Embracing Uncertainty
Jonathan Burkard
Marlene Koßman
Pola Machinska

Felix Schröder

The social housing block "Rue Haute" is situated within the city centre of Brussels, in the Marolles district. It is part of the Brussels SLRB - BHGM social housing company. Close to the Metro and Tram station of Port de Hal, Midi/South station, it neighbours the Hospital Saint-Pierre as well as the Cité Hellemans housing complex, and embedded within the divers social infrastructures of the Marolles. 
The ensemble of the “Foyer Bruxellois”, together with the Cité Hellemans, is part of an original masterplan conceived by Charles van Nueten. It was envisioned to have additions to only a few existing buildings, almost a tabula rasa of the previous housing structures and alleyways within the block. Compared to the situation around 1930, major reshaping of the site began in the 1950s - a series of 3 courtyards were planned, each marked by new building blocks on all sides, with circulations for cars connecting to the surrounding streets. 

Several existing buildings and structures of the site are critically damaged, such as the garage or tower B2. Therefore some parts have to be demolished, while for some building blocks renovation works in the near future would be required. Occupancy rates vary, some buildings being completely vacant nowadays.
This creates interesting interdependencies within the site, since some of the structures, bound to be demolished, are still occupied by residents, while others are vacant but can still be renovated and used.

It is clear today that the original masterplan never got built in the way that it was originally planned. The urban fabric is always evolving, and history shows us the complexity and uncertainty of any future developments.
Together with the chronological matrix of possible transformations, and knowing that programs and constructions can change over time, we realise that there is no possibility to draw out another new masterplan.
Instead, we are    EMBRACING UNCERTAINTY      in order to tackle the ever changing processes and demands, establishing long term resilience at the Rue Haute site.


Site Office:
We need a catalyst that can start the dialogue between the necessary interventions in terms of architecture, and which can fulfill programmatic needs of the inhabitants and the neighborhood.
In this case, a Site Office is established in the ground floor of B2, serving both the involved planners, as well as the current or future residents and users as a space to mediate plans, negotiate programs, exchange ideas, thus creating a pivot point for the community.
The site office, a catalyst for social interactions and negotiations representing the inhabitants as well as planners will be set up in the ground floor level if the high rise. It’s location next to entrances initiates participatory processes and allows inhabitants to take action and spend time there.
Cutouts for greenery, additional openings, new as well as existing structures, conversions: Each chapter is full of precisely planned interventions to improve spatial and social qualities shaping a framework with enough flexibility to be transformed and adapted within time and process
The former garage, dark, impersonal and outdated will transform into a bright new public space with individual qualities for inhabitants. The approach of precise adaptions allows to jump into a human, detailed scale within an urban size project. ​​​​​​​

Housing Renovation:
In light of the climate and environmental crisis, simply demolishing all structures and erecting new buildings, is not an option. Re-use and refurbishment, working with the existing, becomes strictly necessary.
By renovating certain buildings, improving them with minimal interventions, exchanging parts, we draw up a catalogue of reusable pieces and materials.
Whenever possible, the existing concrete column and slab structures are worth saving. By changing only parts of the glazed facade, insulating it, and removing a few interior walls, the apartments of B3 and PHIL10 for example receive new qualities. Simultaneously, they are adapted to the new programmatic and typological needs of the social housing company.
Based on the proportions of the existing tiles, little modifications create additional qualities for the inhabitants. A new french window transforms inside to outside, maximizing the incidence of light coming in.  A new thermal, functional layer contains a flexible construction to simply (re)assemble tiles for renovation works if necessary.
The new layout of the apartments activates the full potential of the space creating generous flats with a new orientation two both sides of the facade. All this happens with a small amount of precise operations. 

Chapter III

The Garden:
Defined by the structure of the former garage, a new connection between both street levels invites inhabitants as well as passing citizens to stay and enjoy the garden. Sensible modifications of the existing structure ensure a respectful approach defining diverse zones and uses. The strategy allows the space to react and adapt to different circumstances and requirements that appear over time.
Two levels of diverse, informal spaces serve different requirements. The school’s folding facade opens up in direction of the garden allowing interaction between both spaces. The roof, shaped by the former garage, serves as a green, communal space for the inhabitants.
The sensible interventions create a new, qualitative space for the inhabitants as well as for the public. The old, anonymous dead end becomes a new address for the site representing its progressive approach. 

The Hut:
The huts are funcitoning as a counterpart to the school. The light, wooden ske-letton structure can be set up in a short time in order to ensure flexibility in terms of use and structure. It's functioning as a toolbox for the garden: A cabinet for equipment, a cafe and an additional roofed space can be serviced by the inhabitants to ensure a collective responsibility for the outdoor spaces.
If needed, the structure can be easily removed and reassembled somewhere else on site.

Secondary school:
The secondary school for carpentry will take place under the former, functioning roof of the garage. Six meters high ceilings allow workshops to find enough space. Wooden, folding lightweight walls seperate the spaces. The red coloured flooring of the former garage builts a perfect base for a workshop and will be therefore brought back to life.
Big folding doors in between the columns can simply be pushed aside to connect with the outdoor garden spaces.