Accomodation and offices, Courtrai (Belgium)


Accommodation and offices, Courtrai (Belgium)

Activities change, buildings remain. Hidden from view by its former manager's house, a disused dressmaking workshop in Courtrai stood out like a “sore thumb” for inhabitants overlooking the centre of the block. Walls made from concrete blocks, saw-tooth roofs reminiscent of an outdated industrial world, the old workshop seemed to have no visible quality, except for Caroline Vanbiervliet, an associate of Stéphanie Breughe at the Klarté architecture firm. 






Architect: Klarté Architecten, Installer: STOCKMAN nv
Technique: VMZINC® Sine wave profile, Surface aspect: QUARTZ-ZINC®


Searching for accommodation and a premises for her firm, the architect immediately saw the potential of this place, which she re-invented using a strategy of reversal. The former house became a work space, providing the firm with the possibility to extend its premises. And the former work space became a living space, benefitting from the peace and quiet offered by its location at the heart of the block. 


All this required a few changes: a large portion of the constructions that occupied the inner yard was demolished to make room for a garden. The old bricks were re-used to create a small extension adjoining the old workshop. Rather than re-opening the North-West facing roof windows, the architect opted to create two patios, a clever solution which made it possible to allow the light in, and create views and new spaces in a main building only open on one side, due to party boundary rules. The metal structure of the old  workshop was exposed, and the suspended ceilings that had been installed under the roof slopes were removed.


The architect gave pride of place to raw materials: OSB interior walls and ceramic deck panels to cover the floor. Preweathered zinc replaces the corrugated fibre-cement sheets of the old roof. Zinc, which is much more durable than corrugated galvanised steel sheets, was also installed on the facade. It covers the insulation and blends perfectly with the timber joinery. Installation of VMZINC Sine wave corrugated panels on the roof required particular attention from the installer and the architect. The latter felt it was important to validate all flashing details with a view to affirmation rather than dissimulation.

Triangular elements in zinc visually terminate the box gutters: reverse echoes of the old saw-tooth roofs, these elements become an ornament revealing the care given to the design of this building that looks deceivingly simple and functional.