It is in the context of a Sustainable Neighbourhood Contract that the design team led by B-architecten was tasked with adapting Laken station to the current requirements of accessibility and sustainability, of adding a limited catering facility and of creating the immediate outdoor layout. In a soft way, without heavy interventions or structural adjustments, the flexible design manages to capture the low-threshold, informal institution that Maison de la Création wants to be.
After Bockstael station was built in the early 1980s, Laken station lost its function. Thirty years later, the city took a long lease on the disused building and it was repurposed as the cultural centre Maison de la Création. B-architecten was guided by the existing structure and the way in which the building had been appropriated by its user in recent years. At railway level, there is studio space for more demanding disciplines. The ground floor consists of a multipurpose theatre hall with adjoining lodge, cafeteria and winter garden. The first floor contains offices for staff and the empty attic space will become a studio and workshop space for softer arts and the library.
Each room has been given a specific accent that corresponds to the main use of the space, ‘but in fact you can do everything everywhere’, project architect Karol Grygolec explains about the concept. For example, the ceiling insulation and the black colour of the multifunctional hall lend themselves particularly well to the theatrical performances, but this finish does not prevent it from being used as a catering area or studio workshop. A sliding wall also allows a zone to be used as an extension of the café, or to make a connection to the winter garden from there.
The architects used an eclectic approach to give each space a distinct character – ‘like a big house with different rooms flowing into each other’, Grygolec continues. For this they used existing elements with character, with specific additions such as a parquet floor and green furniture. At railway level, flexible expanded-metal elements divide the studios. Because they do not reach ceiling height, the double-height masonry space still forms a single whole. New elements such as the winter garden, stairwell and the bathroom on the intermediate level are made of black steel, a reference to the industrial character of the station.
Given its status as a listed monument, the exterior was primarily approached as a matter of restoration and renovation in terms of the roofs and façades, work carried out by subcontractor Vanhecke en Suls. In order to achieve a higher level of comfort in the offices, B-architecten explicitly framed the existing windows on the inside. On the south side, the winter garden provides a thermal and acoustic buffer whose design refers to a historical canopy. Following negotiations with Infrabel, the contractor Renotec was given just five weekends to build the structure suspended above the tracks. This meant that all the elements and connections were prepared and checked in the workshop with particular care.
A sandblasted concrete outdoor staircase forms the link between the higher and lower public outdoor area that connects directly to the station. A participation process supervised by Endeavour ensured support for the interventions in a charged neighbourhood. By deliberately aiming for a high-quality image, the architects wanted to elicit the necessary respect and encourage the success of future planned developments.