The start of something new

We talked to the architectural designer of Uplace, David Coyne, on the Uplace site in Machelen and asked him about the concept. David is Director of the global highly respected and award-winning architectural architectural studio Benoy.

Benoy designs masterplans and inspirational buildings and schemes. Their pith is the way they transform industrial wastelands into new, dynamic and vivid neighbourhoods where people enjoy to reside, work, relax – in short: live.

David, how do you transform an industrial wasteland like we have here in Machelen into a new neighbourhood? How do you start working on such a project?

In this project, in this new neighbourhood, ‘man’ must be the focus point. The perfect place where people meet is a central market square. That’s the ‘heart’ of the project. From that central square, you can see the borders of the site, and how these can be integrated in the surrounding area. People are constantly on the move, and they will visit the project and leave it – from the neighbourhood. We’ve created different functions that can all be reached from that central market square, and that will offer an added value to the wide area: offices, a theatre, a cinema complex, leisure, open spaces, shops, bars and restaurants, and a hotel.

But everything here is so ugly, dead, dirty today. How do you bring a site like this one back to life?

You have to use your imagination, and think forward, into the future. You have to consider this as the start of something new. What you actually do, is bring life back to this site by developing it. And you need a certain scale to bring it back to life. That life comes from the people who’ll make use of it. This new life that’ll start at Uplace, will eventually expand to the different sites in the area.

Over half the projects we take on, all over the world, start with similar industrial polluted sites. Creating something from nothing is exactly the challenge. We think further, we think integrated. The Vilvoorde bridge of the Brussels beltway is an unique see-through hatch to the rest of the area we’re connecting with. On the other side of the Woluwelaan we find residential quarters that can connect with Uplace. We’re creating new walking boulevards that’ll allow the neighbours to walk to this new neighbourhood.

What makes Uplace so special?

The mix of different activities and functions you’ll find there. It’s not just another building, it’s a collection of buildings that are – in a very smart way – integrated through open streets, where all those functions meet. The variety makes Uplace special and unique. Uplace will become a real destination people’ll want to visit.

What role do you see for Uplace in the whole reconversion area?

Uplace’ll become the central catalyst, with the iconic office tower as a landmark for the whole north of Brussels. We didn’t want an ordinary tower, but we couldn’t make it too high neither, as Zaventem Airport is so close. That’s why we opted for a special design: the tower is almost like a flower that blooms. With a splendid roof garden terrace, it’s the ideal location for companies that want an unique office environment that everybody knows and recognizes.