Ans Persoons, Brussels Secretary of State for Urban Planning and Heritage, Philippe Close, Mayor of the City of Brussels, Adel Yahia, Senior Managing Director Belgium and Luxembourg at Immobel and Frédéric Van Der Planken, CEO & Founder of Whitewood today gave the symbolic kick-off to the works on the OXY project.
In the centre of our capital, between Place Monnaie and Place De Brouckère, works have started today on a new landmark for Brussels.The iconic modernist office building that previously served as the headquarters of bpost will enjoy a bright new future with numerous urban functions. The project by developers Immobel and Whitewood was named OXY, inspired by its typical modernist form. This extensive renovation is fully in line with the vision of the Brussels Region and the City of Brussels to no longer demolish buildings, but to renovate them sustainably while respecting the original design and giving them contemporary functions that fit into an updated environment.
"Above all, we must not repeat past mistakes. And that's why it is so important that this iconic building is not demolished but renovated and made future-proof. This modernist building is a landmark in the city centre, everyone recognises it. Now it is also being opened up much more to the pedestrian zone around it. Besides offices, there will now also be housing, a hotel, a restaurant and a rooftop terrace with a magnificent view of Brussels," says Brussels Secretary of State for Urban Planning, Ans Persoons.
Brussels is a city constantly in motion. Its buildings evolve and their use changes over time. The building that used to be the administrative centre of the City is now undergoing a metamorphosis to take on a whole range of new functions that will add to the dynamism of our city centre," Philippe Close, Mayor of the City of Brussels.
Adel Yahia, Senior Managing Director Belgium & Luxembourg: "We strongly believe in transforming the heart of Brussels, with the new OXY building as an unmistakable landmark. We will give the iconic building its rightful place with a mix of offices, a hotel and residences surrounded by green spaces."
"The construction of a unique promenade on the historic podium of the building allows the site to be repositioned in a qualitative way within its surroundings in the heart of Brussels," Frédéric Van Der Planken, CEO & Founder of Whitewood
Modernist heritage, sustainability and multifunctionality go hand in hand
The Centre de la Monnaie was built between 1967 and 1971 to a design by architects André and Jean Polak, Jacques Cuisinier, Jean Gilson, and Robert Schuiten. The building replaced the 19th-century Hôtel des Postes et Télégraphes. Until bpost moved to the MultiTower across Anspach Avenue last year, the building remained the headquarters of the Belgian postal company.
The iconic office tower will now have an at least equally iconic and multifunctional future. The architects respect the original design and preserve the soul of the building but make a contemporary interpretation possible and connect the building much better with the surrounding public space. That public space was almost entirely focused on cars in the 1970s, but today pedestrians and cyclists are king and queen in the immediate vicinity.
Besides 43,000 m² of offices, the building will also house 600 m² of amenities, 200 m² of retail space, 616 parking spaces for bicycles and 184 for cars, a 15,000 m² hotel with 316 rooms, catering facilities with a rooftop bar, a public roof garden of no less than 6,000 m², many terraces and 112 residential units. The residences total 12,000 m² and vary in size. They include 22 studios, 40 one-bedroom flats, 38 two-bedroom flats and 12 three-bedroom flats.
The renovated building stands out in terms of sustainability in several ways. A deliberate choice was made for a thorough renovation in which materials are reused on site or elsewhere (urban mining). Due to the strategic location of the building in the heart of Brussels, literally on top of metro station De Brouckère, future users will have numerous mobility options. The building also stands out in terms of energy sustainability. For instance, by integrating heat pumps and by incorporating solar panels in the facades. The building also provides many terraces with planting, culminating in a 6,000 m² public roof garden.
Norwegian firm Snøhetta, who designed the project together with Belgian firm Binst Architects, are not at their experimental stage when it comes to top international architecture. Snøhetta designed, among others, the Oslo Opera House in Norway, Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt, and the new Times Square in New York. Brussels will no doubt soon have one more landmark and attraction.
International architecture competition
In September 2019, Immobel, Whitewood and DW Partners launched an international architectural competition together with the Brussels Master Architect (BMA) to redevelop the 62,000 m² building above the shopping centre 'The Mint'.
In the first phase, the jury composed of representatives of the Brussels Capital Region, the City of Brussels, the Brussels Master Architect, Immobel and Whitewood selected five international offices. In the end, the jury chose the design by the Norwegian firm Snøhetta and the Belgian firm Binst Architects. The main factors in their favour were the respect for the architectural value of the existing building and its integration in the urban context. For the execution of the project, the architects get additional assistance from the Brussels architectural firms DDS+ and A.D.E.
In March 2023, urban.brussels granted the building permit. The dismantling of the building started not much later and today, 7 February 2024, the symbolic start of the construction works was given. If the works go according to schedule, the renovated building will be ready in the first half of 2027.
The transformation of the city centre
OXY is not the only renovation project in the area of the central lanes. The redevelopment of public space was very clearly a catalyst for private and public players to renovate buildings in the area and give them new future-oriented functions. Just think of the Bourse building that recently opened its doors, the MultiTower, The Mint and The Dome, the renovation of the Ancienne Belgique, Brouck'R and numerous smaller renovation projects that bring back the grandeur of olden days, such as the renovation of the canopies in Rue de la Bourse, the Grand Cafe and the pharmacy on the corner of Boulevard Anspach and Marché aux Poulets.