Situated in the last ‘intra-Ring’ of Anderlecht in western Brussels, NovaCity I is a dynamic multi-use development of superimposed programs, including workshops, offices, and a residential component that interact with each other through the porosity of functions and the convivial, collective spaces developed. The project marks the first phase of the new mixed neighbourhood NovaCity and won the Be.Exemplary 2019 award.
Resulting from a Citydev.Brussels public contract in 2018, the project team includes architects DDS+, Associated Architect Bogdan & VanBroeck, and landscape architect EOLE Paysagistes. The total project area is 15,422 m2, with 7,546 m2 dedicated to small and medium-sized workshops between 400 and 500 m2 and 7,876 m2 dedicated to residential use. The residential component includes 63 apartments, with 58 being subsidized housing units and 5 non-subsidized.
The site, though previously described as one of the ‘last intra-Ring wastelands,’ is nevertheless already well-connected thanks to its position at the crossroads of several communication axes, including the railroad, Ring and Chaussee de Mons. At ground level, the small and mid-size workshops are distributed on both sides of an active street, forming an axis where daily interactions occur between the development’s users. Directly connected to the workshops, double-height office and mezzanine spaces create a transitional interface with the surrounding neighbourhoods and act as a sound barrier between the ground-level uses and residential above.
Limiting the amount of excavation, the project is sensitive to the existing slope of the land and volumes were developed and positioned to minimize building footprints and provide significant openings for sunlight to penetrate public spaces and units. The different types of uses are arranged in a composition of volumes with varying heights, cutaways, and terrace-like insertions that animate the visual sequence of the new pedestrian street and generate an animated skyline. The open roof areas are occupied to their maximum with shared spaces such as terraces, vegetable gardens, conservatories or playgrounds with greenery in every collective space.
In addition to the street that crosses the site, there is a new public square on Bergensteenweg and showrooms at street level everywhere, promoting contact between residents of houses, users of the studios and residents. The most exciting aspect of the project is the open space that results in areas between the building that allow for a diverse series of collective spaces for the use of the apartment residents.
The different programme uses are united by a common materiality and distinctive light green colour visible on the district and city scale, allowing the transversal links between different functions to be seen.
NovaCity I is an important step towards a more mixed-function Brussels, with a mix of functions and heights taking the area on a new path. Further, as a pilot project, Brussels retained five of the apartment to be rented to workshop employees, testing a new way of allowing residents to live close to their workplace. – in other words, testing the concept of the 15-minute city.
The second phase of the project is already in the starting blocks. NovaCity I and II will ultimately form a real city district with 200 subsidized homes - all passive and some zero-energy.