ORG Permanent Modernity

Monument for an open society

15th International Architecture Exhibition
la Biennale di Venezia
May 28th-November 27th 2016

The Brussels architecture and urban design office ORG Permanent Modernity will contribute this year to the main exhibition of the Architecture Biennale of Venice. Under the title "Reporting from the front", the curator of the Biennale, the Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena, aims at showcasing architecture projects that, by balancing intelligence and intuition, are able to escape the status quo, projects that, despite the scarcity of means, intensify what is available and subvert the forces that privilege the individual gain over the collective benefit. The masterplan for the Abattoirs in Anderlecht and the new mixed-use market recently built by ORG have been selected to be part of these exemplary cases. In an economy of means, the project gives form to new spaces for coexistence and supports multiple appropriations, as a monument for an open society.

The Abattoir 2020 Masterplan develops an urban and architectural strategy for the conversion of an industrial slaughterhouse district into a mixed urban environment. The district is located in the immigrant neighborhood of Kuregem very close to the city center. The district is vibrant but lacks formal public services and economic opportunities. The plan seeks to renew the historical civic importance of the industrial quarter by energizing pre-existing meat market industries, renovating the public plaza, reconnecting hitherto fragmented neighborhoods, and creating space for further productive landscapes.

While guiding and designing the district redevelopment for more than 8 years, ORG engaged the neighborhood to build consensus; created a ‘quality chamber’ to review ongoing work; analyzed and modeled economic implications; and developed a sequence of pilot projects where each investment triggered the opening up of a subsequent site, thus allowing for a domino-effect of implementation.

Urban design matters when it gets built. The first market building was completed in June 2015. The project includes industrial meat production, various rentable market stall options, logistics and parking spaces, and a commercial farm of 4000 m2 on the roof, with adjacent retail including a farm-to-table restaurant. The mixed-use market is built with a consistent architectural language: large precast concrete panels. The panels form over-dimensioned porticoes that are able to be combined in different ways.

The panels are made from a diverse set of simple post and lintel members, which are cast flat in reinforced concrete, and lifted into place to form porticoes. Big cutouts of platonic forms give an identity to the concrete elements. This operation changed the porticoes from a post-beam structure to simple abstract planes, from a functional engineering answer to an poly-interpretable architectural proposal. The over-dimensioned porticoes create dozens of large identical rooms, each connected with every adjacent one, on an open grid or stacked vertically, which can accommodate almost any use. The platonic panels combine to create contemporary urban warehouses – buildings that have a clear urban form, but no predefined content. The combination of these structures creates an environment with a civic presence. Market life is celebrated, monumental, and given generous new spaces.

In Venice, along the main dock of the Arsenale, ORG proposes a physical experience of their architecture: models and sound installations will be hosted under as set of full scale concrete porticoes, temporarily linking Anderlecht with the Venetian lagoon.