The ancient Gare Maritime in Brussels reopens with a new design by Neutelings Riedijk

The endless aisles of the station, a marvel of steel architecture, have become an urban interior: today they host the larger cross-laminated timber building in the entire European continent.

The Industrial Revolution from the 19th century and its long lasting aftermath have disseminated all over Europe a multitude of container-architectures. Starting from the 1980s, a process of reconversion has been activated, which in the luckiest cases has proven able to combine the respect for this built heritage with the investigation of its potentials in terms of program.

Celebrated and yet controversial, the transformation of Paris’s Gare d’Orsay in a museum, completed in 1986 by Gae Aulenti, is the frontrunner of an entire generation of projects. This is true not just on a chronological plan, but because it sets the crucial topic for this genealogy: how to enhance the monumentality of the void, which is the most impressive quality of these spaces, while at the same time grafting within them the solids needed for the new programs?

Neutelings Riedijk Architects, Gare Maritime, Brussels, Belgium, 2020
Neutelings Riedijk Architects, Gare Maritime, Brussels, Belgium, 2020

The renovation of the Gare Maritime in the Tour & Taxis area in Brussels, completed in 2019 by Neutelings Riedijk Architects in cooperation with Bureau Bouwtechnie, is an updated and convincing answer to this question, at least in two respects.

On the one side, the three central aisles, out of the seven that the huge station is comprised of, are preserved as endless galleries stretching over 280 meters. Two of them are lower and host ten thematic gardens designed by OMGEVING, featuring approximately 100 trees. In the four remaining aisles, offices spaces are hosted within Europe’s largest CLT (cross-laminated timber) building, made of a multiplicity of volumes that line up and overlap, with a network of staircases and elevated walkways connecting them. 

The architects frame the choice of timber within a broader discourse on the building’s sustainability. This is a commendable narrative, thought certainly not unusual. It might be more fascinating to consider how the steel behemoth, a technological marvel from ancient times, accommodates a contemporary architecture which is decidedly more measured, and yet equally cutting-edge.

Neutelings Riedijk Architects, Gare Maritime, Brussels, Belgium, 2020. Photo © Sarah Blee
Neutelings Riedijk Architects, Gare Maritime, Brussels, Belgium, 2020. Photo © Sarah Blee
Gare Maritime
offices, retail spaces, event spaces
Brussels, Belgium
Architectural design:
Neutelings Riedijk Architects, in cooperation with Bureau Bouwtechniek
Design team:
Michiel Riedijk, Willem Jan Neutelings, Dieter de Vos, Kenny Tang, Alejandro Mosquera Garcia, Alexey Boev, Anselmo Nižić, Frank Venhorst, Pietro Manara
Landscape architects:
Extensa Group
45,000 sqm

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