JAJA Study trip: An architectural mini guide to Brussels and beyond
We’ve just got back from Brussels after an inspiring study trip! Our trip to the Belgian Capital was full of highlights and we would like to give a big thank you to all the incredible architecture studios that generously hosted us, either through engaging presentations or by opening the doors to their amazing offices.
Here is what we did!
We started off by visiting BC Architects/BC Materials where the co-founder Ken showed us around in their material bank/workshop area right next to their office. BC Architects specializes in the transformation of excavated earth—typically labelled as ‘waste’—into building materials, all without the need for incineration. Witnessing BC’s commitment to effecting change through the materials we construct was truly inspiring and commendable.
Following our visit to BC, we hopped on a tram to reach 51N4E‘s splendid office building. The team at 51N4E provided us with a presentation on their work, particularly their expertise in transformation processes and projects that showcase their innovative approach.
Next on our agenda was “The Cosmopolitan,” an enchanting transformation project by &Bogdan. Here we were given a site presentation by the project leader and co-founder, Leo. The building, nestled among historic warehouses and adjacent to the Royal Flemish Theatre, was once a ’60s office tower and has now metamorphosed into a versatile mixed-use complex comprising 130 units of various sizes, from smart studios to spacious three-bedroom apartments.
We then boarded a bus to reach the Karreveld School – another inspiring transformation project. What was once an office building is now a school full of life with a beautiful load bearing façade and a raw interior. We were lucky to have a great presentation by Agwa Architects, the skilled belgian office behind the transformation project.
The last stop was Molenwest Square by 1010AU. Collaborating with local associations, the Brussels Region aims to provide a range of activities for children and teenagers in the Weststation Neighbourhood. 1010AU designed the portable infrastructure that gives a roof to these associations for the years to come.
At Molenwest Square, we explored urban spaces and sports facilities for the local community, followed by an enlightening presentation by the project’s dedicated volunteer. An inspiring project in many ways!
Thursday – Mobility Day in Ghent
Thursday morning saw us embark on a train journey to Ghent, a city renowned for its innovative mobility planning, complete with traffic islands and extensive cycling infrastructure. Naturally, we chose to explore the city by bike.
Our first stop was the Market Hall by Robbrecht en Daem. This colossal structure provides a grand shelter, nestled between the gothic structures of a church and belfry in the heart of the city. Here, visitors leisurely gathered or enjoyed the tunes of a piano placed at the centre of the hall.
Afterwards we visited Robbrecht en Daem where the founding partner Paul Robbrecht showed us around their amazing workspace. Situated in a once-neglected district of Ghent, now characterized by worker houses and high-rise apartment blocks, their former timberyard office space has undergone a remarkable transformation. Today, it accommodates an arboretum, a swimming pool, and a spacious outdoor area for performances, exhibitions, and various events.
After being enthralled by Robbrecht en Daem’s office, we took a break in the city centre to taste the finest Belgian Fritjes, known for their irresistible taste.
Post-lunch, we pedalled to the Melopee School, located in the harbour area. This architectural gem combines a primary school, after-school care centre, nursery, and sports facilities for both the school and its neighbourhood—a true testament to thoughtful design.
Afterwards we visited Robbrecht en Daem where the founding partner Paul Robbrecht showed us around their amazing workspace. Situated in a once-neglected district of Ghent, characterized by working-class houses and high-rise apartment blocks, their former timberyard office space has undergone a remarkable transformation. Today, it accommodates an arboretum, a swimming pool, and a spacious outdoor area for performances, exhibitions, and various events.
Returning to the city centre, we embarked on a boat tour, which afforded us panoramic views of the historic city centre. A great opportunity to have both grissini and prosecco!
Our Friday kicked off with a visit to Rotor DC—a fusion of an architecture studio and a building market. Rotor DC organizes the reuse of construction materials by dismantling, processing, and trading salvaged building components. Their ‘office’ was a treasure trove of unique materials, from doors to tiles and ceiling elements—an absolute must-visit when in Brussels.
Afterwards, we went to the European Council where Nielsine’s sister works. She gave us a fantastic tour of the building designed by Studio Valle Progettazioni. Here we received insights from the world of politics and got to see the famous round meeting rooms.
After an hour of political insights we headed towards Gare Maritime designed by Neutelings & Riedijk Architects – a huge market hall full of life, book markets, street food and offices. The building is a transformation of once Europe’s largest railway station and with its impressive size (45.000 m2) there was a lot to see! We were given a very interesting tour by Dieter, one of the leading forces behind the project.
Saturday we took the train back home with newfound knowledge and a deep appreciation for the inspiring architecture and design offices that took the time to show us around – Thank you!