore the possibilities of the ‘interior’ as a deliberate self-provision of urban space.

Typical Office

In the work of the new Rationalists, the city and its typology are reasserted as the only possible bases for the restoration of a critical role to public architecture, otherwise assassinated by the apparently endless cycle of production and consumption.5 The story of the office is told by a constant antagonism, between Europe and America, which encapsulates –into its typology– the clash between western cultures. In Europe, according to George Steiner, one of the main characteristic of cities is the accumulation of successive layers of history, and the unavoidable presence of the past into daily life.6 This heavy presence encompasses every aspect of the urban experience, whether it comes from the narrowness of a former medieval street, or from the juxtaposition of a shiny and façade of an office building, next to an ornamented one of a baroque palace. And in the latter, the mirrored surfaces generate a specular reflection of its surroundings, magnifying its exposure to the historical urban context. Under this circumstance, the European office building has inevitably emerged from the negotiation of the strong layers of history embedded into the urban fabric, inextricably relating building with civic spaces. Hence, the European version of the office building has its roots in the contested domain of the city.7


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Ford Foundation, New York. Kevin Roche (1968) Example of interior projected as a response to the context.

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In opposition to Europe, argues Steiner, America was much more pragmatic; Quoting Henry Ford’s assertion on history: “History means nothing to me, [it] is more or less bunk”8. Steiner defines America’s ideology as based on a productive amnesia that is perpetuated by the interest in ‘the future’ and the captivation of ‘the promise’.9 Accordingly, the office building, as an administrative building type, was first originated in the US as a tool for efficient production of administrative work. Yet it was later brought and adapted to the European specificities. Consequently, different contexts have shaped different types, mirroring their own social idiosyncrasies and ways of production, and ultimately proving the potentials of the office typology against the contradictions and challenges of the city. The following revision focuses on the formation of the office in its back and forth between the United States and Europe, attempting to elucidate the potentials that characterise the current office typology. Although the office as such was first developed in the US, its early origins are present, in many ways throughout history, in spaces of administrative activity. The Palazzo Uffizi (1581) in Florence by Giorgio Vasari, or the Bank of England (1788) by John Soane, are two significant examples. Nonetheless, the first purposed office building appeared during industrialization in the nineteenth century, due to the rapidly increasing demand for administrative and financial organisation. The first models followed typologies of traditional buildings and were fairly integrated into the city by adapting to the existing urban morphology. In Chicago, the first vertical experiments were built thanks to the great fire of 1871, which albeit the losing, it cleared the ground for new developments. The new technologies, such as the steel frame and the elevator, enabled the new offices to build higher than before. The floor plans were conventionally layout in separated rooms connected by functional corridors. These floors were later stacked into as many floors as possible. These practices were also the first speculative attempts to increase the profit in such developments. Later translating the value to the building profile, they preceded the current value for city skylines and the fetishism for the landmark. Nowadays a valuable asset to cities like Chicago, New York or London. By the early twentieth century, Frederick Taylor exposed in his work Principles of Scientific Management (1911) a scientific approach to the workplace management.10 It basically streamlined the production process by applying the division of work in the same way as assembly lines. This idea instigated the original cellular layout to progressively point to a single and more open space, eventually resembling the space of the factory. The Larkin Building, by Frank Lloyd Wright in Buffalo (1904), was the first successful instance of this kind; a large vertical hall that unified the different office spaces allowing a communal experience of the employees while providing natural light to the work area. In Europe, the American model captured a great attention and the new ideas were widely spread through magazines and books.11 However, the open-plan


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arrangement spread very slowly and offices tended to be smaller than the American ones. Luriaan Van Meel, in his research on The European Office, argues that the differences in Europe in terms of its business culture, less ‘modern’ and rationalised than in America, and its office market, less well developed and professionalised, were the causes of this slow implementation.12 Typically the European office had a moderate depth of 16.5 meters whereas, for instance, the Larkin Building had 41 meters wide. It was after the Second World War, that the rapid economic expansion caused a growth of office work and with it the implementation of the more efficient layouts of American offices. It was in the 1960s that Europe first introduced its own transformation to the former American open-plan, in response mainly to the need for an adequate social structure and acknowledgement of the individual.13 The differentiation of units was acquired by means of light partitions and greenery which developed the layout into more flexible and irregular compositions. The social changes of that period influenced the transformation of spatial hierarchies, all in favour to the individual, who would gain more working autonomy and its own working space. Flexibility, communication, and team work pursued the improvement of human relationships, at the same time as providing a scale in which the individual felt comfortable. Furniture and partition systems started to be more sophisticated in order to respond the demands against conflicts of noise and privacy. Undermined by their own demands, the original open but charming quality of the Burolandschaft ‘randomness’ started to lose popularity and hybridized into mixed spaces of both open and closed rooms.

Wainwright building, Chicago. Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler (1891)

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Larkin Building, Buffalo. F. L. Wright (1904)

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Osram Gmbh headquarters, Munich. W. Henn (1963)

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Wainwright Building L. Sullivan – 1891

Chronological transformations of the Office building.

Larkin Building F. L. Wright – 1904

Johnson Wax F. L. Wright – 1939


Chase Manhattan Bank Tower SOM – 1961

Osram Gmbh headquarters W. Henn – 1963

Citybank headquarters Foster & Partners – 1996


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Chase Manhattan Bank Tower, New York. SOM (1961)

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Citybank headquarters, London. Foster & Partners (1996)

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A different approach explored later on, also integrating social concerns on spatial organization, was the so-called ‘Structuralist office’. Herman Hertzberger, who was influenced by the ethnic theories of Claude Levi-Strauss, proposed a new model for the Centraal Beheer in Apeldoorn (1972). The concern against the Modernist model of the functional city was confronted with a proposal that pursued patterns of nuclear societies, so that the occupants “would have the feeling of being part of a working community without being lost in the crowd”.14 The building was designed as a series of connected blocks that accommodated the different employees and activities, in a working space where everyone could feel at home. This results in a “cellular organisation that forms a veritable spatial labyrinth”.15 The interior becomes a subtle balance between collective and individual aspects and allows for the personalisation of the space, while being integrated into a larger structure. This achieves a certain degree of co-existence at various scales hardly achieved in precedent models. As the counterpart to this socially concerned approach, the relentless corporate culture of the US –that became especially popular after the deregulation of the stock market in 1986, with financial services firms– gradually resulted in a more hierarchical definition of the space. Some of the features of the open plan were

Centraal Beheer, Apeldoorn. Herman Hertzberger (1972)


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retained, such as the efficiency and communication benefits, but the underlying ethos that prevailed was the same as the Taylorist office: a mixture of cellular offices for managers and open plan space for the rest of the workers. The only significant advances in the office domain, if any, were those related to the accommodation of new technologies such as the computer. However, technology has played a tricky role in office amelioration. For example, the invasion of computer tools introduced a tendency towards miniaturisation, compacting the working space and allowing more constrained dimensions. Furthermore, improvements on ventilation systems have not only contributed to more climatically controlled environments, but also have fostered more sealed and less interactive buildings with the exterior. These technological improvements, along with the idea of the open plan, were brought together by Rem Koolhaas, who wittily assessed and re-formulated the notion of ‘typical plan’. Typical Plan is an American invention. It is zero-degree architecture, architecture stripped of all traces of uniqueness and specificity. It belongs to the New World.16 His argument distils a larger scope in which, not only attempts to conceptualise the typical office plan, but also proclaims the ubiquity of this apparatus to generalise the reading of similar kinds of architecture. In this sense, Koolhaas opens the door to the ‘generic’ to become the norm in any development of isotropic structure, excluding any possibility of interpreting the specific. In a similar way to Le Corbusier’s prototype of the Domino, Koolhaas contributes to the creation of a new ‘paradigm’ for the office building stablishing a new ‘default’. From then on, offices can only proceed in the sealed, but nonetheless allencompassing form, of the ‘typical plan’. This idea of genericness, that the typical plan puts forward, is perfectly orchestrated along the monochromic collection of different ‘typical plans’ that Koolhaas presents in his article. This biased representation never confronts other aspects and, most importantly, buildings appear always detached from their site. Not only the context, but also the peculiarities of the commission and the more or less virtue of their designers, always imprints a nuance on the so-called typical office. In fact, a closer and more responsive reading of these buildings challenges the notion of ‘typical plan’ as a generic type. A very prominent case study, that precisely confronts this ‘genericness’, is the Ford Foundation (1968) in New York by Kevin Roche.17 As a response to the highly violent street scene of New York City, during the 1960s and 1970s, a series of interior spaces started to emerge. People could gather and shield inside them and perform as social beings, into their protective and controlled atmosphere. It was a deliberate segregation from the outer public street, but effectively it allowed the possibility of an alternative to it. Thus, these new interiors where meant to substitute the space of the street,

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while at the same time attempting to resemble it, making both recognisable as belonging to the same sphere: street paving, vegetation, and common elements of the street where included in this new domain. It was a responsive indoor condition to the conflicts of the exterior, and ultimately it was developed under the architecture that could afford large congregations and has certain economic manoeuvrability, namely commercial and administrative offices. Needless to say, these new interiors didn’t go unnoticed and corporations rapidly set their sights onto them. They became the signature space to differentiate one from another, entering into the real-estate market as a means to add value to their developments. One of the keystones of such practice, not only for its pyrotechnic vastness but also for its transformation agility, is the case of Atlanta’s city centre, or more precisely, the buildings that formed this centre developed by John Portman. A privileged figure, who was architect and developer at the same time, whose buildings staged a parallel and alternative urban condition to the street.18 Again, but in this case as a response to the noisy and polluted street environment of Atlanta’s centre, Portman started to develop large buildings that were articulated around a vast atrium. In his mind, the possibility to eventually connect the different buildings from within, was also the urban ambition to create a new interior urban space.19 Roche and Portman’s buildings were responsive to externalities as well as to urban and architectural ambitions. Both challenged the speechless genericness of the typical plan, by eloquently enabling the space formed in between their generic critical mass. Essentially, the transformations that the office building has suffered throughout its history, have been allowed by a very specific correlation: a large critical

Both Hertzberger’s Centraal Beeher and Portman’s Westin Bonaventure stand for the creation of an interior urban atmosphere.


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mass of users and a relatively flexible accommodation of its programme. Being a space of fundamental production and social interaction, the gradation from the enclosed office cell towards the shared and common spaces, is smoothly interweaved by an almost seemingly transition, since provided by light or even transparent partitions. Therefore, the most significant and extreme cases of this typology happen when the difference between working and shared space becomes explicitly exacerbated, one driving the other and vice versa. Think of the Burolandschaft case, where the distinction between individual and shared space simply disappears, removing the possibility of enclosed and private spaces. In the case of the atrium, the shared space becomes the driving element, rendering the space of production as simple grey or generic mass. In the light of this distinction, I propose the notion of ‘schism’ to define the contemporary office building, as a typology that presents two differentiated yet complementary and inextricable parts. This installs the idea of ‘duality’ into the typology, elucidating the two main categories that essentially define it. If the Koolhaas’ typical plan was focusing on the generic one, it wasn’t acknowledging its obvious counterpart, the specific. Hence, the office enters into the design question as the possibility to explore a deliberated polarised scheme.

Design Project: Interiorisation

Along these lines of typological analysis the design mission starts with the following question: how to transform the dysfunctional administrative building, from a mere commodity of the real-estate market, to a typology that takes advantage of its duality and acknowledges the possibility to engage with the urban fabric? In other words, what is the form that, as Massimo Cacciari puts it, allows the office to shape the contradictions of the city?20 In the former cases, the Ford Foundation or Portman’s Atlanta, the general strategy to instigate a typological contribution comes from the interior. It is then, from the reasoning of the interior, or in other words from the ‘interiorisation’, that architectural and also urban ambitions emerge. The process to achieve these interiors however, is not a unidirectional proposition, but it emerges from a dialectical process with the broader context. Hence, the interior is able to attain a larger context and

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therefore move beyond the immediate scale. For instance, one could imagine the repercussion of an interior hosting a concert arena or a seasonal skating ring amid the congestion of a dense tissue of administrative and sealed buildings. The ambition to create a repercussion to the urban scale, from the reasoning of the interior, stands as the main ambition for the design project. The design also stands against the conventional provision of public spaces, which arguably today is in crisis. Yet, public urban space is still a significant and inextricable part of commercial buildings. In them lies the mirage of a civic contribution to the city, while in reality, they highlight the corporateness of their domain, think of the Mies Van der Rohe’s Seagram’s plaza (1957). In addition to that, the provision of ‘typical’ urban spaces has become meaningless up to the point that is a provision by default, only encouraged by regulations as incentives for further development. Opposed to this, the challenge to the interior then is twofold; first, attempt to provide a coincidental alternative to conventional urban space; second, to remove the attention, and therefore the symbolic representation of the exterior, to bring the attention to the activity happening in the interior. Hence, the reasoning of use and possibilities of the interior space becomes the new means of urban representation. ‘Interiorisation’ attempts to be an idea that addresses the formation of a civic or public sphere in the light of administrative buildings. It anticipates indeed different entities, namely atriums, entrances, squares, plinths, and so on, proposing them as one of the same kind. For example, one could perceive

The ‘schism’ of interiorisation: the guest (generic) and the host (interiorisation).


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‘interiorisation’ in Mies Van der Rohe’s Seagram’s plaza (1957) as well –despite today being the corporate manifestation par excellence–, since it contributed to the city’s lack of public spaces.21 In the same way, Portman’s atriums in Atlanta are yet a more explicit version of the same idea. In short, ‘interiorisation’ enters as the possibility of accommodating productive and meaningful urban spaces that are integrated with the building itself. The Economist Building, by Alison and Peter Smithson (1964), is another instance of this idea of ‘interiorised’ urban space. It stands for the creation of an interstice that relates the different buildings while accommodating a meaningful space to the urban scale. In this case, the interstitial space shapes simultaneously the figure and the ground, and the void becomes crucial to identify the building in its surrounding context. Thus, it attains the scale of city by completing the corner of its urban block, while using the partition wall of the neighbouring building to enclose and provide a precious small grain to the surroundings. Hence, the interstice becomes ‘interiorised’ by the building itself. A different example, but with a similar approach to Roche’s Ford Foundation, is Herman Hertzberger’s Centraal Beheer in Apeldoorn (1970). More sophisticated as well in its social ambition, it is an architecture determined against the notion of the typical or the generic plan. The building creates an interior atmosphere that celebrates a more sociable and less alienating working space, providing a small and intimate scale to its users. At the same time, the repetition of the units leads to a larger form that

Seagram’s plinth and plaza, Mies Van der Rohe (1957) in New York.

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Rockefeller Centre R Hood – 1930

‘Interiorisation’ case studies.

Seagram Building Mies Van der Rohe – 1958

The Economist A. & P. Smithson – 1964


Ford Foundation K. Roche – 1968

Broadgate Stockexchange SOM – 1990

Novartis 4 SANAA – 2006


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Rockefeller Centre, New York. R Hood (1930) The Economist, London. A. & P. Smithson (1964)

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Broadgate Stockexchange, London. SOM (1990) Novartis 4, Zurich. SANAA (2006)

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addresses the open and vast scale of the Dutch suburbia. It creates, in a similar way to Unger’s Grossformen, ‘a new quality [that] arises beyond the mere sum of individual parts’.22 The implications of ‘interiorisation’ therefore, are necessarily related to an urban ambition. Yet, the virtue of the reasoning of the interior, allows a certain degree of autonomy of the building, bringing back the agency to architecture when addressing the city.

The contrast between particular and universal, between individual and collective, emerges from the city and from its construction, its architecture.23 Recalling perhaps Aldo Rossi’s Theory of Permanence and the Urban Artefact, ‘interiorisation’ seeks a new category of urban space that addresses the city in a similar way to the urban artefact –as a device that makes available the representation of the city itself.24 Thus, interiorisation stands for contributing to the morphological and also socio-political formation of the city. It is equated to Rossi’s ‘primary elements’, as elements that are capable to ‘propel’ the formation of the city, including even interiorised empty spaces. In addition to that, the idea previously proposed of ‘schism’, on the typology of the office, opens up the possibility of an ‘urban artefact’ that is made of complementary entities, addressing differently the city, namely permanencies or hosts, and temporariness or guests. If the ‘host’ is embodied into the interiorisations, and the ‘guest’ in the generic plates of office work; the design could be imagined as a development coordinated by two separate yet indissoluble entities. The design proposal envisions a typology conceived as a double-sided entity: one more fixed and permanent, and the other more susceptible to transformation or temporal. Hence, ‘interiorised’ spaces are fixed elements that assure urban development, hosting and articulating the other side, which takes place during a limited period of time –e.g. the lifespan of an office building typically 20 years– being able to remain, transform or disappear. This development process requires

Development strategy 1: Parcelation.


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in turn the coordination of this parts. Since the project is fostered by a public institution, and precisely is about claiming back its agency, the design proposes, first and foremost, the creation of an Office for Urban Development Management. This office is established to coordinate the following urban scheme; first, the parcelation of the land into functional plots, preventing the constrains of limited land availability; second, it stablishes strategically the ‘interiorisations’ in place, as solid infrastructures that will later articulate the generic side of its developments; finally, it will manage the future transformations adapted to the site. From this point, the definition of this interiorisations and its possible articulations are the subject of the design. Four different design strategies are developed in the following pages, each strategy developed in a particular location in Brussels. The sites are current areas of actual development, and therefore, potential areas to be transformed by a development lead by the EU. The design brief followsup the possibility opened by the competition in the Rue de la Loi (2008) since it required and additional 300.000 square meters of office spaces. Each site provides a particular contextual conflict, urban and also socio-economic and political, that is addressed by means of the design. This contextual clash or conflict, arises intrinsically from the practices stated before: privately developed architecture, and regularised and unimaginative urban planning. Each context then is addressed with each of these 4 designs, proposing not only the aspirations for the site, but also proposing an instance of a project of interiorisation at large –in this case fostered by the EU as a public institution. Thus, these four instances stand for an overall and comprehensive typological exploration, only achievable through several iterations. The overall design mission of each of these design strategies is to, in addition to explore the possibilities of ‘interiorisation’, bring propositional spaces that challenge the current conventions of dysfunctional institutional administrative buildings. By means of simple architectural tactics (cover, limit, topography and enfilade), the space and form of these buildings attempts to transform its use and representation. The brief for the design is to integrate in the new layers of

Development strategy 2: Strategic selection of the land to place the Interiorisations.


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‘interiorised’ spaces the provision of public and welfare spaces. This spaces will range from co-working areas –highly demanded by self-employed people– to leisure and reproduction ones –such as swimming pools and night clubs. In addition to that, conventions to access, circulation, use and representation are also subverted to instigate an institutional reform. The following descriptions contain the overall ideas of the design, which reframe, in addition to the interior of these institutions, the surrounding urban context. ‘Trace’ proposes an alternative layout to existing infrastructural ways; ‘Frame’ is about setting limits to an ill-defined area; ‘Infill’ introduces a set of structures to preserve the traces of existing morphology; and ‘threshold’ attempts to create a centrality with a diffuse centre.

1 “European Union,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopaedia, accessed June 15, 2015, https:// en.wikipedia.org/?title=European_Union 2 In February 26th, 2001, the ‘Treaty of Nice’ was signed with the purpose to reform the institutions so that the EU could function efficiently after reaching 25 member countries. Main changes involved growth on the Commission premises. 3 See Appendix, “Rue de la Loi competition brief.” 4 Rem Koolhaas, “Typical Plan,” in S,M,L,XL (New York: Monacheli Press, 1997), 334–49. 5 Anthony Vidler, “The Third Typology,” Oppositions 7, no. Winter 1977 (1978). 6 George Steiner, The Idea of Europe = La Idea de Europa (Anzos: Siruela, 2010). 7 “The city, in its history, is the experiment to give form to contradiction, to conflict.” Massimo Cacciari, La Citta (Pazzini: Verrucchio, 2004). 8 Henry Ford, Interview in Chicago Tribune (25 May 1916) 9 Ibid. 6, 52 10 Frederick Winslow Taylor, The Principles of Scientific Management (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1911). 11 Juriaan Van Meel, The European Office (010 Publishers, 2010). 12 Ibid. 11, 27 13 EUROPEAN COMMISSION, Office Buildings: Evolution of the Building Type (S.I.: s.n., 1994). 14 Ibid. 11, 39 15 Ibid. 11, 39

16 Ibid. 4, 335 17 See for a more elaborated explanation of the case, among other examples of New York interior atmospheres, David Gissen, Manhattan Atmospheres: Architecture, the Interior Environment, and Urban Crisis (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014). 18 See Rem Koohlaas, “Atlanta. The Architecture of John Portman,” in S,M,L,XL (Monacheli Press, 1997), 833–59. And Charles Rice, “Stalking John Portman,” AA Files, no. 64 (2012). 19 Koohlaas, “Atlanta. The Architecture of John Portman.” 20 Ibid. 7 21 Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram building, built in 1958, represents the exception that later became the norm. Its unprecedented contribution to the city, the seatback and the plinth, fostered the revision of the 1961 Zoning Resolution in New York, to incentivise the provision of public space. 22 “Erst wenn zu der Summe von Einzelteilen eine neue Qualität hinzu-kommt und eine höhere Entwicklungsstufe erreicht wird, entsteht eine Grossform.” Oswald Mathias Ungers, Grossformen Im Wohnungsbau (Berlin: TU Berlin, 1966). 23 Aldo Rossi, The Architecture of the City / Aldo Rossi ; Introduction by Peter Eisenman ; Translation by Diane Ghirardo and Joan Ockman ; Revised for the American Edition by Aldo Rossi and Peter Eisenman. (London: MIT Press, 1982). 21 24 Ibid. 23


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Interiorised building facade. Public lobby in the British Library, London. Colin St John (1962–1997).

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Interiorisations 4 designs in Brussels


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black: EU buildings

Design sites in actual opportunity areas of Brussels: InďŹ ll (1), Frame (2), Trace (3) and Threshold (4) Previous page: 4 axonometric views of the 4 design schemes.


Aerial and Street view images The remaining tissue of the neighbourhood is starting to be transformed by new commercial ofďŹ ces.


Aerial and Street view images The vacant area is framed from the surrounding streets, where residential and former industries coexist.


Aerial and Street view images The station creates a large void that interrupts the urban fabric, contrasting with the narrower scale of the street.


Aerial and Street view images The trafďŹ c congestion of the Rue de la Loi is at odds with the well balanced block/street relation.


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Infill

On the occasion of the competition for the European quarter in 2008, the idea to decentralise the European district by building new premises was further considered as an alternative to redeem the failures of the past. Extending from the north-west to the city centre, the area in Tour et Taxis, a former goods train station, became a potential site for its immediate availability of land and closeness to the city centre. Although the project was never developed, the following proposal explores the contingencies of the site in two different locations. ‘Infill’ explores the potentials of a pre-existing tissue, and ‘Frame’ explores the difficulties of the tabula rasa. ‘Infill’ is located next to the Brussels’s CBD. Originally built in the 1970s, the business district suffered from inactivity during the 1990s until it was further developed in the 2000s. With the construction of high-rise buildings –ten out of the twentieth tallest buildings in Belgium are located here– the area has suffered a violent transformation in which the former urban fabric has been almost erased. The new masterplan introduced a monumental axis that excluded the transformation of adjacent neighbourhoods, creating a boarder condition to the surroundings. The design is located precisely at the fringes of the business district, on the remnants of a mixed industrial and low-density residential area. It takes over the expected growth introducing a new set of administrative buildings, taking advantage of the well-balanced existing tissue: a

mixture of medium sized streets and open courtyards, which provide a valuable middle grain to the area. ‘Infill’ is proposed as a system of load bearing structures that infill and gradually reconfigure the existing urban blocks. The system is imagined as one that departs from the pre-existing buildings, dialoguing with them rather than displacing them. By doing so, the design attempts to overcome the limitations of dense European city tissues, where the often arbitrary plot geometry compromises at least one of the buildings. Thus, instead of following the process of demolition-reconstruction of the plot –a process that limits the current buildings in the European quarter due to the constrained dimensions of the plot– the transformation of the block is concerned with embracing and articulating the pre-existing structures with the new buildings to come. First, the structures are placed in the ‘in-between’ and vacant spaces such as courtyards, setbacks or alleys, with the intention that they later become the platforms on which to superimpose and develop new buildings. In this way, instead of providing a default ‘public’ leftover space, which commercial offices produce, these elements act as a fulcrum between public space and offices, integrating the ‘urban space’ within the building itself. This process is mediated by the aforementioned dialectical ‘host/guest’ relationship. The ‘host’ in this case are the structures that support the future generic offices. These elements consolidate urban structures present in the area, or create new ones from ‘as found’ suggestions of sites; inner courtyards, open alleys or enclosed hidden gardens, and such. Framed by simple and austere structures, these generic definitions of space provide an institutional surplus that eventually responds to the needs of the area. The spaces are able to host events of everyday life by establishing horizontal and vertical connections between buildings,


Interiorisations

The small grain of the area contrasts the large developments of the business district.

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thus expanding the accessibility of the horizontal datum of the street. Since the versatility of the raised platform provides two planes –one behind and one above– these elements explore the possibility of providing a new ground condition above the street level. In this new configuration, pedestrians and civil servants are welcomed to participate into events and other public gatherings according to the size of the urban block, and relative to the neighbourhood scale. Yet, this aperture to the public domain moves beyond the normative provision of public areas, and makes for the gathering in collective spaces an asset shared between different buildings. By means of prefabricated concrete porticoes –measuring 3.75, 7.5, 15 and 30m wide– the structures contain both interior and exterior (or semi-exterior) spaces such as the lobbies and shared areas of the buildings. They consolidate the entrances to the facilities, whilst providing public access and defining new links to the neighbouring buildings. The heights of these structures are relative to the buildings nearby, thereby measuring and retaining the dimensions of the existing tissue. Eventually, as the development and real-estate market advances, the buildings become an assemblage of generic parts added to these porticoes. In the meantime, this infrastructure starts to accommodate the former urban morphology, preserving the scale and liveability existing in the site. As a kind of architectural palimpsest, they confront the adequacy of the given spaces by retaining the pre-existing character and submitting it to the new development. Additionally, the single structures relate to each other creating larger and denser concentrations of space, proactively building up on the remnants of the former urban block. The design is set to accommodate 200,000 square meters of office spaces. Yet, the challenge is to make the hosting structures flexible

enough in order to accommodate different densities and programmes overtime. If the development of offices suddenly curtail, or the housing demand becomes urgent, the porticoes will remain meaningful to the tissue, preventing the consequences of an aborted real-estate venture, which oft render affected areas dysfunctional and prevent from resuming development. Thus, the proposal attempts to mitigate the abuses of property development, and realises that there is a need to address the problem of real-estate development transforming previously established areas. How then to consider pre-existing and pre-configured urban fabric when developing larger office buildings? How can ‘preservation’ become a proactive tool to mediate between the past and the present, foster economy of means, and promote revaluation?


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Superposition

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Entrance Patio Garden Street access Workshop Plaza Escalator Commercial Public lobby


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The interstice consolidates and becomes the driving ďŹ gure of the urban block.

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Office roof Platform Interstice Courtyard


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The superimposed structures retain the ‘as-found’ while seting a new environment.

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Frame

The second design for the site in Tour et Taxis is located on the vacant land of a former goods transportation hub. This complex was once connected to the railway system through an extensive train depot that, once removed, revealed an empty area of 18 hectares. Its vast size and availability contrasts the density of the land closer to the city centre, yet its good location is not enough to encourage its occupation. Although remaining factory sheds provide an opportunity for potential future large scale activities, the precarious and almost absent urban infrastructure has prevented previous attempts to generate such success. The challenge to this location is therefore to propose a scheme able to generate a matrix –or a context– that is able to accommodate unknown programmes in an unknown time. The response will have to avoid the horror vacui that the site suggests, whilst at the same time prevent the total ‘filling’ of the space. The design must strategize for the accommodation of the ‘void’. In other words, the mission of the design is to play with the uncertainties of time and to anticipate an eventual process of urbanization. The design proposes a complex that articulates the empty space of the site by means of concentrated built masses. These masses are both autonomous –finite– and dependant to the outside space. To some extent, they provide a response to the imperatives of the site, and once disposed, trigger further development

associated with them. By means of ‘limits’ and ‘thresholds’, the proposal manages the empty space and brings a new framing to the site. The articulation of the generic ‘void’ lends itself to the activation of neglected spaces, which eventually transform from hesitant to latent. The divisive properties of a wall, the stretching of the space, or the simple definition of a roof, suggest and implicit use-value of the surrounding vacancy; the main access provides an elongated space that receives and distributes its users; the access from the residential side accommodates a roof that brings a covered plaza where to stay; etcetera. These built masses are defined by three archetypes: a ‘wall,’ an enfilade of ‘rooms,’ and a large elevated ‘platform.’ These three archetypes create a grammar of recognizable spaces along a singular axis. The sequence of buildings is experienced in various ways, from a cinematic progression accessed from the south side, to a more clustered view when entered from the flanks. Entering from the southern Picard Street, we first encounter a long wall that frames the access to the complex and shows the dimension of the site. By measuring the surroundings with the elongated wall, the building secures and reinstates a large space in the city. It explicitly sets an end and a beginning among the existing residential tissue and the large industrial sheds. The wall is inhabited, and sets an in-between space hosting a public gallery with shops and services. The height –7.50m tall– manages the interaction of the site with its surroundings by controlling specific accesses in precise spots, while providing a central area cast in the shadow of an office building on top. The course of the day modifies this shadow, demarcating a space that morphs in its appearance. In the middle section, the built mass comprises a compact enfilade of rooms; a ‘shared lobby’ that equally accommodates entrances, shared, working and leisure spaces.


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Tabula rasa condition in the vacant site Tour et Taxis.

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On the outside the envelope starts to fold in on itself in order to host smaller entrances and associated outdoor rooms, defined by a corner or a partial enclosure. At this point the building divides the site in two, whilst accommodating a new tissue on the inside, or a threshold that adds a new layer to the horizontal datum. The interior spaces are interconnected and sequenced by central doors, which lends itself to a museum-like enfilade where hierarchies are removed and service spaces are equated to serviced ones. The access to the upper office spaces is delayed so that an equal confrontation between lobbies, workshops or dance halls erases any symbolic representation. In reality, the juxtaposition of different idiosyncrasies attempts to frame and delineate a space for democratic representation, where all instances count the same. The last section of the building, hosts an entrance from Rotterdam Street along the northern part of the axis. A wide square platform, 90m wide and 12m tall, creates both a roofed arena and an elevated plaza. It is an explicit permeable ground that attempts to gather multiple programmes together that are constantly experienced in different ways. It is a public arena that attempts to neutralize the presence of its own architecture by providing a constant alternative. The duality, between ‘above’ and ‘below’, creates a coupled common ground that allows simultaneous use of the space, while deliberately manifesting its redundancy when empty. The columns sustaining the platform offer a flexible yet complex spatial sequence to be inhabited both by political events or everyday activities, all under a formalized democratic space. This platform also provides the foundations for the generic office spaces, accessed via escalators and bridges. The procession towards the upper level becomes again a shared episode, confronting both the users of the plaza and the civil servants in the office above.

Overall, the building’s mission is to mediate the interior spaces of typically administrative environments with more open urban ones. This intention is addressed through a provision of amenities and welfare spaces. The juxtaposition of activities in similar halls removes any hierarchy of use, whilst folding a symbolic representation into the very sequence of interior spaces. This conglomerate of activities also seeks to rationalize an institutional transformation, from the hermetic bureaucratic offices to a concentrated building that identifies itself with the attributes of the city. The interior in this case confronts the question; how to provide an (interiorised) urban space that is legible for what it allows rather than for what it symbolises? How to move beyond the ‘landmark’ favoured by corporate real-estate development?


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Street access Patio Garden Building access Warehouse Plaza Residential


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Garden under the shadow of the cantilevered building.

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Gallery Patio Lobby Shop Restaurant/Bar Co-working Baths Lounge Learning centre Atelier Theatre


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The elevator room, leading to the baths (left) and to the roofed-garden (behind).

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EnďŹ lade under the roofed-garden.

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Trace

Located south from the city centre, the Midi Station in Brussels represents the counterpart to the financial district in the northern quarter. The Midi Station acts as the main city gateway through which regional and international railway lines arrive. Furthermore, it is located in the very heart of the Senne valley, revealing the urban landscape of the pentagon at a glance. For these reasons, the city is currently attempting to reinvigorate the area by enhancing its visibility, not only at an infrastructural level, but also as a reference to the surrounding neighbourhoods. The provision of public space, namely pedestrian streets and plazas, is a crucial asset to the area in an attempt to balance the large area occupied by the railway track bed. So far, the combination of infrastructure and business offices have led to the densification of the urban blocks and to the typically ill-defined surroundings of train stations. The challenge for the design is to take advantage of the high density of the office building, and to provide a permeable structure capable of increasing its ratio of civic space per built unit. Hence, the proposal consists of the insertion of a boundary that creates an alternative to the existing street layout, inserting an in-between or a surplus space into the urban block. To some extent it revisits the urban archetype of the ‘arcade,’ understood as an operation that superimposes new traces upon the existing urban fabric. In a similar way the design –a new

in-between or ‘trace’– sets up a new moment of development in a ready-made context, providing a space of institutional emancipation –a space defined by many– building structures. In this case, the element that formalizes the space is not the steal framework of the 19th century arcade, but the prefabricated concrete panel. The idea is to frame rather than to cover, and by doing so, the proposal anticipates the challenge of altering an existing urban structure by: designing the building and the plot in tandem. The programme consists of European Commission’s offices and mixed welfare spaces, namely leisure centres, workshop provision, cultural spaces, and so on. Essentially undefined, the space contained within the boundary opens up the possibility of an institutional surplus, eventually hosting the necessities of its constituencies. The circuit of spaces generates a promenade that contains and confronts different programmes according to its distance and scale. Continuously moving between prefabricated walls, the user enters a domain where legal boundaries are necessarily combined, fostering a process of negotiation between ownerships. And the design precisely attempts to highlight this condition of the in-between subjected to the different forces at stake: public, private ownership and development. The element responsible in the articulation of this negotiation of spaces becomes unavoidably the ‘wall’. It accommodates the accesses points both to the buildings and to the exterior street. It guides the movement and selects the specific boundary condition that mediates between realms. Thus, in opposition to the accumulation of facades –which create a conventional street–, the wall is conceived as a building in itself, and the interstice its interior rooms. This holistic approach attempts to expand the scope of the façade, to the space that stands behind it. In this way, the user experiences the institutional interior akin to the street, but without the


Interiorisations

The site’s edge is densely occupied by railway administrative buildings fortifying the access to the train station.

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limitations of restricted accesses and vehicle circulation. By simply connecting the entrances to the elongated ‘trace’, the ensemble becomes a layered and permeable ground, available to all users. If the arcade is usually identified as the opening of a street –defined by its facades and covered by a transparent roof– the design consists in setting the ground first, to later develop the building behind its façades. Hence, once a thread is established that connects different buildings (like a constellation), a larger entity emerges from the existing urban fabric. The different buildings can be developed autonomously, yet with each of them expanding on a specific moment within this constellation. Therefore, the new trace not only participates in the accommodation of surrounding buildings, but also integrates a new building in itself, where the interstice together with the edification redefines the scale of the urban block as an entity that mirrors the consensus between its parts. The Galleria Umberto I in Naples, brought about a public and private partnership, was an attempt to provide a space for the city, that delineated clearly its boundaries. In this case, the ambition of the design is to move beyond the restrictions of land ownership. If the realms of public and private space are typically –and also ambiguously– differentiated between ‘street’ and ‘edification’, the proposal attempts to make this differentiation ambiguous, providing a contested arena of ‘shared ownership’. In this locus, the ‘interiorisation’ attempts to subvert the logic of privatised spaces confronting them equally with a common domain. How then is the interior defined to become a mediator that liberates the urban space from this ownership distinction?


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Aperture

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Threshold

However the attempts to decentralise, and achieve a large representative scale in the city, the European quarter remains as the default seat for European institutions. So far the EU and the Belgian government have lead the district to a poor urban condition, in which the lack of urban ambitions and the complicity with the private sector, has resulted in an ungoverned agglomeration of built masses. Yet, since the 2008 masterplan for the Rue de la Loi, the city has focused its attention to some of its main features, namely the monumental axis of La Loi Street, the characteristic orthogonal urban pattern, and the residential character of its boundary. Without much success, the current masterplan for the Rue de la Loi was only concerned with the feasibility of the development, turning away any attention to the integration and amelioration of the area. For the proposal, the design focuses on the existing urban pattern to create a new pole that attempts to integrate its buildings with the surroundings. By concentrating a new set of coordinated buildings, the proposal focuses urban attention on the core of the district. In this case, the ‘grid’ is the thread that unifies the developments. Inscribed in a 300m square on the south side of the Rue de la Loi, this area containing offices with leased agreements –typically around 20 years– will eventually become available to transformation. The design then takes advantage of the ending of these lease

agreements to gradually restructure the site into a permeable institutional threshold. The grid provides the necessary connection through specific streets and suggests a civic management of the user’s movement. The architecture acts like a comb, so to speak. It prevents the problem of large buildings that act like a barrier when people approach. The crowd is conducted so that it never saturates or encloses, allowing freedom to get lost and regroup. It is a way to put the institutional buildings at the service of ‘the city’. The project resumes the exploration on the idea of the ‘enfilade’ and the ‘threshold’ of previous designs, bringing both ideas to a larger scale and connecting them to a large urban context. The complex is primarily defined by a set of thin, parallel, horizontal buildings that lend a new order and direction over the site. Four stories high and 15m wide, these buildings are continuous on a raised level, allowing free movement on the ground. Hosting the European agencies and other civic bodies in the upper two floors, the buildings propose a frame structure that can be inhabited from above and below, establishing an intertwined circulation that fosters the interaction of public and private programmes. The interior at ground level again becomes undetermined by a constant transition between intermediate spaces. Programmatic opportunities occur through relations of proximity and distance, light and shadow, enclosure or openness. The ground level is the main receiving platform, where civic servants, users or citizens find an indoor gathering space. This ‘empty’ space frames the only spectacle of its observers in a common area hosted by the supreme European institution: open to political and institutional purposes such as events, demonstrations, or daily life activities. The ground floor becomes the representational ‘public lobby’ without the fantasies or excesses of corporate


Interiorisations

The orthogonal urban pattern of the European quarter, unique episode in Brussels.

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idiosyncrasies. The access towards the upper towers, where civil servants and other corporate clerks work, is reached through a double promenade: from the inferior level where the actual lobby is, or from open rooftop above the horizontal buildings. Again, the strategy of specialization and division of formal spaces –namely lobbies, meeting rooms, restaurants, and so on– anticipate the removal of symbolism, with spaces return to their functional use. The ‘lobby’ in the basement becomes a contested arena where the spectacle of meeting, celebrating or simply resting is displayed and seen from the upper ground level, open to the public view. This underground level also hosts rooms for large events such as auditoriums, night clubs or gymnasiums. The roof over the ground level becomes the outdoor ‘lobby’, offering public facilities –shops, cafes, kiosks– and a second access to the upper towers. The three levels of institutional, and also corporate, functions become sliced by the introduction of three layers of public spheres. The strategy to interweave these elements attempts to activate this section of the building, and to bring a metropolitan character to it. The building acts as an ‘urban artefact’ making available the representation of the city itself and adding a phenomenological ground, so that it subverts the current anodyne buildings of the EU. In a similar way as the Conjunto Nacional in Sao Paulo (1950) by David Libeskind, the complex seeks to persevere with the urban condition by extending its domain to multiple vertical layers. The overall programme for the proposal –offices combined with provision of welfare space– follows the same scheme as the previous designs. The challenge is to create a relevant programme that relates to the city at large, fulfilling needs or putting forward further intensifications. In this case particularly, the need of a residential programme for the European district could be an asset implemented under the

umbrella of the EU. The structure of the development, split into a plinth and a generic tower on top, considers this possibility of interchangeable developments. This would be encouraged by the host/guest relationship proposed in the idea of ‘interiorisation’, allowing the ‘guest’ to be any kind of development that supplies the needs of the site.


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Workshop Baths Department Atrium Office building


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Street facade

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Typical European Project

Brussels is such an abstract place, it is not to Brussels that one is going to feel in debt; no one will feel a relation of reciprocity, of obligation, of responsibility toward Brussels.1 More than administrative buildings, the European Union’s contribution to Brussels is another episode in its patchwork yet decipherable urban form. Brussels is a city that is usually defined as an ‘immense collage’ of different urban episodes, with a wide assortment of scales, images and architectural idioms.2 This particular context represents a very paradigmatic case in Europe, where its collection of urban experiments is the perfect ground to test dialectical contrasts and antagonistic ideas. This theatre of architectural and urban episodes is due mainly to the so-called ‘Europeanization process’, in which Brussels attempted through a series of modernization projects to acquire the status of a modern metropolis.3 In 1989, as a response to the abuses of ‘Europeanization’, a group of activists proposed the Brussels Declaration for the restructuring of Brussels as a new model of European city.4 It was an attempt to sew together the dispersed episodes that modernization had created, and to restore the liveability of the city through, a set of small-scale operations decided through consultation with the inhabitants. Labelled though as the ‘populist urban design period’, by Evert Lagrou, this was an explicit reaction to the former governmental support

1 “An Interview with Jean Baudrillard: Europe, Globalization and the Destiny of Culture (interview by Monica Sassatelli)”, European Journal of Social Theory 5, no.4 (2002), 528. 2 Géry Leloutre and Iwan Strauven, “Brussels-Europe: An Aporia?”, in Pier Vittorio Aureli et al., Brussels: A Manifesto. Towards the Capital of Europe (Rotterdam: NAi Publishers, 2007). 205–224 3 Carola Hein, The Capital of Europe: Architecture and Urban Planning for the European Union (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2004). 4 Ibid. 3, 208.


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Infrastructure and sprawl of the Belgian triangle as a political consequence.

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to ‘European scale’ projects, whose tacit reliance on the private sector had indiscriminately eroded the city ever since.5 Retrospectively, Brussels provides an explicit account of the struggle of a city abused by supranational institutions and private corporations, complied by its own government. As a springboard for the project of Interiorisation, Brussels is the test-ground in which the design strategies confront the problems of corporate institutional architecture, thus envisioning a project for the civic and institutional restoration of administrative buildings. Brussels and the European Quarter are a symbol of the laissez-faire tradition in which the processes of city making have been subverted by misleading ideals and [post-] political justifications. According to professors Géry Leloutre and Iwan Strauven, “in reality, ‘Europe’ was nothing more than an alibi, a distant perspective to justify radical and protracted construction projects”.6 Some of the major transformations that the government realized, in the period of the second half of the twentieth century, were in fact “geared toward segregating employment areas from housing areas, as well as immediately isolating administrative and production centres from the individual residences built with government subsidies”.7 This lead to the progressive construction of private dwelling in the periphery of the cities, and resulted in the today’s famous Belgian sprawl, one of the largest urbanised regions in Europe. Following this fashion, the story of the occupation of the Leopold Quarter –eventually transformed into the so-called European Quarter– hints the impact and consequences of the institutional reluctance to accommodate civic and democratic ambitions. The following section addresses some of these episodes of the European installation in Brussels, in an attempt to reveal the framework of contextual conflicts that these policies and practices have generated. This framework is then addressed by the project of Interiorisation, which poses the necessary questions that the design needs to confront.

Europe in Brussels from institutional to typological

The European quarter is located in the east part of the city, next to the pentagon –the city centre’s ancient figure, shaped by the medieval wall of the old town.8 It is situated in a unique orthogonal grid expansion –developed in the late nineteenth

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5 Evert Lagrou, Welke Stedebouw voor Brussel, hoofstad van Europa? (Brussels: Vzw SintLukaswerkgemeenschap, 1989). 6 Ibid. 3, 148. 7 Ibid. 3, 148. 8 See Apendix, “Maps of Brussels”.


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The scar of Brussels Construction of the central juntion between North and South station


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century by King Leopold II–, different from the rest of the city which was mainly built by axial structures. The area became an office district in the late 1950s, with the first occupation of administrative purposed buildings. Formerly, this chequerboard was inhabited by aristocratic palaces that provided a particular division of the land. As a consequence, today’s offices of the district have rapidly gone obsolete; they have inherited the constrained plot size of former neoclassical palaces and thus its size has become insufficient. Yet, if ever there was any grandiosity in the street because of those palaces, today it has been taken over by the uneven singularity of all the different office facades. In vain, or not, these buildings speak out by displaying their own architectural rhetoric, transforming the streets into a mute parade of building figures. The major concentration of buildings is in the main street Rue de la Loi, where at the end of this long axis, the urban climax finally arrives. Surrounding a traffic roundabout, the two most representative buildings of the EU, the Berlaymont and the Justus Lipsius stand in front of each other.9 The general experience is that of entering into an utterly different part of the city, a denser gap that disconnects its surroundings. The lack of services and activity during off-working hours is predictable, and the ill-defined limits make it even more problematic; it is a non-deliberated enclave, a patch that intrudes the borders and has still leftovers of the former fabric, rendering both its inside and outside dysfunctional. Following the aforementioned complicity with the economic sector, a constant characteristic of the EU’s occupation of the area is the opportunism in which the urban development has been based on. For example, the first offices of the EU that entered the district in the 1950s –back then the institution was the ‘European Coal and Steel Community’– were mere tenants of already existing offices of the area. Yet the first actual building became built only as a reaction to the high rental fees that private owners started to demand.10 It was after a series of political back and forth, that Europe finally posed its full interest in Brussels –although always remaining faithful to Luxembourg and Strasbourg–, and especially after Brussels’ mayor Lucien Cooremans fostered ‘unrestricted urban and architectural developments’ for the European institutions.11 The chronologic plan of the area illustrates how fragmented and non-planed the occupation was, and how it attends to an arbitrary process of economic and political episodes. The Berlaymont and the Justus Lipsius convey very well this market-oriented approach. The Berlaymont came basically as an initiative from the largest developer company in Belgium, Francois et Fils, which despite fostering the creation of an European district, reluctantly oriented the building to a more national administration layout. According to Carola Hein, the Berlaymont was in fact never projected as a representative nor symbolic building for Europe, and its open-plan layout reflects the preference of state agencies, in contrast to the European ones, which preferred individual offices instead.12 On the other side of the street, the Justus Lipsius came into being after an unsuccessful competition, in which a final

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9 See page 16. 10 Ibid. 3, 78. 11 Ibid. 3, 80. 12 Carola Hein relates this episode of the Quarter occupation. The development of the Berlaymont was largely founded by the state which was thought to be the largest tenant. Eventually the European commission growth exceeded the capacity originally intended in the building, threatening to erect a new building. Since the Belgian government had invested too much money, rejected this scenario and persuaded the Commission to occupy the building under the agreement to pay part of the rent. Ibid. 3, 142.


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XDGA’s proposal for the competition Rue de la Loi (2008) (see Appenix for rest of the entries)

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decision teamed up all the participant architects to design the building together. The resulting creation was an imposed gigantic edifice never submitted to public debate.13 In addition to that, since both where built around the today’s Schuman roundabout –renamed in 1963 to underscore the European affiliation–, they contributed to the razing of the significant art nouveau Victor Horta’s Maison du Peuple (1899) located there. Ironically, the ‘house of the people’ –translation of ‘maison du peuple’– was replaced by the administration of Europe, a public and democratic institution brought about the speculative investment of the Belgian government and developed on a market basis. When the competition for the Rue de la Loi was launched in 2008, the aims of the institution were presented a priori as a restructuration of the area to improve its environment. In short, the competition brief pursued the promotion of social and functional mix, as well as the highlighting of the symbolic representation of the EU in Brussels.14 However, the actual trigger for the competition was the need for the renovation and expansion of the obsolete premises. A manoeuvre that was orchestrated some years before with the official debate around Brussels and its de facto achieved status of Capital of Europe, where different experts and consultants, such as Umberto Eco or Rem Koolhaas, where appointed to discuss the subject.15 This time, the intentional expansion and renovation of the area, under a rubric of urban amelioration, was unprecedented involving public debate and transparent communication. However, the account of the competition entries, and the final selection, reveals a more obscure panorama about the contingencies of the European-Belgian partnership. At first, the entry that got most of the attention was an entry that performed a clear and legible monumental representation –as demanded– and in addition, it was able to revaluate the gridded tissue of the quarter by leaving its current street-edification relationship intact. XDGA’s proposal was balancing the existing urban fabric with a concentration of high-rise towers, recognizing the hub formed by the Commission and the Council, as well as the potential to reconfigure the existing street into a living housing quartier in one go. Against all odds, the final verdict stepped back from this too legible representation of the institution, and despite a coherent proposal regarding the liveability of the area, the Commission awarded instead the proposal by Atelier de Portzamparc. A resolution that mirrored the deadlock in which the EU was trapped; the need, especially from the Belgian government, to achieve institutional representation, regardless the need for a feasible masterplan that could easily accommodate self-reliant real-estate developments. Again, the main driver for the EU –backed up by the Belgian government– was precisely to instigate more competitive development rather than a projective and comprehensive planning. The EU lost the opportunity to lead a project to produce a conscious engaging centrality, rather than the monofunctional enclave that today persists, ultimately generating inner periphery.

Construction of the Justus Lipsus (1985) and the European Parliament (1989)

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13 Philippe Laporta, “De EEG in Brussl. Verrijking of Verkrachting,” A+, no. 91 (1986): 19–26. 14 See Appendix, “Rue de la Loi competition brief.” 15 See Umberto Eco et al., Brussels, Capital of Europe (Brussels, 2001).


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Caption, Uciam endictecte es eostion sequiantotam eos volorib erumeni mperaec totat.


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These are some of the events that have shaped the conflict affecting Brussels. The main characters are the Belgian state, the EU and private developers, and the story about how ‘privatised architecture’ and ‘technocratic planning’ have fated the city with a dysfunctional district representative of a public and democratic supranational institution. The main subject is therefore office buildings and administrative architecture. In order to travel from the specific case of the EU in Brussels, to a more generalised argument, four concrete terms, which arise from the clash of these practices, attempt to underscore a larger reformulation of administrative architecture in relation to the city. ‘Privatisation’, ‘landmark reliance’, ‘preservation’, and ‘centrality’ are terms found in the case of Brussels, and also in a contemporary context. These terms are explored hereafter, confronted to each of the previous design proposals, in order to define and formulate an argument for the project of Interiorisation. Hence, each design strategy, or Interiorisation, echoes a particular response to each of the four terms, or conflictual contexts, pursuing the effective creation of an alternative to the default administrative building.

Privatisation

With the rise of privatisation in contemporary cities, where public services are taken over by private companies, and accordingly land ownership is harnessed by the same economic institutions, the struggle to put forward social and democratic spaces is a real challenge for public administrations. In the case of the EU and the European quarter, this struggle is evidenced in the way the institution operates in the real-estate market. As a matter of fact, the EU has historically never owned any of its premises, performing a mere tenant’s role of its own representative buildings.16 This reluctance to command one’s own urban development mirrors the lack of ambitions of its commercial-like resulting buildings. Paradoxically, if we look at truly commercial estates –e.g. the Broadgate Estate in London or the Battery Park City in New York– we find a much forceful control over their premises. Regardless their commercial nature, these estates are abler to achieve its own goals and foster a specific urban ambition. Different from the European Quarter, which hardly achieves any meaning for each of its disconnected urban staging.

The Berlaymont (1958–1967)

16 Until recently, the EU has developed through leaseholds typically known as emphyteusis (a type of real estate contract specifying that the lessee must improve the property with construction). The option to expand its real-estate portfolio, to become a competitive agent in the market, was officially stated in Communication from the Commission on Policy for the Accommodation of Commission Services in Brussels and Luxembourg (Brussels, 2007).


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Undetermined figures for different ‘Trace(s)’. The Golden Lane City, as urban process.

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In the light of this economic reliance on privatisation, and therefore curtailment of the institution’s capabilities and ambitions, Interiorisation seeks the provision of a space for institutional ‘emancipation’ where distinctions of ownership and management blur. In the design scheme Trace,17 the proposal precisely focuses on the restrictions of land ownership, attempting to revisit the divisions that it produces. Typically differentiated as street and edification, ‘public’ and ‘private’ realms are yet ambiguous when it comes to its use and accessibility; parks closed after daylight hours; bank branches sheltering homeless people; public squares transformed into stages of private events; and so forth. In this case, indoor and outdoor spaces indistinctively exchange their boundaries, ultimately allowing restricted and privatised spaces to gain agency over the urban space –think of the Occupy London movement at the Stock Exchange, where the access to the square was forbidden to protesters. Regardless the boundaries and the designations, the underlying force that determines the character of the urban space, its politics, ultimately comes from its management. Thus, as an attempt to hijack the politics of privatisation, Trace tries to move beyond the restrictions of land management. In this regard, the inscription of the boundary onto the existing fabric proposes a space that navigates between the realms of the street and the edification making the ‘ambiguous’ differentiation of the two explicit. The resulting space is used to gain access to a common grown, shared by different premises, and making available a new space for the city, both in its form and its use. This strategy essentially confronts the accumulation of events and circumstances that have shaped the city overtime by means of the autonomous, yet accommodated, superimposition of the new development. Furthermore, it proposes the possibility to address the design of the building in tandem with the plot, and therefore to withdraw the design from the ownership limitations. Yet the proposal, as an alternative to the street layout provided by the construction itself, revives the Modern Movement’s discussion on ‘the building as street’. A recurring topic on the early twentieth century urbanism, later revised in the 1950s by the Team 10 and Alison and Peter Smithson. Arising from the increasing alienation that the car was producing in cities back then, the necessity to segregate pedestrians from cars lead to the differentiation between ‘road’ and ‘street’; the former provides access to places of human occupancy, while the latter does not. In a similar way, Trace tries to establish a synthesis of the segregation that privatisation produces by elucidating formal confrontation. According to Peter Eisenman, this idea of ‘building as street’ was first addressed, in the linear form of Le Corbusier’s Rio de Janeiro and Algiers Projects from 1929 and 1930.18 In these two cases, the building was envisioned more as a road, since its main purpose was to be able to carry automobiles; a concept prefigured by Edgar Chambless, in his Road-town of 1910.19 The Smithsons, influenced by

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17 See Interiorisations chapter, Trace. 18 Peter Eisenman, “From Golden Lane to Robin Hood Gardens, or If You Follow the Yellow Brick Road, It May Not Lead to Golders Green,” in Eisenman Inside Out: Selected Writings, 1963-1988 (London: Yale University Press, 2004), 40–56.


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landmark building has in the end been counterproductive to convey an intentional and political image of the institution, rendering any ambitions beyond economic purposes difficult. Against this context, the design scheme Frame puts forward the idea of ‘interior’ as a representative space of what it allows, rather than of what it symbolises.21 By means of a grammar of simple architectural ideas, the interiorised spaces attempt to create a legible urban context where administration, welfare and commercial spaces coexist under the umbrella of the European institution. This ensemble is achieved through the autonomy of each of its parts, putting forward a specific goal for the interior, while complementing each other as a whole. In short, architecture acts as a ‘frame’ that articulates both outside and inside through permeable built masses. These frames host the programmes that are subsequently experienced in different ways. For example, the sequence of rooms on the middle section, dilutes the symbolic presence of large lobby spaces, specializing each room to its own purpose. Contrary to the monotonous experience of the landmark, the enfilade of permeable and visible spaces attempt to render a dynamic experience of the building. Especially since the sealed and predictable landmarks prevent any experience beyond the entrance –the rest of the building remains shield beyond the access control–, Frames attempt to open not only the access to these premises –by incorporating mixed programmes– but also to bring the experience of the otherwise monolithic staging of administrative architecture to the inside. This integration of both the representation and the experience, inside the building itself, it is one of the main characteristics that Interiorisation pursues. In this case, the architecture of Frame explicitly refers to Aldo Rossi’s aforementioned idea of the ‘urban artefact’. It precisely seeks, into this interiorised representation, the possibility to make available the manifestation of the city itself, in opposition to the ‘idiosyncratic’ container of the landmark. It therefore enters into the urban debate of the contribution of the interior as urbanity per se. A very successful case study along these lines, is the project for the commercial complex L’illa Diagonal in Barcelona, built by Manuel de Solà-Morales and Rafael Moneo in 1993. The project shows precisely how the isolated action of a permeable architecture, contributes to city-making as much as an urban masterplan can. The building is located in a large plot where the gridded structure of the Eixample is still present, yet the prevailing figure of the Diagonal Street is dominant. By means of a large scale building accommodated in the junction between these two pre-existences, the edifice resolves the scale conflict by articulating an interior tissue of urban spaces: from a covered street split into different levels, to a set of open squares leading to a garden. All roofed by a set of offices, dwellings and hotels.

Interior images of L’illa Diagonal

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21 See Interiorisations chapter, Frame.


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Preservation as economy of means and revaluation Spatial notions can be found on pre-existances and be relevant to urban formation; a street that provides the intimacy of a private room; a room that provides the openess and scale of a public square.

Street in Sevilla / Room in a farmhouse near Parma Source: Aldo Rossi, ScientiďŹ c Autobiography / Translation by Lawrence Venuti (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1981).


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The contribution in the case of L’illa –effectively a ‘landmark’ since its scale outstands beyond the surrounding buildings– is precisely the urbanity that its interior creates, producing a scale of interaction inexistent in the area, and paradoxically only achievable by a large concentrated built mass. The interior therefore, opens up the possibility to become a driving figure for the city, addressing the creation of a sphere of public (indoor) urban space. Unfortunately today, administrative buildings are trapped into the deadlock of unambitious architecture that yet is privately developed, which prevents it from articulating conscious ambitions through its large scale buildings. Being often labelled as ‘ugly’, the ugliness seems perfectly orchestrated by the same institutions to avoid any justification to the neo-liberal ethos –where only private organizations can be efficient and public ones should be based on tax reduction, explicitly echoed by the mentioned ugly and unambitious buildings. The challenge to administrative buildings is precisely to face the dysfunctional surroundings that landmark creates, wasting the potential that large scale provides.

Preservation

I ask myself whether in Europe we are unable to simply assume the contrast between the 19th century typology of the city and the scale of the new institutions, perpetuating a nostalgia for a kind of city that in the past 30 years we have not been able to build.22 Preservation of built heritage, is an inevitable practice in European cities, since the remnants of the accumulated layers of history have still a strong presence among the urban tissue. It has nonetheless become a powerful fashion as well, that has allowed the tourist sector to increase its revenues: ancient monuments, picturesque sights, roman foundations, etc. Yet, preservation could also be a strategy for city development involving economy of means and urban fabric revaluation. Considering the case of the EU, in which its indiscriminate development basis has razed significant heritage –namely Victor Horta’s Maison du Peuple–, ‘preservation’ could enter into urban development as an instrument of empowerment for the institutions. In addition to that, preservation has the advantage to slip into the public exposure without the burden of justification and

Former Victor Horta’s Maison du Peuple (1899)

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22 Rem Koolhaas “Hard Capital” in Eco et al., Brussels, Capital of Europe. 12.


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Image

Preservation as a proactive process: the morphology attaining to the broader context.

Preservation as process

Urban ideas


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debate that sometimes contemporary works arise. To some extent, it is pervasive in its effortless pre-existence. Infill addresses this idea of preservation, in which the juxtaposition of the new activates the old, making conservation productive. It becomes a proactive process that generates from what already exists, and confronts the problem of developments that either destroy or are reluctant to dialogue with former structures. In this case, the Interiorisation brings an idea that operates at two levels. First, reasoning the interior as the degree zero between the building and the urban fabric, hosted under the portico structures.23 These structures are responsible for allowing freedom of development above ground level, while specifying the spots of urban mediation. These spots however, do not establish a hierarchy of functional nor programmatic areas, but they recall to morphologic ideas: a courtyard, an interstice, a gathering area, and so on. The programmatic proposal instead, operates with a similar logic to Ludwig Hilberseimer’s Vertical City (1927).24 In that proposal, the vertical section stands for an alternative to ‘zoning’ and its limitation to the plan. Rather than defining functional areas, it freely accommodates undefined or generic functions in every building. This programmatic indeterminacy leads to the second contribution of the Infill design scheme. Since preservation tends to objectivise, and therefore curtail the potential of such preserved elements –e.g. the display of ancient stones in a basement or an underground parking level–, Infill pursues a preservation that withdraws from symbolic representation, enabling a different role other than contemplation. An approach closer to Alison and Peter Smithson’s ‘as-found’ that encourages the revaluation of the ordinary, attaining to the impact of the broader context. While Colin Rowe’s Collage City approached the morphology as ‘acontextual’ and subjective –in the sense that was detached from the broader cultural and political context–, the as-found approach to the city “consisted of finetuning new architecture’s form with the concrete conditions of the contemporary city”.25 By introducing spatial programmes, and therefore functional indeterminacy, these ‘infills’ open the possibility for former structures to develop in different ways. The existing is then transformed into a coherent architectural compositions that does not alter the attributes of the original situation. Thus, the use of pre-existences is no longer about preserving an image or a landmark, but about upholding and creating spatial ideas that become proactive. In this particular case, the interstice becomes the driving element that consolidates the urban block as a dialectic urban entity. The rethinking of preservation, as a means of juxtaposing a new order to an existing one, implies necessarily a clear set of rules when operating into these areas. Two considerations need to be done prior execution. The first one, should analyse the existing fabric and the layout in which is defined, not only

Hans Kollhoff, Atlanpole (1988) The vertical section as the concentrated ‘urban artifact’

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23 See Interiorisations chapter, Infill 24 See Ludwig Hilberseimer, Metropolisarchitecture and Selected Essays, ed. Richard Anderson (New York: GSAPP Books, 2012). 25 See Alison and Peter Smithson, Without Rhetoric : An Architectural Aesthetic 1955-197 (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1974). See also “O.M. Ungers, OMA, and the project of the city as archipelago” in Pier Vittorio Aureli, The Possibility of an Absolute Architecture (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011).177–227


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to identify its character but also to evaluate areas of opportunity. The size, scale and direction become crucial to define what is characteristic and what is not, in order to propose or dismiss future urban ideas. As mentioned above, the morphology is not subtracted from the larger context –like in Rowe’s Collage– to accumulate differences as such that generate urbanity. On the contrary, the proposed morphology departs from a responsive answer to existing situations. It recalls perhaps the appropriation of vacant plots in Amsterdam, in which Aldo Van Eyck developed his famous playgrounds.26 Located in sites of opportunity, these playground gave social response to the post-war situation. Van Eyck reinterpreted the traditional ‘sandpit’, found on public parks, as a space to convey social recognition. The second consideration, is the issue of size relative to the scale. The confrontation of abstract or radical contrasting parts it’s an unquestioned consideration when it comes to real-estate development progress. Certainly, the opposition to large scale (feasible) projects seems a regressive position against urban development. However, the challenge to these administrative buildings is to propose a comprehensive morphology that attains to matters of size and scale, which are ultimately responsible of the so-called alienating settings. The confrontation that Infill proposes elucidates explicitly the need to rethink this question and thus; how to manage densification beyond urban regulations and, to what extent these densifications contribute to the city?

Centrality

The core problem of every urban design action is, to begin with, the definition of the public interest.27 Perhaps one of the key questions for a public institution, proposing its own representative space in the city, has to do with the issue of centrality. Whether it links a larger city form (polycentric, radial, etc.) or not, the role of a public institution in the city cannot be invisible. And to some extent, that has been the default strategy of the EU so far. As Koolhaas mentions: “the ambition to create a united Europe is such an incredible project and had to overcome so many obstacles, that a certain degree of invisibility in the beginning was very productive

Aldo van Eyck’s playgrounds in Amsterdam (1947)

26 See Liane Lefaivre, Aldo van Eyck: The Playgrounds and the City (Rotterdam: NAi Publishers, 2002). 27 Alex Lehnerer, Grand Urban Rules (Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 2009).


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Europe submitted to public scrutiny.

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for proceeding”.28 As we know today, the weight and the impact that the institution eventually gained, made this model unsustainable, and therefore, submitted the institution to public recognition. Even though the EU has doubts about its own role in Brussels, the responsibilities that such a critical mass should attain require an undeniable call for a specific city model; in this case, a leading one. ‘Centrality,’ as a role that assumes agency in the city, is thus a necessary issue for the EU to confront; it could transform its perceived dysfunctional and alienating qualities into a fulcrum for the city. An overview of the actual European quarter clearly shows how this ‘invisibility’ easily took place. Its gridded pattern provides a managerial matrix, where developments can scatter at will and go unnoticed among other offices of the economic sector. This was especially the case in the 1960s, when the office sector in Brussels evolved from construction on demand to speculative construction –even many British property developers moved to Brussels in order to take advantage of the weak urban regulations.29 This office-boom casted into the area a large set of developments, eventually transforming the previous urban pattern of baroque palaces –developed in a similar speculative fashion by King Leopold II in1870s– into a field of unfitted offices. As a result, the previously even grid started to acquire its own grandeur. Motivated by airs of representation, The Berlaymont, the Charlemagne, the Justus Lipsus, and later the European Parliament, entered into the quarter as out-of-scale developments that almost by chance, became loosely aligned along the main street Rue de la Loi. If the first developments took advantage of the inconspicuous distribution of the grid, the ready-made axiality of the Rue de La Loi, ended the European anonymity and started the beginning of an unavoidable public scrutiny. Since then, the institution has been urged, unsuccessfully to claim its role in Brussels, misleadingly using the coincidental axis of the street as a means of representation. In this context, Threshold represents an exploration of the idea of how to formalise the need of a centrality, while at the same time communicating the actual nature of its occupier, which is no longer symbolic but bureaucratic.30 To address this shift, the proposal departs from the existing orthogonal morphology and adjusts it to make a claim for a centrality. In essence, it modifies the grid according to the quarter’s relation with the city centre, so that it becomes west-east oriented. This transformation invigorates the area of the site, and measures its length whilst relying on the isotropic nature of the grid. Furthermore, the transformation of the grid mediates between the need of a recognisable urban figure –namely a space of political manifestation– and the managerial mode in which its accommodation is developed. Hence, the void that it produces brings the opportunities of ‘empty space’ but without the implications of releasing it all at once –think of Tiananmen Square in Beijing. The open space is systematically framed and managed by the very buildings addressing their constituencies, and therefore, submits itself to the public.

Threshold’s figure of space management

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28 Hans-Ulrich Obrist, Rem Koolhaas–The Conversation Series 4 (Koln: Walter Koenig Books, 2006). 29 Ibid. 3 30 See Interiorisations chapter, Threshold.


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Occupation patterns of the building complex.

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B G Y O T P

Working space Leisure Neighbourhood Cultural Eating Service


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The agency of this centrality relies on the circulation of people, as the fundamental ingredient in spaces of political manifestation. This circulation is accommodated by the frame that the buildings create, allowing crowds to never saturate nor enclose. The building is conceived as a kind of ‘comb’; the circulation pattern encourages users to get lost and regroup in a movement that seeks constant gathering. At the same time, complementary to the void, the building is conceived as a permeable device that allows different patterns of occupation, interweaving programmes into a field of constant thresholds. As a result, the ambition of the architecture is to become a device that straddles both realms, allowing the people’s movement on one side and hosting its programmes on the other. The movement of people and programmes seeks out a constant negotiation or an exchange. In this setting, the spaces –both inside and outside– become part of the same whole. In this simple and even obvious conception, lays the possibility to achieve the civic coexistence that typically public urban spaces claim. By expanding the limit of the ‘building’ beyond its façade, the outdoor ‘enclosures’ become functional parts of the building, forcing both realms to combine and creating thresholds of urbanity. The exterior therefore –the city– becomes an implicit part of the building. To reach this spatial unity, the design is conceived by recalling Oswald Mathias Ungers’ idea of the ‘Janus face,’ in which architecture is essentially “the dual action of interior and exterior, form and space, enclosed and enclosing elements”31. In this sense, the “entire spatial environment”32 is formed by the architecture and therefore the wall that shapes the interior, giving form to its exterior as well. This approach can be scaled down, in functional terms, to buildings that integrate exterior spaces as the essential services of the building, namely housing with corridors, university pavilions in a campus, or storage and logistic facilities. In this approach, the idea of centrality is assumed by the critical mass that the development provides, and by the level of integration that the interior brings to the exterior. The building makes available a space that celebrates the surrounding environment by simply assuming its own large scale.

The two-sided Janus’ face.

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31 Oswald Mathias Ungers, “Janus Face,” n.d., 9–11. 32 “Architecture, in a general sense, is the formation of our entire spatial environment; from the vastness of space in nature right down to the smallest spatial unit of furniture”. Herman Sörgel, ‘The Essence of Architecture as a Spatial Art’ in Architekturaesthetik (n.d.)


1 Infill

Ground floor of the 4 design schemes

2 Frame


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“The office building” The European institutional manifesto

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Interiority as Urban Category

The incorporation of the nature of the place and the spatial interaction with the pre-existent conditions are at the same time both the content and the theme of architecture.33 The ambition of Interiorisation is to integrate both interior and exterior by means of the building itself, and in doing so to give the exterior –or the urban– a form. The four design proposals (Interiorisations), should not be read as an overall plan giving response to different locations at the same time. On the contrary, each strategy encapsulates the potential that Interiorisation can provide, and act therefore as instances of a larger project concerning administrative buildings at the service of the city. Although these are particular to Brussels, the designs also attempt to generalise a theory of how a reasoning of the ‘interior’ can become a tool for urban development. Hence the different strategies build up a typological reasoning that is defined by each of its characteristics; Trace is used to gain access to a common ground shared by different premises and makes available a new space for its surroundings, both in its form and its use; Frame breaks the common hierarchies of representational spaces, under a matrix where different activities coexist side by side; Infill brings back the virtues of preservation by fostering economy of means and making the urban fabric proactive; finally Threshold sets up the ground for a major concentration of bureaucratic premises, where the intensification of managerial space becomes a centrality in itself. In these proposals, three constant characteristics delineate and refine the typological definition. The first is ‘shared management;’ a sine qua non condition deployed in order to prevent the abuses of the private sector that has so often compromised any civic ambition in urban planning. This shared state is achieved through the ‘schism’ that the office building provides; the necessary negotiation between the opposed parts that foster a different kind of complicity, ending the domination of the one –usually the economic– over the other. Hence the reasoning of the two parts as finite elements enables an autonomous, yet dependant, development that envisions a synergetic outcome. The second, is the conception of the building(s) as ‘urban artefact(s)’. This characteristic is an interpretation of Hilberseimer’s vertical sections –of his aforementioned

33 Ibid. 31


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Similarly to the Nolli plan, Interiorisations represent the ďŹ xed parts within the mass (or the fabric) of the city.

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Vertical City– and from Rossi’s conception of the urban artefact as manifestation of the city itself. The challenge in this instance, is to consolidate all parts in a collaboration that is able to accommodate the different ‘idiosyncrasies’ of today’s real-estate developments. The third characteristic, described in Unger’s idea of the Janus face, is the ‘double-sided’ condition that the boundary of the building provides. This conception, is perhaps central to the idea of Interiorisation, and is the one responsible to make both interior and exterior effectively equal enclosures. The space of the city thus becomes integrated within the spatial environment of the building. Interiorisation, in short, aims to motivate a reasoning of the urban, and urban design, by means of the ‘interior’ of the building. Other examples have similarly used the interior as an urban reclaim, however these interiors –such as in Hong-Kong, Singapore or Toronto, are nonetheless motivated by climate and business, and ultimately concerned with their isolation from the exterior. Hong Kong hosts an example that pitches itself against the congestion at ground level; Toronto’s against sub-zero temperatures; Singapore’s air-conditioned spaces against the tropical climate. In the case of Interiorisation however, the ‘interior’ is reasoned differently since it aims to bring both the evasive exterior and the restricted interior –typically found in administrative districts– together. In this case, edification leads to the accommodation of both realms, surmounting the limitations of conventional urban space and beyond the borders or the leftovers of the building. Interiorisation attempts therefore to challenge the conventions of urban planning. Volume, alignment, density, height, programme, and so on, become characteristics of the spaces provided, instead of merely quantified limitations of the urban plan. Thus Interiorisation puts forward an urban practice that challenges top-down planning by means of bottom-up solutions in order to, paradoxically, achieve a more comprehensive masterplanning. The tools to proceed with this project are the ‘host/guest’ concept for development, and its implicit relation to the urban formation. Since the development integrates time and phases, the relation to the urban form it produces resonates inevitably with its context. To some extent, the ‘host’ becomes the infrastructure that serves its ‘guest’, which in turn provides facilities to the city as well. Thus the host/guest structure elucidates the distinction between city form and architectural form. In a similar way to the Nolli plan, this differentiation can be effective in the urban management of the city, establishing the parts that can adapt and change and the fixed parts that remain. In light of this dichotomy, the question is then to delineate the limitations of this practice in order to make it viable and projective. How to conceive of buildings that are meant to expire, regardless of the obvious obsolescence that developers negate to address? How to address the anticipation of a transformation in time? Yet the scope of Interiorisation includes both the potentials and the limitations of its

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very scale. Since administrative buildings tend to be larger than any other in the urban fabric –as exception perhaps to congress centres–, their ultimate aim should be to exploit their ‘large scale potential,’ not only in economic terms, but also attentive to the possible richness they can procure. Interiorisation focuses on how to activate and absorb the surrounding space of a building, whatever its scale, in order to provide a response to the physical, socio-economic and political necessities of the site. Interiorisation also collapses the intimate scale of a waiting room to the expanse of an urban park. Its proposals, however, remain concrete and precise. The ambition of Interiorisation is to invert former goals of separation and alienation, consciously or unconsciously resulting from administrative and commercial architecture, and to facilitate spaces for encounters that reconnect individuals to others. Occupants of these administrative buildings are invited to become actors, encouraged to claim their right to the place. The goal is an architecture that transcends social circles or bounded groups, and addresses a supranational endeavour that has still to find its formal vehicle. Interiorisation ultimately proposes a new scale for architecture and urban design, one that begins, paradoxically perhaps, with the idea of the ‘interior’ in order to address the scale of the ‘exterior.’ However Interiorisation claims no distinction in this regard. After all, the ‘exterior’ can effectively be considered a veritable interior: roofed under one atmosphere.

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Bibliography

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Appendix

The Office Type Administrative interiors Typical spatial conflicts Maps of Brussels RDL Competition (brief/entries)


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The Office Type These case studies have been selected and apprised by different design aims: landmarks, stratifications, corporate spaces, structural logics, membranes, atriums and articulations. Thus, the following list is to be thoroughly refined by expanding the most relevant, and dismissing the irrelevant ones. Corporate and Administrative buildings have been indistinctively chosen in this case, to trace common specificities on the final buildings. Nevertheless, moving from one extreme to the other, office case studies go from ‘signature’ and idiosyncratic spaces, typical from corporate buildings, to public and civic spaces, especially created by administrative buildings.

Michael Moran, photograph of the Seagram Building plaza.


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Landmark (1) Poly Corporation SOM Beijing (CN) 2007

The signature space appears on the inside. A large atrium on the uper floors generates a raised lobby for the residential programme. Offices on the bottom and a hotel on top.

Landmark (3) National Commerical Bank SOM (G. Bunshaft) Jeddah (SA) 1987

The building maximizes the angled floor plant, by including a highlighted body in the internal void. It is featured by a suspended box that houses the main meeting areas, while liberating the rest with generic office spaces. It is overall an iconic, signature, high-tech element that aims to capture an end user.

Landmark (2) Jin Mao SOM Shanghai (CN) 1999

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The tower explodes the deep parcel by producing a very compact tower. Ventilation and views are produced through a large hole raised from the bottom part. The cavity connects the interior with the exterior acting as a visual reference.

Stratified tower (1) Shenzen stock exchange OMA Schengen (CN) 2013

In addition to a formal stratification of programmes; the base, the raised plynth and tower; the building radically segregates the relation between the exterior public space and the interior shared space by raising the latter from the ground level. Effectively the ground gets covered by the projection of the horizontal volume. Additionaly, the scale of the ‘coverd’ space reaches the surrounding space rather thant the inmediate small scale.

Stratified tower (2) Conjunto Nacional David Libeskind Sao Paulo (BR) 1950


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The most significant ensemble of mix-used building and semipublic spaces on Av. Paulista. Envisioned as a ‘city inside the city’. Design base on a functional separation of forms. Main features; the programme is split by a raised plaza above Av. Paulista; the plynth has commercial open use, whereas the tower has more privatized spaces.

Stratified tower (3) Alcoa Building SOM San Francisco (US) 1967

Corporate Space (1) Seagram Building Mies Van der Rohe New York (US) 1957

The emblematic building that revised the normative since it produced an exceptional space from private ground. Main features; the building compromises the maximization of sqm by steping back and providing an open plaza; the ‘public’ space belongs to the private.

Corporate Space (2) Chicago Civic Centre SOM Chicago (US) 1965 The building sets up a platform to maximize the block scale. It raises a common ground from which to enter the main tower. Different programmes are related from the plynth that confronts the desne street by an opacque and rough facade.

In this case, the ‘Mieasian formula’ of the setback was used in a centric block with no dominant street. However, the saquare became emblematic since it featured a well known artwork by Picasso. The square acts as a hinge articulating the surrounding grid and enreaching its bidirectionality.

Corporate Space (3) Exchange House SOM London (UK) 1990

In this case, the access to the interior square is provided by the access accross the ground floor. This ‘gesture’ is allowed by the same structure of the building which recalls the arched structure of a bridge. The space under this bridge not only connects the ‘public’ with the ‘semi-private’ side, but generates a platform of interaction between the users of the building and the pedestrians.


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Structural Logic (1) Central Beheer Herman Hertzberger Apledoom (NL) 1967

The building is a settlement, consisting of a larger number of equal spatial units. They are comparatively small and can accommodate the different programme components (or ‘functions’), because their dimensions as well as their form and spatial organization are geared to that purpose. Main features; small scale spaces generate a complex large netwroked space; no hierarchy between elements; free circulation.

Structural Logic (2) Inland Steel Building SOM Chicago (US) 1958

The Inland building was designed to display the performance of the material that the Inland Steel Company was trading with. The structure and also the service elements, such as elevators, toilets and facilities, were taken to the outside to create an open free plan. It also became representative of an efficient and flexible plant, since the space of work was surrounded by 4 facades and no interior columns.

Structural Logic (3) Sears Tower Chicago (US) 1974

One of the early examples in which cor-ten steel is used in structure and exterior finishes to resist weather conditions. The building is in the center of a planned seting surrounded by a garden. All buildings are connected by a glass-covered bridge.

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Membrane Novartis-Fabrik Str. 4 SANAA Basel (CH) 2006

The exeptional narrow width of the floor plan encompasses an architectural concept of membrane or perimeter. The office spaces therefore is pushed to the facade, that having a minimum thickness, areaches a great level of transparency and peremeability. The inner courtyard is left empty as the void that the ‘envelope’ building generates.

Large atrium (1) Ford Fundation Kevin Roche New York (US) 1968


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The project proposes a central space that puts in relation the internal ofďŹ ce spaces. This spaces recreates an enclosed garden that articulates the interior with the exterior. The high heigth of this element acts as a gateway that recognizes the park beyond the building.

Main features; large scale and permeable facade to the street; indoor space of interelation.

membrane of different layers; the internal slabs are indemendent from the envelope.

Large atrium (3) Willis Faber Dumas Foster & Partners Ipswich (UK) 1975

Large atrium (2) Bank of London Clorindo Testa Buenosaires (AR) 1959

The inner organization of the building produces two contributions to the street. First, the entrance generates a small square on the corner that brakes the typical width of the street, creating a gathering space. Second, the interior void expands the depth of the narrow street incorporating the inner space to the outside. Main features; facade as a

Town Hall (1) Villeurbanne Town Hall and New Centre Morice Leroux Lyon (FR) 1934

The building follows the the previous ideas of a central space that organizes the rest but, in this case, the space is kept on the interior preventing its manifestation with the exterior. The void organizes vertical circulation proposing a kind of promenade towards the roof: a garden terrace. The space on top becomes a collective space of meeting with shared and leisure activities that relate only with the larger context through the private views.

This scheme was initiated in the 1920s by the mayor of Villeurbanne, at that time a fast-growing but neglected industrial suburb of Lyon. Although its based on a real need for a new town hall, a theatre and social housing, its major purpose was spatial and symbolic: the impressive bulk was meant to deďŹ ne the emancipation of a political power, formerly overshadowed by the wealthier neighbour of Lyon.

Town Hall (2) Tokyo Metropolitan Government Kenzo Tange Tokyo (JP) 1988


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The Tokyo Metropolitan Government features Tokyo’s tallest tower as its central element. Typically, it creates a public civic space presided by its tower. It also creates a clear urban form but highlt unusual due to its circular inner facade. It challenges the grid layout of the Nishi-Shinjuku business centre.

Town Hall (3) Government Office Kenzo Tange Kagawa (JP) 1958

This building was designed as an expansion wing of the former town hall. The main idea of the expansion proposal was to provide a public space freely accessible by local residents and to expand the office wing in multi-stories as a high- rise, by resolving the difficult conditions of the already occupied site. The most frequently shared facilities, the conference and assembly hall, are allocated at the most accessible side of the site, facing to a public street.

Town Hall (4) City Hall Kallmann, McKinel Boston (US) 1962

The building was proposed against the tipical architecture of bureaucracy, as being a simple volume clad with curtain walls. Instead, the building introduces an articulated structure to project the internal function in shadowed and cantilevered forms to wrap up the exterior.

Articulation (1) Bercy, Ministry Paris (FR) 1982

The size of the complex allows an effective and pro-active articulation of the surrounding. First, the buidling is connected with the city fabric addressing three different scales: the

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street, the highway and the river. Three different pieces allow this interaction that expands the former medieval building. Secondly the different volumes create typological diversity in favour of the mixity of programmes. Main features: raised block over the highway reaching the riverside an creating a reference point on the facade before the shore.

Articulation (2) Rockefeller Center Reinhard & Hofmeister New York (US) 1930

Despite being one of the largest high-rise clusters in the world, it also creates one of the most exemplary semi-public spaces. It achieves a status of equal confrontation between the ideals of urban coherence and the capitalist gain for profits. Although it is embedded into Manhattan’s historic grid, it nonetheless creates a successful plaza around its tall buildings.


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Administrative interiors Collection of interior perspectives of different spaces found in administrative buildings.


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Office floor Chase Manhattan, New York. SOM (1964)

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Street level Chase Manhattan, New York. SOM (1964)

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Lobby Bank Lambert, Brussels. Gordon Bunshaft (1965)

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Typical spatial conflicts The following set of conflicts arise from a critical reading of conventional high-end office buildings. These conflicts aim to provide a set of principles that the project should pursue, or at least take into account, in order to generate the necessary friction to subvert the current status quo of these buildings.

1. Acces Not only controlled and limited, the access is also provided by a very specific and celebrated point of the building. It acquires a visible position on the envelope and it produces an immediate and sudden transition. In response to that, current strategies create a preparatory space before the access, which introduces the user to the building

domain prior to physically enter it. In extreme conditions, where there is no space available outside, this attempt to create a seamless transition is brought to the interior in the form of atria or large spaces that resemble the city, but nonetheless dominated by corporate emblems, e.g. expensive materials, screens, decoration, exposed elevators, etc.


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2. Circulation The circulation in high-rise or stacked office buildings is mostly defined by vertical cores. Its vertical relationship enables an independent, yet interconnected, diversity of floors. Nevertheless, the downside is that redundancies are rarely allowed and the sequence one has to embark on is usually limited: the ground floor typically

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leads to the upper floors and so on. Circulation is also regulated by means of efficiency and control. Historically, the taylorist office introduced industrial schemes of production to the domain of administrative labour. Hence, it established hierarchies on the floor layout, that were mirrored onto the schemes of circulation.


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3. Programme The limited programme that these estates offer, stresses the commercial side, or in other words, the rejection of any civic, institutional, or even recreational usage. Food, clothes and luxury products are the main features to provide in a productive environment. Yet, the orchestration of certain spectacles that capture the attention have also become present in these environments: live-shows, artworks or installations. The alternative however, is

introduced (or hinted) by the same deliberate pursuit of spectacle, which on the contrary it could be simply achieved by an accumulation of programme. The implicit friction that congestion could typically do in a street setting. Therefore, the inclusion of alien programmes would start to challenge not only the atmosphere of these spaces but the agency of their constituencies in a domain mainly driven by private capital.


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4. Exterior expression (representation) Usually ofďŹ ces are externalized in a different language than the surrounding city. Their differentiation comes, not only by its distinct interior use, but a difference in size, structure and constructing

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methods. Its modular character brings and inevitable identiďŹ cation with repetitive units and uniformity of facade. In fact a revision of industrial buildings now sophisticated and adapted to bureaucratic standards.


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Maps of Brussels

Brussels, 1673

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Bombing plan of Brussels, 1695

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Brussels, 1837 After de Belgian revolution and the demolition of the wall

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Brussels: plan d’ensemble, 1866 by Victor Besme

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Rue de la Loi competition entries OMA–NFA, BrEUssels JDS Architects – Secchi-Vigano, United in Diversity Fletcher Priest Architects – WIT Architecten, Spatial orchestration: local / global Xaveer De Geyter Architects, Hardware for Europe Atelier de Portzamparc, Block by block, the street views open

OMA BrEUssels Two sets of contradictory demands define this competition: - To improve the urban qualities of the already congested Rue de la Loi by doubling its density. - To create a new European quarter on a site which is already occupied by a classical example of the traditional European city. The first issue is morphological, the second symbolic. To address the morphology, we introduce in Brussels the ancient European typology of the ‘portico’, the classical emblem of the ‘public’. It forms a screen of shifted footprints that introduces in the claustrophobic street wall of the Rue de la Loi a lateral depth of openings that defines a linear political space, if not an agora. The portico is ‘capped’ with federating elements parallel to the Rue de la Loi that defines a “European” axis. At right angles to this political axis, housing and in general, the “private”, will be aligned perpendicular to the street, so that its bulk does not reinforce the pressure on the Rue de la Loi. As a skyline, the contrast between the ‘European’ and the ‘private’ orientation, represents a prototype of retroactive planning that is not based on the brute power of the Tabula Rasa, but that accepts the givens of context to avoid the sterility of a new beginning that typically defines articulations of political space from Washington’s mall to the Forbidden City. To address the symbolism, we identify two European “sites” or interruptions, in the Rue de la Loi. Together with the existing, European entities, the form a sequence of European fragments embedded in the existing Brussels substance. Together this chain of fragments offers an exemplary demonstration of the combination of the modernity and history which is the essence of the European project.

(source: Project Urban Loi, ADT-ATO)


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JDS Architects – Secchi-Vigano United in Diversity PHILOSOPHY AND KEY ELEMENTS Our project has 2 main goals: widen the realm of public space and build a strong image of Europe in the heart of Brussels. These goals trigger a series of regards over the city and the program, and 2 strategies initially studied in stretched scenarios -tabula rasa and stratification- showing the potential of each approach. The final proposal shows a series of possible spatial configurations. SYMBOLISM Europe is, symbolically and spatially, a vast shared cape: under it the flows of the city are self-governing. The European Union’s motto is ‘United in diversity’ but the Union hasn’t profiled itself with architecture unlike other institutions tend to do. How can we represent this dilemma? MIXITY OF FUNCTIONS AND INTEGRATION INTO NEIGHBOURING DISTRICTS AND THE CITY The densification of RDL is also an opportunity to rethink its relationship with the rest of the City. 4+1 urban themes define a network of public spaces that would guide the said transformations. 1.The monumental artefact campus and the triangular promenade 2. Tissue and percolation 3. The Etterbeek Valley and the elastic boulevard 4. The inner ring and filter spaces +1 the street and the traverses The 5 urban themes and their public spaces orientated our proposition for the Rue de la Loi and guides its densification process. They are the basis of the rules for its transformation. To really understand them, in relation to the objectives announced in the competition program, we have tested two opposing strategies...

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Fletcher Priest Architects – WIT Architecten Spatial orchestration: local / global PHILOSOPHY AND KEY ELEMENTS We have responded to the site’s juxtaposition of formal and medieval grids, Beaux-Arts axes, an urbanism of modernist objects and the topography of the river valley. A ‘superstrip’ is created between Josef II and Rue de la Loi where existing ownership can accommodate and trigger transformation, together with ‘exceptional moments’ on the north-south streets. Each enriches and adds new programmes and spaces. The strategy can extend across Quartier Leopold. SYMBOLISM The proposal provides a new identity for the EU within the city. It defines the location of significant buildings and how they engage with public space, allowing its institutions to relate positively to the external world. The new buildings to be occupied by the Commission become working exemplars in their spatial quality and environmental performance. Their focus on public realm becomes a symbolic representation of a new attitude to the inhabitants of the city. MIXITY OF FUNCTIONS The proposal introduces residential and retail uses as a means to create diversity, with activity throughout the day and week. Rather than distribute these uniformly, specific locations create concentrated life, reinforcing northsouth connections at Place de la Science. INTEGRATION INTO NEIGHBOURING DISTRICTS AND THE CITY Informal perpendicular connections link communities currently divided by the street and two strategic links provide a focus for public space and activity. A connection between Rue de la Loi and Rue de Treves links the Parliament and the Commission, embedding new facilities into wider EU activities. A key junction to the east identifies the new district with a freestanding tower and landscape. The block is eroded to bring a new network of arcades, courtyards and gathering spaces into and under the existing building line. Our proposal orchestrates a relationship between local and supra-local, fabric and urban structure, mobility and movement, merging local and global.

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Xaveer De Geyter Architects Hardware for Europe IMAGE Europe is ambivalent: it is deeply present in all aspects of its citizens daily life and yet simultaneously extremely diffuse in its representation and image. The representation of Europe in its capital has been conditioned by the very nature of supranational power. At its genesis, the union of European states was mostly economical in nature. The concept of a stronger more integrated Europe evolved slowly through several institutional crisis. Consequently, the built materialization of its institutions followed a very pragmatic, progressive, quantitative, almost promotorial logic that consisted of inhabiting the available buildings offered by the market: there was never a clear ‘vision’. In comparison to the representation of national powers through its buildings, that of Europe is weak, and fails to give it identity. An all encompassing vision for the European quarter can, therefore, only be retroactive: it has to integrate the framework of the existing ‘Rue de la Loi’ axis where all levels of local, regional and national power are already present. HARDWARE FOR EUROPE It would be dangerous to assimilate Europe’s already increasingly bureaucratic image solely to the offices of its institutions. With the decision to concentrate these in a very re¬stricted footprint a major dilemma arises: in terms of representation, a major public space would seem ideal, yet the extent of the required built program becomes more and more dominant and unavoidable. The image of Europe in Brussels will have to be diverse: public spaces, public buildings and mixity of the neighborhood. CONCEPT The project proposes to concentrate the whole required program in one unique high density urban block. This block is then cut by two central axis: the Rue de la Loi and the Chaussée d’Etterbeek. Within the proposed plot the latter is rerouted in order redefine its western edge. The square-based project imposes itself as a completely new urban element on the major axis of the Rue de la Loi and Avenue de Tervueren which links the Cinquantenaire to the Royal park. The project allows for a plausible solution to the difficult transition be¬tween the ‘campus’ of the Leopold quarter and the grid around the Rue de la Loi. It imposes itself in section while still integrating seamlessly in the existing urban fabric.

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Atelier de Portzamparc Block by block, the street views open The Christian de Portzamparc project aims gradually to create a completely new district into which the Commission will move. It is based on the concept of the open block, the open street, the gradual transformation of the town; openness to the unexpected, the co-existence of eras and building scales. This is a matter of establishing the planning “rules of the game” which will enable the city to open up gradually towards the sky, expanding vertically, while the street itself opens up horizontally, in depth, on either side towards the surrounding district. The project will free open spaces on the ground, squares, crossings between the North and South sides of the street; and it will set out the ground rules for the introduction of vertical buildings in dialogue with the existing structures. It’s this interplay of openings, space, light and views both at ground level and overhead that will give a new value to the existing blocks and make it possible to combine the retained existing buildings with the new high-rise constructions. In an approach to development which will share the benefits among existing property owners, the land belonging to the many buildings which have outlived their usefulness will used to create squares, “pocket parks” along the length of the road, or tower blocks set back from its frontage. Thus two ‘nesting’ volumes will appear, the new, higher volume containing the existing one. The new European Commission building will play the soloist’s role in this vernacular concert, standing on the site set aside for it. Simpler, higher, the symbol of the institutions, it stands apart and speaks to Europe and the world, while the tower blocks of this newly regenerated district ‘belong’ to Brussels. Along the Rue de la Loi, metamorphosis: light, the sight of the sky and the vertical forms mingle with the existing buildings with no sense of crowding, while at street level there mingle shops, pavements, trees, pedestrians, gardens, tram or bus routes and provision for cars...

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Private Brussels  

Offices and administrative buildings have become ultimate commodities of the real-estate market. The European Union’s administrative buildin...