They turned industrial buildings into flats. The houses have original forms

The DUCHESSE project was realised in the west of Brussels, Belgium. The area, which until recently was dominated by industrial buildings, has become an attractive place to live. The NOTAN OFFICE studio prepared the project for the metamorphosis of the site.

Growing populations in many cities around the world are leading to the expansion of areas in which new housing estates are springing up. This trend can be seen throughout Europe. An alternative to building new blocks of flats is becoming the adaptation of existing architecture. An interesting example is a Belgian project.

An intimate development has been created on the site of former factories, which realises the idea of a 15-minute city. Residents are close to shops, markets, schools, churches and public buildings. Behind the beautiful 19th century townhouse are two long industrial halls. The architects redesigned the area to create a residential complex with three multi-storey blocks.

In the design, you can see how the old fabric intertwines with the new. There are a lot of architectural threads here. There is a lot going on. The courtyard in the new arrangement has become a kind of tiny settlement, where you can walk around and discover different stories at every turn.

It is worth noting the materials used and the way they are displayed. The concrete blocks are not covered with paint, their structure has been specially exposed. Many of the elements visible in the photographs are remnants of former buildings. The central building has been partly supported by the old concrete structure of the farm building. The red tiles of the new part combine with the historic bricks, and the white tiles complement the painted walls.

In creating such an original development, the architects wanted to respect the ‘spirit of the place’, which has managed to make its way from an industrial past to a residential present. In 2024, the project was nominated in the Mies van der Rohe EU Prize for Contemporary Architecture for the most beautiful new architectural development in Europe in.

design: NOTAN OFFICE(www.notanoffice.be)

photos: Stijn Bollaert

Also read: single-family house | townhouse | detail | brick | Belgium | whiteMAD on Instagram

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