CONSERVATION OF CULTURAL HERITAGE AND REUSE OF MATERIALS
Sustainability is a general umbrella term that covers many aspects. This is also the case for the project Montagne du Parc | Warandeberg, our new headquarters. In this newsletter, we zoom in on the dismantling and the demolition as well as on the question “how to deal with cultural heritage?”.
The key of our approach is to create added val- ue and not to lose the cultural heritage of the Montagne du Parc building. Furthermore, it also concerns the traceable distribution of the quali- tative interior elements and decoration in view of high-qualitative reuse.
THE LEGACY OF WABBES AND GEVERS
During the 60’s, the then Generale Bank contracted the interior design of their company headquarters to two renowned designers.
Jules Wabbes (Brussels, 1919-1974) designed the large entrance halls, the counter area, the strongroom and the two management floors; it would be his last-ever commission. His contem- porary, Christophe Gevers (Antwerp, 1928-2007) was assigned the decoration of the company’s restaurant.
Sleek, clean lines are predominant in Wabbes’ designs. To reflect the soundness of the bank, he chose high-quality but sober materials such as Italian granite for the paving and walls, and bronze and brass for the door handles and frames: a variety of precious materials and puri- fied forms, meant to last.
The strong room is a total concept. The rough granite walls contrast with the smooth fish scales ceiling in golden aluminium, reflected by the polished granite floor. Also light fittings, furniture and accessories such as desk lamps, coat hangers and ashtrays, bear his signature. The result is a timeless and monumental area: seemingly intend- ed as a sanctuary. The strong room is fully pre- served and made accessible by the new building.
Christophe Gevers’ three star restaurant includes a cloakroom, five eating areas, a stand- ing and sitting cafeteria and a salon. The flooring and ceiling finishes as well as the furniture form a coherent whole. The wooden on edge flooring and long V-shaped ceiling elements in light oak provide warm accents. Spatial structures in bam- boo and sculptures in steel and stone divide the space into smaller units. The cloakroom consists of bunches of stylised steel trees.
SUSTAINABILITY AS A STARTING POINT
What is the best way to deal with the valuable elements of the interior?
Together with the “Cel Patrimonium van de stad Brussel” (Heritage department of the city of Brussels), the Regional Office Monuments and Sites and DOCOMOMO1, BNP Paribas Fortis decided that reuse is the best choice. A museum arrangement or storing in a deposit does less jus- tice to this portfolio.
This choice fits the strong sustainable attitude BNP Paribas Fortis has taken in the subsequent phases of the project: from the start SUM Projects was commissioned to make a historical study of the site so that the new building is appropriate for the site. The programme of requirements requests a “passive house”-standard and a BREEAM certification for the building. On site, the focus is on the management of material flows and on a sustainable site organisation. These lat- ter two topics will be zoomed in a little further.
For the management of the evacuation and recy- cling of materials, thorough analysis and metic- ulous monitoring are needed. A sustainable attitude in four actions:
1. Conservation and upgrading of landscape elements
Together with Brussels Environment (IBGE) it was agreed to retain and revalue valuable landscape elements, such as the camellia bushes and the big magnolia tree in the inner courtyard. Camellias have since found their new location in Brussels parks: in Abbé Froidure and Tenboch (Ixelles) and at the Cinquantenaire. The replanting of the mag- nolia occurs in two stages: last winter (2014) the root branches were shortened to prepare for the transplantation next winter, no obvious challenge
3 for the city’s Parks and Gardens Department.
2. Traceability of materials
In response to the concerns of the bank to trace the recovered interiors and materials, DOCOMOMO suggested the designers collec- tive Rotor2 as a unique partner. Rotor has assisted the bank in a judicious and professional manner to carefully disassemble the interior elements, but above all to find new interesting destinations and partners so that the materials from the old building are given a second life.
Together with Rotor a methodology was out- lined. The potentially interesting interior ele- ments and materials were identified, measured and inventoried within different material batch- es. There is 2.000 square meters of black gran- ite; 1,650 square meters of white granite. Ceiling diffusers in 70s style cover everything together about 6000 square meters. Obviously this is far more than the bank can conserve. At first, we looked to incorporate these materials into other banking projects. After, an agreement with Rotor was made, the bank “donated” the materials in exchange for careful disassembly and the find- ing of interesting repurposing according to the agreed methodology.
Wabbes’ furniture remains of course property of the bank; they are part of the “Art Collection” of the bank. A sort of DNA map is drawn with the defining elements (ceiling grids, door units) and accessories (door handles, pictogrammes). Rotor has carefully dismantled these elements, packed and stored them for the bank, so they can be studied, rebuilt and even reproduced in the future.
Research for the reuse of the fixed interior ele- ments happened in three steps: at first the search focused on a new use in the context of public and / or cultural projects in Belgium. Wabbes’ golden ceiling grids were given a new life in the new public library of Woluwe Saint-Pierre. Sec- ondly, Belgian museums and public collections were contacted that might be interested to incor- porate some features in their collection. Thirdly, a number of players from the commercial circuit are consulted with a priority for collectors and galleries. An auction sale through the specialised auction house Cornette de Saint Cyr in Brussels is being initiated.
Both the design value and the soundness of the Gevers interior makes it feasible to also find inter- esting repurposing. The same approach as for Wabbes is being implemented. The Gevers col- lection concerns a substantial number of furniture and furnishing elements, and is being divided into two lots. A first important lot was carefully dismantled and stored in anticipation of a possi- ble recovery in the new project. A second lot is being offered through Rotor to third parties. The cappuccino bar has been fully integrated in the interior of the Cultural Center of Namur.
3. A second life for office furniture
The ordinary office furniture was offered through an internal organised sales, really appreciated by the staff, whose proceeds went entirely to a recy- cling charity Televil.
4. Demolition waste recycling
In the context of the intended “BREEAM” certif- icate a waste management plan was drawn up. The tender specifications for the on-going dis- mantling/decommissioning works mentions spe- cific durability requirements. Agreements with the contractor include arrangements related to the evacuation, sorting and recycling of demo- lition materials. The contractor has committed himself to either reuse the materials, recycle or burn them for energy gain.