On the northwestern edge of central Brussels, the district of Tour & Taxis was once an industrial hub like no other. With Europe’s busiest freight railway station – the imposing Gare Maritime – at its heart, the burgeoning site was an economic powerhouse of the early 20th century. This status was underlined by its wealth of exemplary industrial architecture of the era.
The sprawling warehouses and customs halls have been transformed into everything from offices and event venues to restaurants, cafes and spas as part of the area’s gradual redevelopment over the past two decades into a mixed-use destination. Now, Gare Maritime itself adds to this continuous evolution: Its terminus has been sensitively reimagined as a striking wood-clad office complex.
Designed by Neutelings Riedijk Architects in collaboration with engineers Ney & Partners and consultants Bureau Bouwtechniek, the project introduces a 45,000-square-metre program into the railway station’s cavernous – and meticulously preserved – 1907 shell. In a building measuring 140 metres wide and 280 metres long, the designers opted for an open, modular layout that creates a sort of city in miniature within Gare Maritime.
It’s a city of CLT. The complex utilizes cross-laminated timber throughout, the railway hall’s interiors defined by a rigorously simple and unified materiality. From walls and ceilings to stairways and interior windowpanes, the interplay of CLT and oak accents fosters a cohesive visual identity and a sense of warmth.
The designers preserved the original station’s three grand halls, lining both sides of each with a series of CLT structures housing new offices. Fabricated from modular components, the interior spaces can easily be re-configured to suit the evolving needs of tenants; which is likely to prove a boon in the pandemic era. Slightly taller CLT pavilions also bookend some corridors. The centre of each hall, however, is left open, allowing the spaces to host gatherings while maintaining an airy ambiance.
Designed by landscape architects OMGEVING, lush, tree-lined gardens meet the corridors with a vivid presence. Complemented by the expansive windows and the deftly articulated CLT facades of the offices, the landscape architecture lends the halls the feeling of an urban promenade. The pedestrian experience thus echoes the feel of a commercial street, one that invites window shopping, by creating a connection between passerby and individual offices.
For employees, meanwhile, the floor-to-ceiling windows flood offices with ample natural light, making for an inward-facing complex that feels open to the world.
Reimagined as a boutique office hub and marquee event venue, the new Gare Maritime is elevated by its bold CLT interior.