The City of Brussels’ prime objective for the new Brucity administrative center is to give Belgian citizens better service. However, the fully glazed building is more than just a place to apply for ID cards or register changes of address. The new town hall stands for transparency and democracy and wants to be a modern and customer-driven facility. Its Welcome Home slogan is an invitation to associations and students to use the public spaces to convene, study and hold meetings in. The city council’s new plenary chamber is the building’s centerpiece. The chamber’s interior with Wilkhahn seating and tables marries democratic principles with a minimalist design.
The vast building with floorspace of 37,000 square meters has an impressive glass facade that stands for transparency. Above all, this facility is the new workplace for around 1,700 employees of Brussels city council. Striking glass cylinders that house the elevators run through the building. A public restaurant and a spectacular rooftop patio with a panoramic view of Brussels city center are located on the two top stories.
The building was designed by Belgian architectural firm Bruno Albert Architectes & Associés. Brussels architect Pierre Lallemand was responsible for designing the glass facade. Philippe Van der Velpen, interior designer at Procos, designed the reception on the first story and all the workspaces. He was also in charge of furnishing the plenary chamber.
Reinforcing democratic principles
The planning team applied democratic principles to the plenary chamber’s design. For instance, all members have an equal say in decision-making processes. A circular or semi-circular seating layout encourages open debate. Just like the rest of the building, it’s important in a democracy that the plenary chamber offers public access. Therefore, plenty of seats for people to see what’s going on and easy-to-read signs were a must.
The project focused on good acoustics so that attendees of meetings could hear and be heard well. The goal is for council members and Belgian citizens to be able to follow meetings and decision-making processes in their entirety. Technology also plays a key role. For instance, meetings can be live-streamed and Belgians can find information via video conferences or other digital tools. Daylight from the large windows and lighting throughout the building also foster transparency and create a pleasant environment.
Flexible space concept
According to the designer, creating a multipurpose environment was one of the most important aspects of the building’s interior. The furniture was to look prestigious but also be versatile. Most of the items of furniture are custom made and permanent features of the room. Van der Velpen chose Wilkhahn’s mobile pieces of furniture to complement them. He picked Versa tables (design: Wolfgang C.R. Mezger) whose table tops’ form and finish can be customized to suit preferences. Versa allows tables and table systems to be configured for various settings.
Intra conference chairs (Phoenix Design) combine superior comfort with a design language that blends in perfectly with the interior design concept. If the plenary chamber needs furniture for a different type of meeting, the Versa tables and Intra chairs are taken away and replaced with Aline chairs (design: Andreas Störiko). The skid-base chair offers relaxing comfort.
Ergonomic workspaces for diverse teams
For the open-plan stories, good acoustics played a key role. Creating separate spaces for teams that collaborate with one another and employees requiring peace and quiet for deep work was important. This goal is achieved by providing spaces for recreational and communicative purposes, single offices, or pods.
The ergonomic AT office chair with its free-to-move capability encourages healthy dynamic sitting for staff in offices and at reception. It prevents backache and stimulates both body and mind to make office workers healthier and more productive. Similarly to the other items of high-quality Wilkhahn office furniture, AT is also made of hard-wearing, recyclable materials.
Sustainable interior design
In keeping with all public tenders for furniture and to ensure sustainability, Green Public Procurement (GPP) principles were also applied to the new Brussels administrative building. Environmentally friendly materials and products such as FSC/PEFC wood, recycled wool or low-VOC paints were therefore used in the construction and design.
For the interior, huge emphasis was also placed on eco-friendly materials, products, and practices. This includes using recycled or upcycled materials for particular meeting spaces, reducing waste and energy consumption, and prioritizing the health and well-being of users. What’s more, using locally sourced materials and manufacturers has reduced transportation costs and carbon emissions. And the stringent ecological criteria were ultimately good reasons for picking Wilkhahn’s long-lasting and sustainable office furniture.
Versatility and sustainability were important factors in terms of the interior design. We were seeking furniture that would look superb in the prestigious council chamber and be versatile too, while blending in aesthetically with the overarching concept. Which is why we picked Wilkhahn’s flexible and eco-friendly furniture.