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Urban building block, Molenbeek 2011-2012

Design for the Bachelor thesis during the whole 3rd Bachelor. It was split up in 3 phases; a masterplan, the detailed design and the construction detailing. Phase one is designed in a group of 4: Zervas Anna, Timmers Charlotte, Engels Christine and myself. The second phase is designed in a group of 2: Zervas Anna and myself.  And the third phase was individually conducted. 


Phase 1: Masterplan


For the first phase we had to deal with some restrictions regarding the surroundings. The building block is located in a dense residential area on the one hand and on the other hand close to industrial areas. Regarding public transportation, this location is superb, since there is a train station, bus station and a tram station in the close surroundings. 


Besides contextual restrictions, there are other conditions to be fulfilled like a certain number of flats, a maximum size of the flat, all demands regarding social housing, ecological design, diversity in flats, etc. 


After a thorough urban analysis and reading, we started experimenting with several shapes by carving out and building up until we decided that the shape of a traditional building block makes the optimal ratio between volume and exterior surface combined with collective (non-public) space. Nevertheless, this shape needs numerous transformations to meet the existing conditions and our own objectives like enough open space for the inhabitants of the residence on the one hand, and the surrounding inhabitants on the other hand, an optimal sunlighting inside and outside, a market square and a public square. It seemed very important not to isolate the project from the surroundings but to also return some values to the neighbours. 

To open up the building block, giving it more air, the staircases were designed to be outdoors but covered. 


Parallel with designing the general shape, the different kinds of flats were determined on a basic level. Depending on their location (on the ground floor, in the north, in the south, along the main road, along the residential road,...) types like a duplex, triplex, simplex, with a through room, studios, ... were considered. 


Phase 2: detailed design


In this phase we focused on the northern part of the building block to design it more in detail focussing on social housing conditions, economic constructions, ecological design and esthetical perceptions. 


The public space on the north side is further developed towards a meeting place for all the neighbours. 

The central courtyard is designed as a collective garden with several elements such as a water wall, a paved terrace, a kitchen garden, etc.


The facades are designed as rythmic yet playful thanks to the chosen shading system and the horizontality and the vertical intersections by the stair cases. The galleries provide social interaction with the neighbours and with the street. 


Different dwelling types are developed, going from social standards to more luxurous versions. For all of them the economic aspects as well as the ecological aspects are taken into account. For example, the construction is designed to be as simple as possible but still allowing a lot of diversity and playfulness in the design. And sunlighting is always taken into account by reducing the section width from north to south for every dwelling, allowing maximum sunlight penetration. 

Phase 3: construction detailing


Since the general construction is designed to be as economic as possible, the main building joints can be summerized in 5 different joints, seen in 1 section. 


For the whole construction, all thermal and accoustic conditions are taken into account. For that, the materials are carefully chosen, taking into account their properties in order to maintain the optimal values.

© Charlotte Dhollander 

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