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Competition for a circus school and a bicycle repair shop in Molenbeek, in collaboration with OUEST

Year ︎︎︎ 2020
Budget ︎︎︎ € 2.5m
Surface ︎︎︎ € 1700 m2
Phase ︎︎︎ Competition, 2nd prize

In this competition, two existing buildings in a building block on the canal in Molenbeek will be transformed into a circus school and a bicycle repair shop (recyclo). The two buildings are not physically related to each other, but both bear witness to the former industrial activities along the canal. They are key projects within a masterplan by Brussels practice l’Escault, which attempts to turn the former closed building block inside out. The existing spaces are programmed with socially activating functions, around the central figure of the 'large hall', a covered outdoor space. In collaboration with OUEST, two multi-purpose and sustainable projects were elaborated within the strict budgetary constraints and with a minimum of resources.

For the circus school, the main intervention consists of a large concrete table, which is placed over the existing hall. This simultaneously forms the technical ceiling for the circus hall, and the floor of a new, more intimate hall above the current roof level. The two halls are connected by a disk with circulation and facilities. On the other side of this distribution disk there is a multipurpose foyer. The facade has been elaborated in corrugated sheets, where an alternation of colors and curtain-like cut-outs refer to a canvas circus tent, and make an inviting gesture towards the square.

The bicycle repair shop is a functional and open studio over 3 floors, with a reception area on the street side. The ateliers are connected by a wide corridor, which borders on a shared outdoor space. A new facade built with industrial elements makes it possible to fully open the workshops to this mineral "garden", where bicycles are tested and cleaned. The qualities of the existing spaces are utilized to the maximum, and reactivated by means of minimal additions.