Our understanding of a ‘grand project’ implies much more than an iconic building. Architecture, no matter size or budget, should allow people to gather and stage human interaction through eye-level design: design that frames people and their relations to each other and the city.
Our proposal for the NEO 2 Convention Centre in the Heyzel District of Brussels, Belgium, forms a new European model for a modern and multifunctional conference district: people, connectivity and identity, all integrated within the architecture of the building itself.
The transparent façade, the sparkling inner walls, and the lively ground floor programs all support the inviting and alluring appearance of our NEO 2 proposal. Together with the vast public spaces, from squares to accessible rooftops designed as recreational spots and viewpoints, these elements are attractors to both local residents, customers, and tourists. Breaking the massive volume into smaller, human-scaled spaces and units also helps the Convention Centre to be a comfortable place for people to meet and work.
The design proposal considers not just spatial comfort, but climatic comfort, with the massing of the buildings shaping a microclimate to further the comfort of residents within and outside of the plan. Thus, NEO 2 becomes attractive to its neighbors also, offering convenient shortcuts and sunny squares protected from the wind.
Our NEO 2 proposal is a connecting structure at several levels. The layout of the building is the core connecting property. The foyer is the natural gathering point, designed with a clear hierarchy and a 360-degree view to the 5000 seaters plenary, exhibition space, the park, the Atomium, the existing built environment and beyond. Convention Centers can be confusing and enclosed. Our vision was to create a space connected to the surroundings, the city, nature, and the changing seasons, which we pull in all the way to the heart of the foyer.
In one corner of the building, the slope offers a connection with the park; in another, metro passengers are met with a view of the stadium. A public plaza along the north side overlooks the place de la Belgique connecting the users of NEO2 and the building itself with the surroundings. And from the publicly accessible rooftop terraces, there is a stunning view over the Atomium, World’s Fair Park, and the city beyond.
Significance in contemporary architecture comes from within; understanding the urban and cultural context of a project and adding value and cohesion to the community.
We were one of two finalists in the competition, ultimately won by Jean Nouvel. Team: 3XN, CIT-Blaton, Willemen, Denul, Louis de Waele, A2RC, Arch&Teco, Pirnay Engineering, Theatre Project, Venac, Crowd Dynamics, FACE, Delta.
Visuals and illustrations: Malheiros Visuals, Plankton Group, Aesthetica Studio, Zuzanna Gadowska, Diane Berg.