Public Debate, Public Interior, Circular Economy – Forms of Exchange: Approaching the Reconversion of an Iconic 1966 Office Tower in Brussels

in Research Culture in Architecture

Abstract

- In a late Modernist gesture, the Dutch Philips Company constructed in 1966 its headquarters in the historical center of Brussels. Two entire and densely populated city blocks were demolished. A dissociation and discontinuity of the urban tissue was the consequence. The project, a rationally designed tower on a three-story-tall plinth, was to be the inner-city “touchdown” of an oversized real estate development. Currently the Brouckère Tower (or Philips Tower) is being converted from a monofunctional, single-tenant, and stand-alone urban object into a multitenant office environment with an emphasis on conviviality, publicness, and “spatial engagement.” The project is a conversion in three different ways: • From a late Modernist mutilation of the historical urban tissue to an updated Brutalist modernism reinserted in the ideal of the organically evolving European City. • Second, from a dissociated edifice to an engaging urban space exchanger between the central boulevards and the area of the Saint- Cathérine Church. And between the plinth levels, the urban platforms and the newly created winter garden on the eighteenth floor. • And eventually, from a closed and hermetic strange body (Fremdkörper) to a contributor of publicness through interlacing the interior with the public realm, transforming it into a public interior and a civic edifice. The article will share some conclusions relating to design processes in the context of circularity and BIM and regarding the public-private dichotomy in private real estate.

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