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- Brussels, Belgio
Studio Farris Architects, in collaboration with Stefan Schöning, won the competition to redesign the counter hall of the Flemish Parliament in Brussels. The former counter hall, which is now used for cultural events such as lectures and exhibitions, is the public heart of the Flemish Parliament. The Flemish Parliament is located in the former postcheque building in Brussels, which is a classified monument designed by architect Victor Bourgeois in 1937. The major challenge of this project was the confrontation with Bourgeois’s rational and repetitive architecture.
The counter hall was used by the Flemish Parliament as a multi-purpose room that accommodated many different activities; such as exhibitions, installations, and other art and design related events. Along with the start-point of a tour students can take to visit the Parliament.
The original situation, before briefing, was very chaotic due to the lack of storage and organisation of the existing bar, and the absence of an organised space where visitors could store their belongings.
The competition was organised to design a new proposal for the organisation of the bar and bar-activities, a cloakroom, a storage room, a reading corner, a multi-media room, and 80 extra seats for the self-service restaurant.
As the brief stipulated, the counter hall would have to be suited for a range of activities: a cafe, a shop, a forum and a reading corner.
Instead of placing these functions next to each other, which would take up too much space, the conceptual starting point was to blend everything into a single design.
The pavilion consists of a steel frame with wood finishing, placed on a rubber layer to avoid damaging the floor. To maintain the overall view of the entrance hall, columns and ceiling are as narrow and thin as possible.
The duplex floor, which can comfortably accommodate groups up to 60 people, provides a new way of experiencing the counter hall as it creates new viewpoints for visitors. Being visible from the adjacent street, it arouses the curiosity of passersby.
The glass columns, which are spread around the pavilion, are shop windows as well as small exhibition showcases. The Parliament shop becomes part of the circulation instead of being a separate unit.
A video wall was installed in the central dividing wall, making the café double as a forum which can be used for presentations as well as to virtually attend the plenary sessions.