This commission was won in a design competition organised by the City of Brussels, and is a joint project with Caruso St John Architects. The Royale Belge building located in the south east of Brussels was completed in 1970 as the headquarters of the Royale Belge insurance company (later Axa), and is a fine and rather luxurious example of corporate architecture from the 1960s. The building is organised as a cross-shaped tower above a very large two-storey podium, and contained conference and training facilities as well as offices for its 1000 head office staff. It was designed by the renowned Belgian architect René Stapels, and both the building and the landscape is a protected national monument.
The new owners of the building, the consortium Sovereign 25, are reorganising the building for a mix of uses including conference, offices, co-working, hotel, health club and restaurant. The uses are arranged to have a synergy that will engage the full variety of spaces in the building, giving it a 24 hour life for tenants and visitors.
In order to enable the range of uses to share the large front-of-house spaces and to operate independently, the design makes a new circular hall space at the ground floor, which is cut through the floors of the podium in the centre of the plan. The new hall, which is almost 21m in diameter and three stories high, provides access and shared space for the co-working offices, hotel and health club on three floors. The new space has the generosity of space and detail that belongs to the spirit of the building.
The project is fundamentally about doing as little as possible to the protected building, reusing and recycling materials wherever possible, and making minimal alterations to allow the operation of its new purpose. Nevertheless, the glass façade is being replaced, with glazing of almost identical appearance, that will have a thermal performance to contemporary standards. The original external corten steel façade framework is retained.
The project is being delivered together with the executive Brussels-based architecture practice DDS+.