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Gare Maritime wins European Heritage Award for conservation
The renovation of the Gare Maritime building at Tour & Taxis has won a European Heritage Award for Conservation Projects. The prestigious annual awards are sponsored by Europa Nostra, the pan-European organisation that protects and lobbies on behalf of cultural and natural heritage.
Built in 1907, Gare Maritime was once the largest freight warehouse in Europe. Following years of extensive and painstaking renovations carried out under the management of the owner, Brussels-based real estate developer Extensa, the building is an excellent example, said the Europa Nostra jury, of how industrial heritage can be preserved.
“This is a very interesting adaptive reuse of an industrial heritage site that enhances the urban environment in which it is found,” said the jury in a statement. “Of note is the high quality of the new architecture that has been added, in both its design and materials. The new additions are reversible and easily distinguishable from the original fabric. In addition, the materials that were used are sustainable and have a low carbon footprint. The project is privately funded and is a good example for other private initiatives.”
The 40,000 square-metre building had been empty since the 1990s and had suffered degradation. The shell and general feel of the industrial building has been maintained, with wooden staircases added and the wooden roof panels restored. Skylights along the entire length of the building allow an abundance of natural lighting.
Geothermal heating and cooling maintain a constant temperature, and the building is energy neutral. The original cobblestones on the ground were sanded into flat paving stones and reused, and the building includes trees and other greenery. It is designed as a kind of village, with ‘streets’ going off in different directions.
Architects created retail space on the ground floor and 27,000 square metres of office space above. While the office space is being used, retailers have yet to open shop, and the intended use of Gare Maritime as an event centre has been considerably slowed up by the coronavirus. The building, however, is open to the public.
The building is one of nine projects to win a European Heritage Award this year for Conservation. There are also 15 winners across three other categories: Research Projects, Education, Training and Awareness-raising, and Dedicates Service to Heritage. One from each category will be chosen for the Grand Prix awards, announced in the autumn. There is also a Public Choice Award.
Europa Nostra awards up to 30 European Heritage Awards every year. Gare Maritime is the only Belgian project to receive the honour this year. Among the 20 winners this year, Spain took home the most awards, with five.
Photos, from top: ©Filip Dujardin/Neutelings Riedijk Architects, courtesy Extensa