Two regional cultural institutions are joining forces in a new building to house the both of them, for which the city of Genk has launched a design competition. In addition to the building design, a masterplan is required. The building aims to house CIAP, a regional centre for contemporary art, and FLACC, a workspace for visual artists. The exposition and production of art are brought into direct connection to one another; a combination of programmes that since the 60s and 70s has been experimented with by cultural collectives, often in loft-like and post-industrial urban spaces. The masterplan outlines the future context of the building and fixes strategies for further development.
CIAP and FLACC opt for a building situated on a post-industrial site: the former coal mine of Winterslag in Genk which shut down in 1988. The former coal mines were the economic engine of urbanization of this industrial city and form important patches in the dispersed urban grid. Between 2005 and 2012, the Winterslag mine has been reprogrammed and transformed into a cultural and educational hub and rebranded as C-Mine. C-Mine Atelier continues this redevelopment in an open area, where the coal washing plant and a marshalling yard have been demolished. A previous plan to fill this area with housing was started and abandoned after only a few rows of terraced houses had been built. It is set apart from the existing cultural hub which has an introvert orientation to a raised courtyard.
The Masterplan situates the new programme as a connector between the hub and the open land where future developments will take place. The image of a train station explains the masterplan proposal metaphorically: after all, a station is a site where diverse flows of people meet, and move from city or train or vice versa. The train station is a garden strip aligned with public buildings running from north to south just behind the existing design school on the site.
Centred around this garden strip, the C-Mine Atelier is proposed as the first element to connect the current C-Mine to the new Masterplan. Two parallel building volumes organize both institutes on either side of the garden strip, and the volumes open up to it with glazed surfaces. At the north and south head of the double building, large doorways organize access and seek connection with the built environment. To the north, an entrance patio enters into a dialogue with the pronounced entrances to public facilities of the C-Mine cultural hub. The southern doorway corresponds with an access to the existing design school. The Masterplan envisions that other functions will enrich this garden strip to the north and to the south.
The interior spaces on the ground level follow a rhythm dictated by columns and broad, outward opening doors. Inside, there are no corridors and people move from space to space, or cross the central garden strip. The result is a barrier-free interior. There is a direct connection between interior and exterior: the garden is divided, In a similar rhythm, into outside spaces and plant borders. The upper floor levels are determined by the staggered height of the volumes. In the west wing, the staggered roof construction draws in light from the north into the exposition room on the first floor; in the east wing, intimate ateliers are connected to lofts for temporary stay. The shell of the building is made out of durable, lasting materials, while the interior is subdivided by means of light, in-built walls, allowing flexibility in the future.