Paleizenstraat 153 - 1030 Brussels
T 022444430 F 022444431 E info@agwa.be

1508 CHA PEX
Palais des Expositions, Palais des Congrès, de Concerts, ETC.

Location :
Charleroi
Client :
Charleroi c/o IGRETEC
Team :
AjdvivgwA - AM architecten jan de vylder inge vinck - AgwA (formerly AdvvtgwA - M architecten de vylder vinck taillieu - AgwA)
Subcontractors :
Doorzon, Denis Dujardin, Greisch, DELTA GC, PROGRS, TTAS
Planning :
2015-2023
Category :
Ongoing
In Charleroi, a formerly prominent industrial city on the southern side of Belgium, stands a large Exhibition Hall. This exceptionally sizable building of 60 000 m² is left largely underused due to the difficulty of appropriating such broad volumes in a shrinking industrial context. Nowadays, a city of the scale of Charleroi can make use of at most 25.000 m² of exhibition halls, about a third of the available space.

The allotted budget for the alterations of the Palais des Expositions is very low: about 450 euro/m2, whereas in Belgium, such a project would usually be allocated around 1350 euro/m2. The funds are so low that even the demolition of the seemingly superfluous buildings was rendered impossible.

However, due to regulations of the European Funding, the purpose of the structure had to remain unchanged. A radical revision of the program or the addition of new uses was not possible. Nevertheless, we could play the card of flexibility and make the space as versatile as possible. In consequence, instead of the planned refurbishments and the development of a zero-energy extension, the project retains most of its original structures, multiplying the usage potential of the available spaces in their original state.

The main input consists in the transformation of the central section of the building into an outdoors, although sheltered space by removing its façades. In doing so, the six existing halls are divided in two groups of three stacked chambers. On one side, three are used “as is” for parking. The absence of structural intervention here affords adaptability in usage, should there ever be a need. Properly speaking, it is no parking space, but rather a series of halls in which one can park. The remaining halls concentrate the core activities of the Palais.

These two entities are connected by the “Jardin Central” and its monumental staircases. The Garden is not simply an internal circulation hub: as the building is set upon a large slope, the garden serves to connect the city centre with the street below and the post-industrial landscape.

In this configuration, the budget became almost realistic. However, the upper hall, under magnificent sheds, had to remain unconditioned. No heating, no ventilation, no equipment, but a new roof. The central level, unchanged, was the only one still in use, with a small auditorium and some additional facilities. The lower level is a brand new “black box” up to modern standards.

In 2021, as the construction is ongoing, the client finds additional funding and requests the incorporation of a congress facility in the complex, as well as a concert space if deemed possible. As a series of explorative drawings revealed, this new phase is the opportunity to transform the central exhibition hall by opening a large foyer towards the central garden. The auditoria themselves are a very simple box in the background. The concerts will be possible in the lower hall and the lower parking levels, resembling more a festival ground rather than normed concert halls. The opportunity was also taken to continue the work on the landscape, to replace the sea of asphalt surrounding the building with an urban nature reserve, making use of the typical biodiversity of former industrial slag heaps.