We had to convince the client to go with something that did not yet exist

that untreated zinc has (as seen on some of the downpipes on buildings on the develop- ment). The original choice of the architects was aluminium however, with the idea being to reuse recycled aluminium from aeroplanes, but this proved too costly in the event according to Poptcheva. In addition, she says, “we wanted something that was brilliant, but not too much, something that was natural, and something that would reflect light.” The architect says the client also had to be persuaded a more subtle variant was a good idea: “They wanted something much shinier because it’s a commercial development, but architecture makes people love the place because of the light, form and materials; you don’t have to have light and music everywhere.” Another thing in zinc’s favour was that it is fully recyclable, and with roughly around 20 per cent recycled content typically.

The choice of the new VMZinc panel largely came down to aesthetics in the end, says Poptcheva: “We were looking for a texture that was matte, heterogeneous and luminous. The bright and naturally pre-weathered aspect of this product is reminiscent of Parisian roofs.” There is 7000 m2

of office space within PROJECT FACTFILE

Client: Equilis Architect: Art & Build Zinc installation: Jacobs & Sohn Surface area (entire project): 61,000 m2 Opened: October 2016 Surface area of zinc installed: 6,650 m2 Engineer: TPF Contractors: BPC, BESIX Project manager: ABSSIS

The fact that architect, manufacturer and client were willing to go ahead with the new panel months before its official launch speaks volumes for the close collab- oration and trust between the parties involved on the project. “We had to work closely together,” says Phillipe Gustin, area sales manager, Benelux and UK at VMZinc, “the product’s materiality was right for the designers, but it was difficult to convince the developer it was the right product for them.” Poptcheva adds: “It’s not very easy for someone investing so much into such a big project to just say “we’re with you.” She adds: “We had to convince the client to go with something that did not yet exist.”

A subtler shine

The flat lock panels are made from natural zinc that has undergone a physical and chemical treatment to provide a slightly engraved look, softening some of the shine


the development, including the Belgian headquarters of French food brand Danone occupying the contrasting square building at the corner of the site, bookending the main pedestrian thoroughfare.

This is another showcase for the aesthetic possibilities of metal, being clad in an filigree white steel brise soleil structure which like the zinc extends inside to connect inside and out.

The new development has transformed what was a downtrodden and neglected part of the city and given it a new life and entrance point, its contrasting building forms central to this vitality. However, the former buildings on the site have not been forgotten. The ghosts of Godin’s warehouses are present, with engraved metal strips running, often at unexpected angles, across the new external and internal paving, marking their original perimeters. Docks Bruxsel looks both back and forwards, with time-honoured cladding materials married to cutting-edge design. 


© Georges de Kinder

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