The project was obtained by winning a competition called by the City of Mechelen. The city council aimed the old Buso site to be developed as a high quality urban area, housing ten loft dwellings. The commission was entrusted to dmvA because they were the only architect office that took the ‘spirit of the factory’ as starting-point.
Buso is located in the 19th century industry-axis, alongside the canal Mechelen – Leuven. Its location in the middle of a building block characterizes the site. The site enclosed a big factory building, with a number of small-added building volumes on one hand, and a dwelling that gave access to the street on the other hand. Alleys provided access to the former factory. The exterior space was limited and fragmentary. The objective of the urban concept was to bring the factory-building air and space again.
In phase one, the added volumes were pulled down to rehabilitate the factory building. In view of sustainability and economics the building was kept as best as possible, stripping took place mainly inside the building. In a second stage the garden of one of the houses was expropriated in order to get one big semi-public space. Backsides of the neighbouring houses got new exits to this new space.
The pretty closed factory building contained two floors. On several places, where the structure of the building allowed to, openings were made in roof and floors. These openings generated patios and an inner street. The openings allow sunlight to enter the building. Stairs connect the semi-public inner-street with the urban tissue of alleys. All loft-dwellings are accessed by way of this semi-public space. Each loft is unique. Contemporary transparent building volumes are placed on top of the building as an extra space for the lofts. The roof becomes one big roofgarden, planted with sedums.
To emphasize the spirit of the old factory-site, the outside of the factory is clad with panels of corten-steel. These panels were attached on a structure with 15 cm insulation. The inner walls of patios and inner street, as well as the added volumes on top of the building, are finished with poly-carbonate panels, with a 23 cm insulation.
So, old versus new, massive versus transparent, rough versus polished, dark versus light.