Mediapark.brussels: award for temporary park initiated by SAU
The temporary park opened on the mediapark.brussels site last summer was among the projects honoured during the Matexi Awards ceremony on Thursday evening. The awards go to initiatives that strengthen solidarity among neighbours and contribute to the quality of life in local communities.
The Urban Development Corporation (sau-msi.brussels), which is steering the development of mediapark.brussels, initiated and coordinated the opening of the temporary park on part of this site in close consultation with the Brussels-Capital Region, the Schaerbeek Tenants’ Association, the municipality of Schaerbeek, the Foyer Schaerbeekois and VRT.
More information about the Matexi Awards: https://www.matexi-award.be/fr
Building and environmental permits issued for new VRT building
Work on the new building for the Flemish public broadcaster VRT will start in November. The planning permit having already been issued, the environmental permit was granted on Thursday for the construction of the future media centre. The project is part of the new mediapark.brussels on the Boulevard Reyers site, and the work will take four years in total.
Frederik Delaplace, CEO of VRT: ‘The new VRT centre will be the culmination of the innovation programme in which we are engaged here at the Flemish public broadcaster. In a few years’ time, the result will be a completely new VRT: a modern public broadcaster in a fresh, open building that encourages collaboration, innovation and connection.’
Frieda Brepoels, chair of VRT’s board of directors: ‘With its low-rise, horizontal design, the new building on Boulevard Reyers will stand out in an urban setting of residential towers and office buildings. This is precisely what will make it an inviting building for all Flemish people, without no surrounding fence and offering different views of our capital. Several exciting years of construction are coming up, and as a trained architect I am looking forward to that immensely.’
The VRT Morgen consortium submitted applications for the planning permit on 25 November 2021 and for the environmental permit on 1 July 2022. In June 2022, after a public enquiry, the planning permit was issued, leaving only the environmental permit outstanding. Now that the Brussels-Capital Region has also granted the environmental permit, work can actually start in November.
Work to start in November
Construction of the 65,000-square-metre new VRT building will start in November. The building will stand on the site behind the current VRT building, which will be demolished later on. In the horizontal building, which has a ground floor with a mezzanine and three upper floors, collaboration will be central. There will be room on the spacious work floors for places where VRT employees from the different departments can meet. Vegetation will feature prominently both in and around the new VRT centre, with five garden courtyards and 5,000 square metres of green space. Finally, the new building will be 100% free from fossil fuels. The well-insulated building envelope will minimise the need for heating, and neither natural gas nor fuel oil will be used, as the building will be heated entirely with geothermal energy and solar panels.
Benjamin Dalle, Flemish Media Minister: ‘Now that the construction of the new media centre can get started, our public broadcaster is taking another big step forward into the future. A modern media company deserves optimal infrastructure. On the legendary Boulevard Reyers, a sustainable media building that reflects the latest developments in the media world will take its place next to the familiar tower. It will also be a pleasant place for VRT employees and partners to work.’
Rudi Vervoort, Minister-President of the Brussels-Capital Region: ‘The urban project delineated by the Brussels Region for the current mediapark.brussels site will transform what is currently a very closed-off site into a new, open district built around a 9.5-hectare public park and the new VRT and RTBF headquarters. The Region plans to give this district a mixed character, with housing, shops, schools and businesses, meeting the needs of both the inhabitants of Brussels and commuters. At the economic level, the Region wants to use the presence of the two major broadcasters to stimulate the creation of a district entirely focused on the media and creative businesses. This is a priority for the image of Brussels, but also for employment.’
Pascal Smet, Secretary of State of the Brussels-Capital Region for Urban Development and Heritage: ‘The mediapark will become the media and creative hub in Belgium. VRT and RTBF will of course play a central role in the future of this lively media district and will attract a lot of audiovisual talent in their slipstream. The new VRT building’s open design symbolises this open, future-oriented vision directed towards the district and the city. At the Brussels Region we’ve been working very closely with VRT during the preparatory phase, and I’m convinced that Brussels and VRT will continue to make each other stronger in the future.’
The VRT Morgen consortium consists of the architecture firms OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen, Jaspers-Eyers Architects and Bureau Bas Smets. In addition to the architects, the consortium also includes engineering firms Tractebel and CES, and Ideal Acoustics, a builder of TV and radio studios. Construction companies Willemen Construct and Jan De Nul Group and construction technology group EEG complete the team.
Evenepoel Temporary Park: a little foretaste of mediapark.brussels
A temporary park area of more than one hectare will be open on the mediapark.brussels site and accessible via Rue Evenepoel from 15 June to 21 August, every Wednesday to Sunday between 2.30 pm and 9 pm. Local people will be able to go there to have a walk, relax or enjoy a picnic under the shade of the tall trees. Children can play there and teenagers can engage in sporting activity.
The Urban Development Corporation (sau-msi.brussels), which is steering the development of mediapark.brussels, is coordinating the opening of this temporary park on part of this site in close consultation with the following partners:
- the Region, which is partially funding the project;
- the Schaerbeek Tenants’ Association, which has hired the five activity leaders who will be present during opening hours;
- the municipality of Schaerbeek, which is jointly funding these recruitments and will be responsible for part of the programme of activities;
- the Foyer Schaerbeekois, which is also jointly funding the staff costs and will ensure a daily presence on site via its social officers;
- VRT, which has made the land available and will provide a night-time security service and keep the park clean.
As Regional Minister-President Rudi Vervoort explains, ‘This partial and temporary opening of mediapark.brussels reflects the desire of the Government of the Brussels-Capital Region to give access to more green spaces to people in Brussels, many of whom do not have a garden. In addition, this temporary park offers a kind of foretaste of the future green spaces that will ultimately be accessible to local residents elsewhere on the mediapark.brussels site and that will be linked to the surrounding districts by new traffic routes reserved for non-motorised and public transport. Instead of the current fenced-off site of the public TV broadcasters RTBF and VRT, the Region has given the SAU the task of creating a new district which is open to the city. Its various functions (new RTBF and VRT buildings, housing, businesses, shops, schools, nurseries, etc.) will be structured around some 9.5 hectares of open and wooded public spaces.’
Gilles Delforge, the director of the Urban Development Corporation, notes: ‘The SAU has created an entrance from Rue Henri Evenepoel to the temporary park area, behind the buildings of the Foyer Schaerbeekois, where it has installed some lightweight infrastructure: a picnic area, sports and leisure equipment, premises for activity leaders and so on. I would like to thank the partners who supported us when we put forward this idea for this location: the Brussels Region, the municipality of Schaerbeek, the Foyer Schaerbeekois, the Schaerbeek Tenants’ Association, VRT and RTBF. We have already tested this temporary park during the summer of 2021, but we restricted the circulation of information about its opening to the inhabitants of Rue Henri Evenepoel and Rue Jules Lebrun, primarily in order to ensure that the use of the park would not disturb the peace and quiet of residents living right next to it. As everything went well, we are repeating the experience this year, but advertising it more widely.’
‘For three months throughout the summer,’ adds the Mayor of Schaerbeek, Cécile Jodogne, ‘we will be running a range of activities available to a very varied public in our squares and parks in every district. For the second year, the temporary opening of this park is a real godsend for the inhabitants of the district, who will need to be patient as work starts in this part of the city in September.’
Anne Timmermans, General Director of the Foyer Schaerbeekois, comments: ‘Given the success of last summer, the Foyer Schaerbeekois is delighted to repeat this delightful project, which forges a link and goes beyond the simple relationship between owner and tenant. By working with the local residents, we are improving social cohesion and the quality of life for everyone.’
Quentin Charon, the coordinator of the Schaerbeek Tenants’ Association, adds: ‘The Schaerbeek Tenants’ Association, a non-profit organisation whose local roots were created through the development of the Reyers Social Cohesion Project, has taken the opportunity provided by the opening of the mediapark.brussels temporary park to hire an activities team that will bring this place to life during the summer of 2022. This project is all about a willingness to listen, a friendly social atmosphere and activities for young and old alike. The general idea is to work with the social tenants to ensure that their voices are heard in the context of the upcoming transformations of their neighbourhood.’
Official launch for Frame, the showcase for mediapark.brussels
The Minister-President of the Brussels-Capital Region, Rudi Vervoort, used a digger to officially launch construction work on the site of the Frame media centre, the future showcase of mediapark.brussels.
The Urban Development Corporation (sau-msi.brussels) is constructing the building with a gross floor space of 8,157 m² on seven levels (basement + ground floor + 5 storeys) at the corner of Boulevard Reyers and Rue Colonel Bourg, not far from the offices of RTBF and VRT. Built with the support of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), Frame will accommodate, among other things, the future headquarters of regional television channel BX1, a co-working space and a business centre dedicated to the media. The SAU expects to complete the building and welcome the first occupants in 2023.
At the site launch, Minister-President Rudi Vervoort stated, ‘The start of the construction of Frame is an important step in the development of mediapark.brussels. This urban project in the Brussels Region will transform the current closed-in site of the French-speaking and Flemish public TV broadcasters into a proper Brussels district. An open district, arranged around a large public park extending over 9.5 hectares and the future new headquarters of RTBF and VRT. A district that the Region has decided should be mixed in character, with housing, shops, schools and businesses to meet the needs of the people of Brussels. A district that is also focused on the media and the creative industries, because the Region is counting on the development of these sectors to contribute to its overall development. Frame will be one of the first buildings of mediapark.brussels to go up, and will be a flagship edifice in this new creative district of Brussels that the Region has planned. With the multiple operators, functions and services it will house, Frame will also be a kind of microcosm of mediapark.brussels in its own right, a showcase for the district. The creation of a media centre as a generator of employment in the Brussels Region has attracted nearly 16 million euros of support from the European Regional Development Fund and the Region for this future pillar of mediapark.brussels. The French Community Commission of Brussels has also provided nearly 4.5 million euros of support for the installation of BX1 within Frame.’
Gilles Delforge, director of the Urban Development Corporation (sau-msi.brussels), said he was ‘delighted at the launch of this project, which is an important step for the SAU in its two main missions. Frame will be an important early milestone for mediapark.brussels, the operational development of which the SAU is ensuring in its steering role in connection with major regional urban development projects. At the same time, it will be the first of the diverse range of regional public facilities (including a museum, a concert hall, fire stations and sports facilities) that it will create in the years ahead. Besides being a showcase for mediapark.brussels, Frame will also be a showcase for Belgian architecture and construction. The architects at Baukunst, together with their partners at Bruther and the entire design team, have come up with an innovative building, designed to adapt to the fast-changing world of the media, and the contractors BAM Interbuild and Groven+ will need to make full use of their expertise to construct it.’
Maroun Labaki, Chair of the Board of Directors of BX1: ‘Frame is the symbol – and will be the tool – of all our ambitions. We have ambitions for ourselves, of course, as a regional public media operator: we want to serve everyone in Brussels even better by adapting to the new ways in which people consume information. And we also have ambitions for Brussels, which we love passionately. Brussels must remain itself, but at the same time grow in its wonderful diversity, its traditions and its boldness, including as the capital of Belgium and of Europe – as the capital of Europeans and of European values.’
The SAU chose the building’s name in consultation with several players in the Brussels media sector, including BX1. Frame (Brussels media community) refers to the framework that the building will provide for the development of a media-oriented ecosystem; to the shape and structure of its main façade; to the window onto mediapark.brussels that it will be; to the camera frame in visual media; and to the frame in web design.
mediapark.brussels: the urban project modified following the public enquiry and now with greater ambitions
On 17 June 2021, the Brussels Government approved the various modifications to the urban development masterplan (PAD) for the mediapark.brussels site, in response to the 2019 public enquiry and the opinions of the authorities and municipalities consulted in this context. There are two main principles guiding the changes to the plan: an increase in the proportion reserved for public spaces and a decrease in the density of buildings - in terms of both size and density.
The revised project will be submitted to a public inquiry by the end of the year. The Government has instructed perspective.brussels to make the necessary changes.
In 2017, the Brussels Region signed the deeds for the acquisition of the "Reyers" land belonging to RTBF and VRT. The "mediapark.brussels" urban project proposes the redevelopment of the site owned by public television stations VRT and RTBF into a mixed media district. Opening up this urban enclave to the city will bring new qualities to the district, such as a large public park, affordable housing and local facilities and shops.
The Government did not question the original objectives of the project. The arbitration process made it possible to readjust them following the participatory phase of the public inquiry:
- develop a new open urban park for the entire Reyers district. The original park covering over 8 ha will be further extended by 1.5 ha by removing 3 building zones in the south-east of the plan and further preserving the existing woodland.
- build accessible housing. The project will now propose the construction of approximately 1,600 housing units in a less dense setting
- create a new mixed district with local facilities and services (nurseries, schools, shops, etc.) to meet the needs of existing and future resident
- provide space for new innovative job-creating companies, colleges and public facilities related to the media sector.
In pursuing these objectives, the mediapark.brussels urban project remains in line with the environmental and social ambitions of the Brussels Government to create ambitious, sustainable and inclusive urban development.
VRT presents its future new headquarters
VRT presented the architectural plans for its future new headquarters on Monday. They show a four-storey horizontal structure that will be integrated into the natural environment of the Reyers site, behind VRT’s current building. The building should be ready in summer 2026.
The VRT states on its website that its new headquarters, with a floor space of 65,000 square metres, is a building with two stacked volumes. The first volume includes a spacious foyer, meeting places for employees and visitors, and three large television studios. On top of this sits the second volume consisting of three floors.’
‘We’ve opted for a horizontal building that encourages a new way of working together and breaks down the barriers between our departments,’ explains VRT’s CEO Frederik Delaplace on its website. Our people will literally work together on large work platforms, allowing them to respond flexibly to the changing nature of the media in the coming decades.’
The new VRT headquarters will be built next to the new RTBF headquarters, construction of which is in progress. The two buildings will form the pillars of mediapark.brussels, together with the Frame media centre, work on which has just been initiated by the Urban Development Corporation (SAU).
Landscape architect Bas Smets from Bureau Bas Smets specifies on the Flemish public broadcaster’s website that ‘The building is constructed around five large interior gardens which are accessible from the workspaces. The building has been cleverly positioned on the site to preserve as many of the large trees growing in the park as possible. As a result, the building simultaneously offers views of the existing public park and glimpses of the intimate gardens inside.’
Architect David Van Severen from the firm Office Kersten Geers David Van Severen adds that ‘The building’s gardens and the majestic trees that surround it create a completely new and inspiring environment.’
VRT also states on its website that ‘The contract has been awarded to a construction team. By involving contractors in the design from the start, VRT is seeking to avoid problems that arose before. In November 2019, the Flemish public broadcaster stopped working with the consortium of architects and engineers that had previously been selected, when it became clear that the project could not be completed within budget.’
The new plans must be implemented within the budget of 133.5 million euros. The planning application is being drawn up. VRT’s objective is to move in from the summer of 2026.
Details and video: www.vrt.be/vrtnws/fr/
Architecture firm Bruther, co-designer of Frame, wins Swiss Architectural Award
The Paris-based architecture firm Bruther, founded by Stéphanie Bru and Alexandre Theriot, has won the seventh Swiss Architectural Award. Bruther is one of the co-designers, along with the Brussels-based Baukunst, of the FRAME media centre, the future showcase for mediapark.brussels, for which the SAU is acting as a project manager. Planning permission for Frame was granted in April.
SAU seeks team to consider the conversion of Reyers Tower
The RTBF and VRT transmission tower’s construction in 1979 was a feat of architectural engineering, and the structure has been an iconic landmark in the Brussels cityscape for over 40 years. With its circular saucer 34 metres across and 16 metres deep placed on a central pillar 73 metres high, it has a total height of 89 metres.
However, technological developments mean that it is no longer required for its original purpose. The Urban Development Corporation (SAU), which is coordinating the development of mediapark.brussels around the future new RTBF and VRT headquarters, is therefore launching a call for expressions of interest in conjunction with the Region’s Chief Architect, with a view to appointing an architectural team to consider the conversion of Reyers Tower.
Mission details, timing, conditions, etc.: https://bma.brussels/en/2020/06/11/call-reyers/
SAU obtains planning permission for FRAME, the showcase for mediapark.brussels
The Urban Development Corporation (SAU) has obtained planning permission for the construction of the FRAME building, the future showcase for mediapark.brussels.
Gilles Delforge, the director of the SAU, underlines that ‘This is an important step in the development of mediapark.brussels, where Frame will be one of the first new structures. Because of its location, at the corner of Boulevard Reyers and Rue Colonel Bourg in Schaerbeek, it will also be a flagship building in this new creative Brussels district dedicated to the media. Given the integration of various operators and multiple functions and services within the same building, it will also be a kind of “miniature mediapark.brussels” – a showcase for the new district.’
The new construction plans represent a gross area of around 9,000 m², and will be financed by the Brussels-Capital Region and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The SAU plans to start work in 2021. The building should be finished and ready for its occupants to move in by 2023.
An ecosystem building for BX1, the IHECS Academy and others
The name chosen for the building by the SAU and the main future occupants, Frame - Brussels media community, refers to the ‘framework’ provided by the building for the development of a media-oriented ecosystem. It also alludes to the shape and structure of its main façade looking towards Diamant; to the ‘window’ onto mediapark.brussels that it will be; to the camera frame in visual media; and to the frame in web design.
The building will contain a multifunctional ecosystem – a microcosm of what mediapark.brussels will ultimately be like. Among other things, it will house the Region’s French-language TV channel BX1, the IHECS Academy (the centre for continuing training attached to the Institute for Higher Social Communication Studies), screen.brussels, an innovation platform, various shared facilities and an auditorium.
Regional ambitions for architecture and the media
‘Having demolished the Reyers viaduct and transformed public spaces, we are now working to stabilise and develop the media activity that’s essential to our Region’s economic development. With Frame we are providing a multi-purpose building that’s also a showcase for the sector. The Baukunst (Brussels) - Bruther (Paris) consortium of architecture firms was eventually selected following the call for project designers organised by the SAU in 2017. The architectural competition elicited great interest: the SAU received 51 applications, proving that Brussels is of interest to architects all over the world,’ commented Pascal Smet, the Brussels Region’s Secretary of State for Urban Development.
The Minister-President of Brussels, Rudi Vervoort, welcomed the obtaining of planning permission, ‘because Frame reflects the Brussels-Capital Region’s determination to reinforce its media and communication ecosystem in the Brussels region. FRAME represents the first milestone in the development of a pioneering project which will both boost the local area’s attractiveness and offer a habitat for start-ups and developing businesses. In this new creative district, the Region will gradually develop 2,000 to 2,500 new homes, local amenities and an 8-hectare park, representing a total built area of more than 300,000 m² which will be connected to neighbouring districts.’
Permission granted for new RTBF headquarters
An important step in the development of mediapark.brussels has just been taken. The office of the Brussels Region’s Secretary of State for Urban Development, Pascal Smet, has confirmed that planning permission has been granted for the future RTBF headquarters.
The 38,0002 building will be located to the rear of those currently occupied by RTBF and VRT on Boulevard Reyers, and hence at the heart of the brand-new diverse district mediapark.brussels.
The six-storey square building will be fitted with equipment and infrastructure in line with current media requirements. Jean-Paul Philippot, the general director of RTBF, has commented on this on the public broadcaster’s website: ‘The construction of this new Mediasquare building will give RTBF a new working tool whose durability and modularity make it effective. Its architecture will place a strong emphasis on glazed spaces and demonstrate our desire for openness. The ergonomic, user-friendly, well-lit environment will promote exchange, cooperation and creativity within the organisation. The important technical equipment component and the implementation of a new IT infrastructure will ensure that the production capacity is 100% digital.’
The works will start in spring 2020, with the building expected to be ready for use in 2024.
VRT also intends to build its headquarters on the site, but has not yet finalised its plans.
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