ark38 | Objekt Architecten

Industrial heritage restored to glory Aalst / Belgium / 2022

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From a historical point of view, Aalst is an important industrial city on the Dender. Especially the textile industry flourished, a sector of which the city became the epicentre in the 18th century. A remnant of this golden age can be found along the Pierre Corneliskaai. Once a weaving mill, it was later transformed into a plastic factory under the wings of Tupperware and is now an ultramodern showroom of bathroom and kitchen specialist Sterck NV.


When renovating this historically valuable building, it was important to preserve its industrial character.The property is characterised by a typical brick architecture consisting of 3 symmetrical aisles. The front facade is distinguished by beautiful nuanced brick ornaments. Although the warehouse was not included on the list of protected buildings, these valuable elevations, together with the distinctive gabarit, were retained in the design.The exterior of the building was restored to its full glory using a special cleaning process in order to create added value for the entire site and the city.


In the original outer wall of the hall, large rectangular areas could be seen. In the place of these surfaces, openings were made that were reinforced with a concrete frame rounded off at the top. The concrete used contrasts nicely with the old bricks, with both materials reinforcing each other. The exterior joinery was placed behind the façade, so that it is partly hidden by the new concrete structure. Large window openings were also planned in the side elevation, which will serve as display windows when the building is occupied and will allow sufficient daylight the building.


The scale of the structure requires large architectural changes so that the three sections can be used as a showroom. Here, the scale ratio between the construction and the arrangement of the furniture had to be precisely determined. Therefore, the design of the interior focused on three materials - concrete, metal and wood - that will fill the open space and at the same time subdivide it thanks to their materiality. A concrete disc was placed through the left and middle aisle of the warehouse, resting on three architectural supports.These supports also have an additional function as a spine for the presentation of furniture.This element creates a sheltered feeling in the showroom below and provides extra usable floor space on the first floor in the otherwise high open space.This newly created level is accessible via a concrete staircase and via a walkway from the area behind.


A metal volume was placed across the left and middle aisles at the rear of the building. This volume houses offices, storage rooms, toilets, technical rooms and a small kitchen in which cooking demonstrations can be organised. By cladding it entirely in drawn steel sheet, the various functions are also visually reinforced. As an extension of this metal block, a large patio was created at the right-hand side, within the original boundaries of the existing warehouse. On the one hand, this patio allows light into the large adjacent open atrium where flexible workplaces are provided. On the other hand, ivy plants can grow here to create a green oasis that allows outdoor furniture to be displayed in a unique context.


An additional level was designed in the right-hand aisle, where a third element - wood - takes precedence. This floor is separate from the front and rear façades, so that the visitor also continues to experience the spaciousness in this nave. A centrally placed staircase in the void leads to the first floor, which is completely finished with a wooden parquet floor.


The architectural language used and the interior choices reinforce the industrial and historical character of this valuable building without lapsing into stereotypes. An additional tension is created by the final function of the building as a showroom for (fixed) furniture. The modern items on display will enhance the whole and vice versa.

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    From a historical point of view, Aalst is an important industrial city on the Dender. Especially the textile industry flourished, a sector of which the city became the epicentre in the 18th century. A remnant of this golden age can be found along the Pierre Corneliskaai. Once a weaving mill, it was later transformed into a plastic factory under the wings of Tupperware and is now an ultramodern showroom of bathroom and kitchen specialist Sterck NV. When renovating this historically valuable...

    Project details
    • Year 2022
    • Work started in 2020
    • Work finished in 2022
    • Main structure Mixed structure
    • Client ark38 by Sterck
    • Contractor Jan De Nul
    • Status Completed works
    • Type Showrooms/Shops / Interior Design / Recovery/Restoration of Historic Buildings / Restoration of façades / Recovery of industrial buildings
    • Websitehttps://ark38.be/
    • Websitehttps://www.objektarchitecten.be
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