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The project is located in an old industrial park along the railroad tracks at the entrance of the city of Dunkirk, France, in fact just a stone’s-throw away from the main railway station. The area is thereby extremely well situated and is developing fast. The building itself had been abandoned and empty for years and was originally a cotton mill, founded back in 1928.
The building has been renovated to house a contemporary co-working environment replete with workrooms, a conference space, a micro-nursery and a cafeteria. The four functions can operate independently but enjoy a common entrance. A principal objective of the project was to preserve the great architectural qualities the building possessed and to transform this space to fulfill new functions whilst respecting the square opposite as a social hub for the neighborhood. The adjoining water-garden also had a similar impact on the design project as well as because it is part of the visible panorama viewed from the bay windows of the cafeteria.
To give this symbolic building back its strength, the project fully preserves the existing as
it was and implants at its base two new ground floor extensions that house the cafeteria
and the nursery. The extensions open the building up to the town beyond it via the sweeping bay windows and the mineral square, which itself looks on to a new urban green space. These low constructions do not conceal the old mill overlooking them, but actually contribute to highlight the original structure.
In the existing building, the contrast between the raw original materials and the new ones, which are fresher and more refined, creates rather a striking contrast. The original outlines have been entirely preserved in order to obtain the same surface on the plateau as it was in the olden times of its manufacturing days : the elevator has taken over the place once occupied by an industrial lift and the straicase has been conserved. To accommodate the entire program, two additional concrete slabs have been created and just slipped between the existing one, forming level 1 and level 3. New openings in the thick brick walls take place within an existing regularity while the outside metal staircase brings out the singular facades.
A certain discretion is achieved by the choice of materials used in the building’s conversion as the glass and metal blend perfectly with the original red brick. A calming, peaceful ambiance has been created thanks to the clear tint of wood with which the extensions were built.
The furniture is designed and custom-tailored: office tables, the reception desk and the cafeteria bar are made from materials recycled from the building’s construction and several pieces of furniture have been upholstered with jute fabric thus reinforcing the continuity of the idea of renewal and heritage preservation.
Four Separate Buildings
All offices and meeting rooms are located in the renovated building that develops on four floors. The existing windows have been preserved and feature surprising views and perspectives.
In the existing hall, a seminar room takes place on one level, enjoying a large opening onto the terrace and park.
At the foot of the existing building, two new constructions are implanted, both with the same height and architectural style. These two extensions house the cafeteria and micro-nursery, each enjoying their own outdoor space.
Location: 15 rue du Jeu de Mail Dunkirk, France
Area: 876 sqm
Program: Rehabilitation-extension of an old mill. The renovated part now houses 479 sqm of offices and a conference room of 159 sqm. The extension houses a micro-nursery of 117 sqm and a cafeteria of 121 sqm.
Client: Work & Co, Piet Colruyt (via SCI Social Square)
Architects: Coldefy & Associés Architectes Urbanistes
Photographs: Julien Lanoo