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Region unveils future Manchester creative centre

Simulation of the future building viewed from Rue de Manchester.  - ©sau-msi.brussels (BC architects)

At the initiative of Minister-President Rudi Vervoort, the Government of the Brussels-Capital Region, acting on a proposal from the Urban Planning Corporation (SAU) in consultation with the SPRB Facilities Directorate, urban.brussels and the Region’s Chief Architect, has appointed the consortium led by BC Architects (for all team members, see below) to draw up the plans for the revitalisation/redevelopment as an artistic and creative centre of the buildings at 13-15 and 17-19 Rue de Manchester in 1080 Molenbeek-Saint-Jean.

These buildings located near the Canal belong to the Land Management Agency of the Brussels-Capital Region (SPRB Facilities Directorate) and are under temporary occupation pending the completion of their conversion. They will ultimately be turned into premises for cultural, artistic and creative activity, along with related facilities such as administrative offices, a multipurpose hall and artists’ residences.

The budget for this project of regional significance is nearly 14 million euros, funded by the Region under the ‘Heyvaert-Poincaré’ Urban Regeneration Contract (CRU 5) and by Beliris.

The SAU plans to submit the planning application in March 2022 and to start work in September 2023. Acting as the delegated project manager, it will oversee the work until its official completion.

The Brussels-Capital Region’s Minister-President, Rudi Vervoort, emphasised: ‘This future cultural, artistic and creative production centre will provide work premises for nearly 100 people. This is one of the emblematic projects of the first wave of Urban Regeneration Contracts. It closely reflects the philosophy of the URCs – initiated by the Region and implemented in conjunction with the municipalities – of filling in the gaps in public infrastructure and reducing the divides between different urban districts. This is a project of regional significance which will help to bring new dynamism to the Canal Area. The success of Recyclart, which is permanently settled in the buildings of 13-15 Rue de Manchester, and of the temporary occupation of 17-19, in particular by Decoratelier, has already shown that it meets a need in this part of the Region.’

The SAU’s director, Gilles Delforge, explained: ‘The decision to establish a project of this kind in this district is perfect for the general local context of Rue de Manchester. The new centre for cultural and artistic activities will take its place alongside other cultural institutions such as Charleroi Danse and Cinemaximiliaan. The plans by the multidisciplinary team led by BC Architects are the ones that offered the closest fit with the procurement selection criteria. BC Architects has proposed an approach that is both respectful of the most interesting buildings on the site and innovative in the way it links them together while re-establishing the connection with Rue de Manchester and creating a public space on the roof. The SAU is delighted to be once again playing its role as coordinator of Brussels' development, in charge of the implementation of major urban development projects and public facilities of regional significance in areas such as culture, sport and security.’

Bety Waknine, the director of urban.brussels, stated: ‘This is a major project for the Region for the years ahead, culturally, artistically and creatively. Projects of this type demonstrate the full potential of the Urban Regeneration Contract tool. At Urban we’re delighted to be able to support and see through to completion projects like this which have strong urban integration features and are also exemplary in terms of partnerships between key urban development actors.’

Cédric Bossut, director of Beliris, added: ‘Beliris is delighted to be involved in funding this project, which follows on from the investments already made in the Canal Area: the creation of the Porte de Ninove park, the redevelopment of public spaces, the introduction of cycle paths along the banks of the Canal or, more recently, the construction of several footbridges to connect the different neighbourhoods together. These projects are all about creating links between the inhabitants of Brussels, and enhance our capital’s image.’

Wesley Degreef, co-founder of BC Architects, specified: ‘The entire Rue de Manchester complex is destined to become an important centre for cultural, artistic and creative activity in Brussels. The key to achieving this ambition is to take account of the fact that the basic elements are already in place in all respects: the district’s social and cultural ecosystem, the industrial heritage and the rich history associated with it, the presence of actors such as Recyclart or Decoratelier, and the structures and materials on the site. Some of these qualities simply need to be preserved, others need to be brought to light, and others still need to be given the opportunity to thrive through targeted interventions. The enormous potential of what is already there is the basis of our vision for the future of this site. Our proposal is not a finished product, but an open and evolving concept. The emphasis is on a number of clear working principles and assumptions that guide the design without defining the image. On the basis of a well mapped-out participation process with a focus on action, our intention is to work with all the partners to create a living and working environment that is attractive, accessible, robust and climate-friendly.’

BC Architects is a Brussels architecture firm based in the Canal Area.

For the Manchester 13-15 and 17-19 project, it has teamed up with Civic Architects and brought in the following specialists:

  • BAS (stability engineers),
  • Cenergie (building services and energy performance),
  • DALTA (landscape design),
  • Callebaut Architecten (expertise in restoration and heritage)
  • Abesco (safety and health coordination),
  • Architecture Workroom Brussels (citizen participation platform).