On the borderline of the densely populated 19th century labourers district ‘bloemekenswijk’ and a recently reconverted industrial area, lies the UCO site spreading an area of eleven hectares. With the purchase of this site, the city of Ghent wanted to provide an answer to the different needs of several socio-economic companies. Not only space, but also adequate mobility, parking, and green surroundings are important factors for these businesses, as well as the fact that they fit nicely into the existing industrial building park.

The main feature of the site, centrally located, is a huge industrial building of five hectares. Two water treatment plants, once grafted onto the textile industry, define the northern border, whereas the Balenmagazijn, situated in the south, is a former warehouse where erstwhile the bales with yarn and fabric were stored. It’s a box of bricks of about 950 m2 and a hight of 10m. The AG SOB (City Development Services of the city of Ghent) was appointed by the city as a projectleader for the redevelopment of the UCO-site.

A communal building where employees can meet is obviously a great asset for the site. The Balenmagazijn was chosen as a principal location to allocate several common facilities. These services include meeting and class rooms, office spaces, a general reception, a catering kitchen and a big canteen. Specific attention was needed for people with physical disabilities and the corresponding implications on the design of the building and its components, for example the restaurant decor, the cloackroom,...

The future vision for the building was conceived in 3 steps.

1. Preserving

The Balenmagazijn in its original form was already finished. The building is approached with the utmost respect and is preserved in the best way possible: the size, the weight, the darkness, the entrances, the construction. The height and width of the hall are regarded as particular qualities. A floorplate, necessary to integrate the required programme inside the building, would have split up the height of the warehouse. Therefore, a vertical extension is proposed and the program is stacked in only one half of the hall. By making only one long opening on the scale of the building, the powerful volumetry, with four closed surfaces, was retained. The renewed Balenmagazijn actually consists of two buildings: two halves that can are air-conditioned individually and light-tight and thermally insulated from each other, allowing for large energy gains.

2. Maximising Interaction

Due to the Balenmagazijn’s specific location near the southern border of the UCO area, it takes a central position in the broader environment and therefore transcends its own site. The roof volume is easily visible and supports this ambition. The building also interacts with park and sun: by opening the building to the south terrace, the sun can be enjoyed from morning till evening.

3. Organising Readability

The length of the hall was put to use: a long industrial kitchen was installed, clearly organising the manufacturing proces.

source: TRANS architectuur | stedenbouw