City Loft

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  • Location: Hasselt, Belgium
  • Program: 2 restaurant facilities, 39 studio’s and underground parking
  • Area: 3.250 m²
  • Year: 2021
  • Status: Realized

The plot is located within the city center of Hasselt, on one side it borders the flourishing Zuivelmarkt with all of its commerce, and on the other side, it borders the Raamstraat. A pass-through is provided from the Zuivelmarkt to the Raamstraat in order to give a new impetus to the initiatives already taken to upgrade this street. In order to make this pass-through even more effective, a semi-private square is built at the side of the Raamstraat by demolishing the garden wall of the properties located at the Raamstraat and by transforming the courtyard into a private square with a public nature. The area suitable for building that is lost because of the installation of the pass-through and the square, is compensated by providing a height accent in the Raamstraat. This is designed as a dynamic monolith, that interacts directly with the openness of the square so that it blends in with its environment, as it were.

Essential to the design in this urban context is also the preservation of the privacy and the quality of living of both future residents and neighboring inhabitants. Through careful molding of the ‘monolith’, it is prevented that daylight/sunlight is taken away from the adjacent plots. We look at this design in the same way that a sculptor looks at a solid block of marble, that is carefully and thoughtfully manipulated in order to obtain a unique, dynamic, and scale-sensitive result. We start from a simple rectangular prism on a plinth, as it were, that then gets refined by its surroundings, taking into account sights and lights, in order to achieve a dynamic and tailored volume that will not dominate the street scene/cityscape. Every angle of this hexagon also provokes a unique dialogue between the building and its observer, so that man is seemingly pulled towards the building and so that the square, as a result, will function as a beacon for the city as well as the surrounding catering and trading premises. Both at the side of the square and at the side of La Bottega recesses are provided in the façade so that the mass is broken in these places. At the side of the square, in addition, a green terrace is also provided for the surrounding catering facilities.

The dynamics that the building accommodates are amplified by the rhythmic façade and its brick ‘fins’. Because of this rhythm, a sense of tranquillity and hierarchy is created in an otherwise very hectic façade. Further, the ‘fins’ and the shape bring forth natural privacy, as you can only see the window or the recessed bricks when you are standing right in front of it. When one looks from an angle, only the ‘fins’ are visible, which will create a very interesting image. The decision to work with a traditional red brick was made deliberately so that the volume will partly blend into the environment but still jump out in its own way. This is achieved, amongst others, by placing the volume on a transparent plinth so that the monolith appears to be floating, as well as because of the existing vegetation on the intensive green roof, the black window profiles, and the industrial U-profiles underneath the brick fins. The building is accessible from the Raamstraat, where an intimate hallway with a high ceiling leads to the spacious elevator. Via this elevator, one arrives on the first floor in a spacious atrium, where a large void is located through which natural sunlight seeps inside. As the void is continued over all five floors, a very impressive spaciousness is created within the volume. The thought-out implementation of the inside staircase intensifies this spaciousness even further and really makes this communal area come to life. This forges a sense of community within the building. Inside the studios, different scales of intimacy can be formed through the use of, for instance, sliding panels. As has already been said, the fins, as well as the narrow windows, that reach from floor to ceiling, ensure the necessary privacy while at the same time allowing for sufficient light. It is necessary that the eventual design of the interior will be done at a later stage with the utmost attention to detail so that the compact studios can function and support optimally.