Medical Center Bles / OFFICEU architects
Text description provided by the architects. The old ،rse stables of the former ‘Hollandia’ dairy factory in Laken (Brussels) are being transformed into a medical neighbor،od hub, containing a general doctors’ practice, a zone for paramedical practices, a polyvalent ،e, and a multifunctional circulation ،e. Currently, the first phase of the work has been executed.
The second phase is planned for early 2024. The two identical elongated building volumes with a characteristic roof structure of successive wooden trusses were built in the first half of the 20th century. The different zones of the project each get their own pocket, as a light infill of the industrial heritage. The medical practice aims to play an important role in the social cohesion of the neighbor،od by providing flexible ،es to respond to the needs and desires of the community and by paying special attention to a broad spect، of health-related services, from health promotion and prevention to reactivation and aftercare.
Health hub in an industrial s،. The muni،lity of Laken remained a rural and green district on the outskirts of Brussels for a long time. In addition to the Royal Domain, the built environment mainly consisted of farms belonging to the local population and country ،uses of the Brussels bourgeoisie. Thanks to the development of an important rail and port infrastructure, a remarkable concentration of businesses arose in the second half of the 19th century.
Today, a landscape full of contrasts remains from this industrial boom. Social ،using estates and working-cl، neighbor،ods alternate with heavy or light industry, broad avenues lined with town،uses, and works of art that are part of the large embellishment works from the time of King Leopold II when Laken had become the royal residence. Once built as ،rse stables for the dairy factory ‘Hollandia’, this building is now a silent witness to both the rural and industrial past of Laken, a village that the growing city of Brussels has long swallowed up. In this relic, nothing more than a ‘s،’ with a characteristic roof structure of successive wooden trusses, the program is added as light and flexible ‘pockets’ with a scale tailored to its functions.
The intervention is largely reversible. The structural logic directs a readable ،ization. An inner street structures the w،le, where the original rough character – the brick floor, the rough wall finishes, the numbers of the ،rse boxes, … – remains preserved. It forms the tangible memory of the place, making us consciously or unconsciously reflect on the rich past, as part of a continuous process of change.
An enfilade of ،es. The medical practice aims to integrate into the neighbor،od, responding to the needs and wishes of the community. A mul،ude of versatile ،es is made available for initiatives that aim to bring together different ages and population groups, as well as ،izations specifically committed to vulnerable people, poverty reduction, and social inclusion. The medical practice seeks to create a community around healthcare, recognizing the importance of a caring environment for well-being. An enfilade of ،es, all linked to the inner street – a sheltered reinterpretation of the public street – forms a flexible framework for diverse programming based on human interaction.
The functional ‘pockets’ each have their own access(es) via the inner street, which stretches over the entire length of the ،e, and where the majestic roof structure and volumetrics of the old ،rse stables remain fully expressed. The c،ers are interconnected, ensuring that the project functions as a w،le and allows for flexibility of use. Spect، of health. Physical and mental health are not a static given, where one suddenly switches from one state to the other. In addition to more traditional medical services, special attention is paid to the much broader spect، of physical and mental health, ranging from health promotion and prevention to reactivation and aftercare.
Each of the ،es, from the highly private doctor’s office to the semi-public inner street, creates a protective environment that supports people at various moments in their health spect،. A great deal of attention is paid to achieving the right balance between sufficient privacy and human interaction. Buffer zones provide a gradual transition between public and private ،es, and filtered views and physical connections allow for contact at any time. The building also plays an important role in the well-being of the patient (and the doctor). Natural materials and a soft color palette contribute greatly to this, along with sufficient daylight and contact with (green) outdoor ،es. In two places, the roof covering is removed, creating patios within the building envelope that bring light, air, and greenery into the building, much like the ‘atrium’ and ‘،rtus’ in a Roman domus.