17 May 2022 · By Richard Waite
Sergison Bates has bagged yet another contest win in Belgium, this time in Antwerp for a new headquarters for a leading payroll and HR company
The London-based practice’s latest victory adds to its impressive roster of major jobs in the country, which include a new €60 million performing arts quarter in Leuven and the £105 million Kanal-Centre Pompidou in Brussels.
The office scheme in Antwerp for client SD Worx will be built on the east bank of the river Scheldt between the city’s medieval centre and the harbour district.
Designed in partnership with local outfit BULK Architecten, the project is part of the wider regeneration of the Eilandje – the island-like old port area of Antwerp – and sits on a narrow plot at the corner of Brouwersvliet and Tavernierkaai.
The building will have a hybrid prefabricated construction: the plinth will be made from a mushroom column structure built offsite. In situ concrete floors and cassette ceilings will sit below a modular CLT skeleton and floorplates. The façade will be constructed from prefabricated elements.
According to the practice, the design for the office building ‘looks beyond the immediate requirements of the brief and considers the long-term viability of the project’, with design options to convert it to housing or hospitality uses in the future.
The architect said it had developed a ‘versatile, and resilient structure’ that could be reconfigured and repurposed ‘without compromising the whole’.
The scheme will provide 6,600m2 of space below ground level and 15,420m2 above and is expected to be submitted for planning in summer next year.
Sergison Bates and BULK's competition-winning scheme for a new headquarters for SD Worx in Antwerp, Belgium
The building proposed is defined as a ‘sentinel’, its silhouette and materiality lending it a strong presence at the edge of the city and the water. Its form – two sentinels of differing height placed on a plinth – is an elegant solution to the need to maximise light penetration to the interior and to the central garden, while finding continuity with adjacent structures.
The building connects and completes the street frontage and delineates the edge of the block along the Scheldt. The chamfered vertical elements of the façades give a dynamic multi-directional emphasis to the form, set back at high level to form the central green courtyard, while the plinth accommodates a public agora, exhibition area, an auditorium and café, with an active frontage on all sides aligned with the street and adjacent buildings.
The plinth is porous, providing routes through the block, anticipating the likely increase in pedestrian and cycle traffic as the regeneration of the area progresses and mobility policies evolve.
In response to the brief, which called for the project to offer options for conversion to residential or hospitality uses, we developed an open, versatile, and resilient structure that can expand and contract as required.
The re-framing of the territory and atmosphere of working environments during the recent pandemic has evidenced that informal settings can often be more stimulating than traditional desk-based arrangements, blurring the boundaries between the private and the common parts of the building.
Based on the principles of multi-space work environments, we developed a language of elements that can be organised to create a variety of configurations: workstations, concentration cockpits, anchor points, coffee corners and lockers are arranged across floorplates and supported by a wide range of information and communication technologies that allow users to choose the setting that best fits a particular task and to move between alternative spaces to work independently or in collaboration with others.
Sergison Bates and BULK's competition-winning scheme for a new headquarters for SD Worx in Antwerp, Belgium – office space
A network of green spaces is a crucial element in creating pleasant, healthy, sustainable working environments: a green courtyard over the lobby, a garden terrace, a conservatory, a roof growing area, a panoramic terrace and loggia offer different but connected breakout spaces on different levels through the building and play an important role in water management, reducing heat-stress and supporting biodiversity.
The client’s initial strategic choices – central location, compact site, proximity to public transport – were an ideal starting point for an integrated approach to sustainability. To achieve the ambitious goals set out in the brief, the BREEAM methodology was adopted from the outset in the planning and design process. Designing a truly sustainable building requires thorough lifecycle thinking, selecting building materials carefully in terms of their adaptability and ease of maintenance to future proof the project. We therefore focused on reducing energy consumption and re-using natural sources by adopting passive techniques.
Solar gain is minimised by external sun shades and the depth of window reveals is modulated to optimise light/shading depending on the orientation of each façade.
All rainwater is re-used, including the overspill from the garden, and grey water purification is envisaged to make up the shortfall due to the limited roof area available for rainwater collection. An intelligent lighting system responds to daylight levels and movement and, in response to Covid-19, special attention has been paid to ventilation and air treatment to reduce harmful volatile organic compounds during construction.
There are currently two buildings dating from the early 1980s on the site, which have inefficient building structure, spatial layout and daylight. The potential for repurposing these was analysed in detail by the client in the preliminary phase, but it was concluded that the lack of flexibility of the structural grid would hinder a thorough refit to adapt them to the client’s need and sustainability standards.
As SD Worx were committed to remain on this unique site in the heart of Antwerp, the brief called for the existing buildings to be completely demolished and replaced with a new headquarter that maximises well-being and energy efficiency.
We are now looking at strategies for harvesting the materials within the existing buildings and will set up an inventory to assess how they can be reused in the new building or made available for other buildings via the local supply chain for reused materials.
Tags Belgium office design Sergison Bates
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