From Citroën to Pompidou

 John Hill
27. March 2018
Image © NOA - EM2N - SBA
The team of noAarchitecten, EM2N and Sergison Bates architects has been selected to convert the former Citroën Yser garage into KANAL - Centre Pompidou, a new cultural hub for Brussels.
The winning project, titled "A Stage for Brussels," was chosen from seven entries that were shortlisted in July 2017 from 92 initial projects. Per the announcement of the winning team, the architects from Brussels, Zurich, and London conceived of the cultural hub as a "welcoming, lively and dynamic place of exchange, a place that invites all Brussels residents to feel at home there."

The 1930s Citroën showroom will house a Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, an architecture cener (CIVA Foundation) and public spaces devoted to culture, education and leisure. The design, which the jury found "exceptionally well integrated in its context," will transform the building into KANAL - Centre Pompidou’s "display window," home to installations, performances and concerts on the ground floor, and a restaurant on the third floor.

Construction will commence in fall 2019 and will be phased over several stages until the official opening in late 2022.
Citroën Yser garage (Photo: sai-msi.brussels/P.Sa.)
A stage for Brussels, partial project description by noAarchitecten, EM2N and Sergison Bates architects"

Not just a building and not just a location
The proposal for Kanal reflects on the position of the twenty-first century museum in society. The former Citroên garage is the starting point. The fact that a building of this scale – 100 x 200 metres – is available in the heart of the Brussels-Capital Region offers unmatched op- portunities that it would be difficult to achieve with a new building. The building is located in the heart of the Plan Canal, the area where new developments focus on a contemporary mix of housing, working, leisure and production spaces– the activity that is historically linked to the canal area. This is also the centre of the so-called ‘croissant oauvre’ – an area of Brussels that bears the marks of poverty and unemployment, but is for that very reason attractive to newcomers of all kinds: people new to Brussels, young families, artists, young creative practices.

A Radical Optimism that trusts what is there
Reflecting on this building, this location, the idea of a cultural hub calls for an overall attitude, an approach to dealing with all the questions at stake. Rather than a spectacular gesture, our proposal offers an attitude of Radical Optimism: critical, receptive, dedicated, precise. Out of the comfort zone. Thinking about Brussels, its future and complexity, requires a radical approach. Not in terms of architecture – here we just need an intelligent approach – but in terms of the infrastructure the Region offers its inhabitants. The spaces may be recognisable, but the atmosphere, the energy, the dynamics should be experienced rather than displayed. We want to radically engage with and trust what is there.

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