Publié le 14.04.2020 | Texte: Peggy Totté

Cet article, issu du hors-série A+280 Collective Housing, vous est proposé en anglais. En effet, les hors-séries sont édités uniquement en anglais.

With a view to affordable and quality housing in Brussels, 29 families decided to realize a housing project together. After an intensive search, they bought several old hangars within a closed housing block. They appointed stekke fraas as their architect and completed the Brutopia project without the intervention of a developer.

Brutopia consists of two apartment buildings on facing sides of the housing block. The communal garden in the interior (with a tree house, play hill and slide) is a first important asset for the project. All the apartments overlook the garden, or have a private terrace here. Residents can walk from one building to another through the garden, from the car park to their apartment, or conversely to the shared laundry area or living room. The garden is where residents often meet, or where they gather on summer evenings for an aperitif and barbecue.

All housing units have been designed to suit their residents, net surface areas varying from 71 m2 to 165 m2. The fact that the construction was delivered in its raw state and that the owners worked on it themselves ensured the affordability of the project. Each family could arrange their own living space according to their own taste and budget, which is exceptional for an apartment in Brussels. The residents even chose the size of their windows and the extent and location of their private terraces. The lower apartments have direct access to the garden via an outdoor staircase on their terrace, which is ideal for families with children. The aluminium cladding and concrete base were chosen for reasons of sustainability, but they also ensure that the buildings retain their unity (despite the range of windows and terraces).

To organize the circulation within the buildings as efficiently as possible, the architects opted for a design involving duplex apartments. As a result, it is only on the first and fourth floors that a long corridor is necessary to open up all the apartments. The corridor was conceived as a two-metre-wide outdoor gallery on the street side, providing an additional outdoor space. The domestic layout with chairs, tables, plants and such mean that these galleries form a valuable addition to the buildings. Other ‘simplex’ apartments are directly accessible via the vertical hall with stairs and elevator shaft. This was also beneficial in terms of construction costs, as a single lift was needed per building.

Next to the garden there is a shared laundry room (with industrial machines), an 80 m2 living room with kitchen, and an underground garage for bicycles and cars. A communal roof terrace is still under construction. The shared living room, called the Sardine, is too small to accommodate all the residents. This room is soberly furnished and is mostly used for relatively intimate activities, such as guitar lessons, meetings, dinners for small groups of residents, and sometimes even as a dormitory for transmigrants. Depending on the maintenance work to be done on the building, residents organize a number of odd-job days.

For the ground floor, the residents looked for additional functions. After all, these are not ideal living spaces. The result is that three architecture firms share a workspace in turn. A second, smaller space has been rented to the mediation service of the Public Welfare Centre. On the other side of the garden, the ground floor – a multipurpose room with kitchen – is owned by the social service centre of the non-profit organization LDR-MIRO, which works locally. During working hours, the non-profit organization is also allowed to use the garden, and conversely, residents can make use of the room at other times. The decision to design the ground floor in this way is an added value for the street. It creates an open street façade with large windows and several front doors where you can easily look in. The shared living room also gives onto the street.

Brutopia was not the first cohousing scheme in Brussels, but it is certainly a pioneering project in terms of sustainability. Despite the limited budget, residents opted for a fully passive building, and cars are also shared. That is why the Brussels-Capital Region gave the project the title of ‘Exemplary Building’ and granted it 700,000 euros in subsidies.

Architect stekke + fraas
Official project name Brutopia
Location Forest
Execution architect AAAArchitectes, Pierre Jongen
Completion February 2014
Total floor area 5,900 m2
Budget € 5,420,000 (excl. VAT and fees) carcass work

29 housing units, offices and retail on ground floor (service centre for elderly people and a Public Welfare Centre, common room, common laundry room and underground parking (27 cars, 90 bicycles)
Private commission

Client Brutopia
Lead contractor Louis De Waele
Landscape architect Landinzicht
Structural engineering Setesco
Services engineering FTI
Building physics Daidalos Peutz
Sustainability Daidalos Peutz
Acoustics Daidalos Peutz

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