OLD BREW, a palimpsestic approach from brewing, BE

Despite the expansion strategy for their head office being planned since 2000, nobody imagined that the Duvel-Moortgat Group would undergo such a meteoric rise. Keen to maximise the use of the current space, the company had brought us on board in 2010. This involvement segued into the responsibility for identifying a suitable site for a new office block.

Almost immediately we settled on the Old Brew House site. Firstly, due to its proximity to the existing buildings, and secondly, because permission for a change of use could be easily sought. Preliminary work was carried out on the basis that the existing building would be demolished to make space for a new one. However, we quickly got starry-eyed about the historic nature of the building, and its demolition would have meant the new building would actually have had less space. We’re architects, so space won.

Despite the expansion strategy for their head office being planned since 2000, nobody imagined that the Duvel-Moortgat Group would undergo such a meteoric rise. Keen to maximise the use of the current space, the company had brought us on board in 2010. This involvement segued into the responsibility for identifying a suitable site for a new office block.

Almost immediately we settled on the Old Brew House site. Firstly, due to its proximity to the existing buildings, and secondly, because permission for a change of use could be easily sought. Preliminary work was carried out on the basis that the existing building would be demolished to make space for a new one. However, we quickly got starry-eyed about the historic nature of the building, and its demolition would have meant the new building would actually have had less space. We’re architects, so space won.

A more detailed study showed that the structure of this former brewery could conveniently house offices without major structural changes. We therefore proceeded with this more flexible option of reshaping the existing building. Located in a residential street in the middle of a small village between Brussels and Antwerp, the former brewhouse is woven into the social fabric and history of the area. The appearance of the exterior has been preserved, albeit brought up to current energy efficiency standards. Inside, historic features have been retained wherever possible. Concrete structural elements and tiles have been kept, and changes have been kept to a minimum, except where necessary for environmental or technical reasons.

The whole stands as a monument to industrial architecture, which gives the building a real presence linked to tradition and continuity.

In order to bring together all the circulation spaces and technical areas we have added a section that is simultaneously monolithic and lightweight. Its intangible nature is reinforced by the use of various shades of white and its simple contemporary design facilitates the transition between tradition and future generations. Outside, an ever-so-slightly elevated footbridge creates a fluid link to the brewery's head office which is located just a few metres away.