A6K Advanced Engineering Centre
Charleroi, Belgium - 2019 - Photography : Philippe Braquenier - DESIGN TEAM: Traumnovelle, Carbonifère (landscape design)
Inside an unoccupied industrial building close to Charleroi train station, new working spaces for high-tech companies and start-ups and laid out according to a city grid. Autonomous work spaces frame a central public space dedicated to the communal activities of this industrial ecosystem. In the context of a post-industrial city faced with employment deficit, the conversion of the spaces of this golden age is as slow as that of historic know-hows. The Advanced Engineering Centre acts as a laboratory to experiment the new forms of work of the 21st century, faced with the transformation of the labour market.
City grids can be considered to testify to a culture’s cosmogonia. As such, the urban grid of the post-industrial workspace is that of high individual liberty—in the form of creativity, innovation and entrepreneurial freedom—confronted with a strong regulatory framework inherited from salaried employment, which implies the control of individuals and optimisation of productivity. Referencing the Roman training camp, organised according to two perpendicular axes symbolising order and the submission of the worker to the city’s logic. The central shared spaces bring the workers together through federative collective activities, similarly to the exercise ground.
Paradigm of Transparency
The parallel strips of glazed office spaces highlight the contradiction between workers’ autonomy and their visibility. The expectation of visibility of the workers practicing their tasks, from a theoretical central viewpoint, is challenged by an overlay of transparencies and reflections. Their overlapping offers workers a respite from observation by blurring observation.
Clarify existing spatial structures
The project takes place within the complex structure of an existing building. Grafted to its circulation system, it aims at making the existing spatial structures and uses more legible. Work spaces for 8 to 12 people outline communal amenities such as various meeting spaces, as well as community and leisure spaces in the centre of the industrial slab. A functional area comprising a lobby, educational spaces and a prototyping lab links the new offices to the existing circulation nodes.
More flexible work spaces
The Advanced Engineering Centre fosters a sense of the collective and collaboration between workers, as well as optimal work and research conditions. The central space, an indoor tropical garden, offers a different kind of community and leisure space, thus encouraging new forms of work and collaboration. It generates sub-spaces which can be appropriated by users for lunch, a meeting, a game or a phone call. Thus spaces for unproductive activities take up a central position in the overall layout of the workspace. Though unproductive, these spaces are expected to yield favourable outputs in terms of motivation, team engagement and creativity.
Mixed uses and shared programmes
While offering flexible and comfortable work spaces adapted to each occupant’s expectations, A6K explores ways of generating opportunities for collaborations through shared programmes such as leisure areas, a cafeteria, a shared terrace, collective work spaces and meeting spaces as well as high-tech equipment in a prototyping lab and fab-lab. Similarly, joining work spaces and learning spaces creates opportunities for bridges between different moments.
Low-impact construction and renovation
The project is entirely removable in case the industrial space needs to be converted or demolished. Each element has been considered in terms of re-use and short construction phase (4 months). The work modules are composed of industrial storage platforms. The facilities are autonomous and can be accessed from the roofs of the work spaces. All partition materials can be detached and re-used elsewhere. The biosourced cork flooring system as well as the standardised glass panels can be disassembled and reaffected.