Outstanding retrofit and regenerated part of the city, the Belle-vue Brewery complex is located along Brussel’s canal, in the Molenbeek district. The retrofit of these iconic buildings has exceptionally changed this part of the city. The site being huge, it was reassigned to fulfill multiple functions : hotel, housing and contemporary art museum (MIMA). On top of dealing with exceptional patrimonial value, this project also achieve highest performance with nearly 90% energy savings. Socially, the MIMA presents the most significant art of its time. After the deadliest attacks of 2015, this development brings back hope to the whole neighborhood .
Between preserving the intimacy of the project and its opening up onto the public space, this operation has a particular relevance in the development of Molenbeek. This set-up allows public facilities to be situated in a building block bordered with houses, to participate in the life of the neighborhood. The implantation of the white housing block with the rest of the surroundings delimits a significant point in the building front along the canal.
The hotel itself employs social workers and allows budget travellors to find accommodation in the center of the city in very comfortable conditions. Its influence permeates beyond its sole location. Indeed, the hotel itself works with other local shops and service providers and through it’s internal spatial arrangement and external public space offering, forms an integral part of the neighborhood atmosphere.
The two buildings which frame the facade of the main body, coupled with the adjacent buildings, generate an interior space facing the canal. Largely open and accessible however, the project accentuates this game between interiority bordering the building and the accessibility to the public space. The first important gesture was to free the main brick building, which had been suffocating with the yearlong appendices that were glued around it.
The area in front of the building opens up this interior whilst also providing a more intimate space bordering the main road. It also puts into perspective the main warehouse of the Bellevue site by connecting it to the canal.
Similarly, the street between the main body and the front building, inherited from the previous industrial use of the site, plays on this re-articulation of the vacuum through a new dynamic by linking the Bellevue project to the one currently developed by the Brussels Commune. Based on the heritage of the site, the project ensures an interiority proper to the heart of the building block, while also making the most of this insulated situation near the canal and the opening up to the public space.
The project is a “very low energy” standard renovation, as such it will consume about 50% less than a new building, and about 90% less than the existing building. To achieve this, we use “passive” strategies. Due to high thermal isolation users have a regular temperature for all surfaces and the high level air-tightness means that no drafts are felt, even when close to the window. Next, through a high performance heat recovery ventilation system combined with a passive cooling system, all rooms have 100% fresh air, fresh and at the right temperature without further need to cool/ heat it and anyway, we can always open the windows ! Finally, the use of environmentally friendly materials and finishes containing no formaldehyde emissions help ensure healthy indoor air.
The project won the 2009 call for Exemplary Buildings organized by the Brussels Region. To win such an award the project has to be of high energetic performance, use materials with low environmental impact, have a high architectural value and demonstrate a simplicity in implemented solutions such that they are easily reproduced and affordable. The BatEx projects are representative of the sustainable development policy, they are the subject of regular visits and serve as reference for the market.
The building of the Belle-Vue brewery is one of the best known reminders of the industrial past of Brussels. A group of private investors (Nelson Canal) and the Municipality of Molenbeek acquired the site with an ambitious purpose sprung from the shared determination to use this building to new ends and secure a future for it embedded in the renewal of this district. The project combines hotel accommodation, housing and spare-time activities. Now finished, the success is absolute, as attested by more than 90% occupancy of the hotel and 40.000 visitors since the opening of the Mima in April 2016.