The project of "Les Brigittines" was made possible thanks to the will of the Brussels municipality to develop the area around the railway station of "Bruxelles Chapelle" into a cultural hub which would be in line with the urban renewal project of Recylart.
The chapel of Brigittines had a rich history. The demolitions in the 1950’s followed by the construction of the railway link "Nord-Midi" left the chapel as one of the few remains of the original urban fabric. By 1976 the historical chapel was already being used as a culture forum and in 1997 it became the beating heart of the NPO Les Brigittines, the contemporary centre for movement arts. In order to be able to respond to the increasing functional and artistic needs of the users, the municipality decided to launch an architecture competition for the extension of the building. This competition was won by the team of the Italian architect Andrea Bruno in collaboration with SumProject (called Groep Planning at that time).
Andrea Bruno and SumProject have chosen to leave the existing chapel, which is listed as a monument, untouched. The chapel became an "empty" multifunctional space for performances. All the support services were moved to a new adjacent volume. The extension was designed with the same volumetry as the original chapel, as if it were its contemporary clone. Within highly fragmented urban fabric this new building emerges as a guardian angel towards the fragile baroque building.
The new volume hosts the reception rooms for the public, a restaurant, offices, a small theatre for 100 spectators, a repetition room, a residence for artists as well as all technical facilities for both buildings.
The connection between two buildings was essential within this concept: subtle, like a seam between two eras. A glass slice, separating two volumes, hosts a monumental staircase and the elevator. This interspace generates a dialogue between the chapel of the 17th century and the new, definitely 21st century, extension. The modulation and the choice of materials for the façade refer to the existing chapel, although with a contemporary twist. The warm red Corten steel refers to the red bricks while the blinking stainless steel casing and the glass panes are reminiscence of the decorative strips and ornaments in sandstone of the existing façade.
On the 20th of August 2007 the project of "Les Brigittines" was opened to the public. From that day on the Arts Centre can rely on a clear, distinct base in this quickly evolving neighbourhood.
Client: Brussels Municipality
Concept: Studio Andrea Bruno - SumProject
In collaboration with: Ney & Partners sa (structural engineering), G.E.I. sa (HVAC), Venac (acoustics)