Kanal-Centre Pompidou, Brussels,
Belgium, 2018

The project for the transformation of the former Yser Citroën car factory into an arts and cultural centre, including the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art and Architecture Museum (CIVA), is being designed as a collaboration of Sergison Bates architects, noAarchitecten and EM2N.

The well-known landmark building, a 21-metre-high glass palace, will be one of the largest cultural venues in Europe, home to all forms of cultural creativity: the visual arts and architecture, but also dance, drama, film, literature and music. Kanal, as the venue will be known, will provide opportunities for learning as well as a framework for diverse curatorial opportunities, a network of buildings and public spaces that act as an open forum, a catalyst for debate and social interaction.

The existing building is a wonderful example of elegant industrial engineering and the proposal retains as much as possible of the existing structure, returning it to its original grandeur. The ambition of the project is to embrace the industrial identity of the former factory, transforming it with a light touch and a deliberate economy of means. Already a prominent landmark, Kanal will provide a new focus of social life, its internal spaces interacting with the open spaces at the edge of the canal, three tall new additional volumes acting as beacons, inviting the city in.

As well as minimising waste, pollution and reducing demolition and construction costs, this conservation strategy embraces the identity of the historical building and transforms the car factory into an urban culture factory, a place of creativity and making. Retaining traces of its past will give the venue a productive, social and informal feel rather than the all-too-often rarefied atmosphere of many international art venues.

More than a container of art and a stage for performance, Kanal aims to be a public forum that can be appropriated by local residents: a welcoming place inviting visitors to wander, rest, meet or simply be.

Competition: 2018
Project duration: 2018-2020
Gross internal area: 39,100m2

Photography: ©️ Veerle Vercauteren for Kanal Foundation

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