VLV Lithium-Ion

Clément Puech



Apart from its destruction during the Second World War, the Renault factory was in service from 1922 to 1997.


In February 97, the CEO of the Renault Group Louis Schweitzer announced its closure, scheduled for May of the same year. Two reasons has determined Mr. Schweitzer’s decision. First, according to economic criteria and eased by an increase of the free movement of capital and persons, the Vilvoorde’s workers were too expensive. Second, the cause was from a spacial issue. The typology of the plant did not allow to adapt lean-manufacturing assembly lines in order to update the production and compete with the Japanese producers. At that time, the site had 3 100 employees and 1/10 of the group’s global production was produced there.



The occupation of the site is decided and the keys of the 5 300 vehicles already assembled are confiscated as spoils of war. The struggle between the workers and the board of the French group, widely publicized, has last five months. These long weeks were marked by strikes, notably one of the first European strikes when all Renault factories stopped work on the 7th of March. A rarely-witnessed international solidarity has emerged following the factory closure. Work stoppages were organised not only in other Belgian car assembly plants, but also Renault plants in France and Spain. A combined demonstration of French and Belgian unions took place in France and several rallies involving Belgian and French employees took place. Further acts of solidarity also were expressed by Renault car dealers and sales people. In addition to individual actions, Government agencies and a number of cities and companies cancelled fleet orders such as Vande Lanotte, Minister of the Interior, Electrabel, Egemin and the Flemish Automobile Association (VAB)…

The then Prime Minister, Jean-Luc Dehaene – originally from Vilvoorde – saw with this consequence of a single economic market, the opportunity to work for a more social Europe.


Today, 20 years after the closure of the production unit, the 800 meters building remains a symbol of the collective struggle waged by the inhabitants of Vilvoorde. Due to such dimensions, it also remains as a monument from a antedilivian time. It has not been possible to reassign a function to it in its entirety and only a few parts are currently occupied by commercial activities. However this situation might change as investors have applied for a redevelopment of the site as a commercial zone.





Jan Bucquoy, who claims to be a post-surrealist and situationist artist, directed ‘La vie sexuelle des belges (3e partie), Fermeture de l’usine Renault à Vilvoorde’. In this fiction documentary he as the main character performs a terrorist attack against Louis Schweitzer.






Nesle, motte-and-bailey castle (9th century)

Beynac, early stone keep (11th century)

Dourdan, philippine fortress (12th century)

Chambord, renaissance castle (17th century)

Bouygues, headquarters (21st century)

Renault, technopole (21st century)




As a modern castle, the Renault factory was an infrastructure used to control a group of people in order to conquer wealth. Castles and factories share as common points to be a mark of their time as theirs edifications were based on the technological developpements of means, weapons or production.



In addition to the popularisation of electric powered cars, the question of the ownership is starting to get debated in the public realm. As stated by Jeremy Rifkin …
The project is a parking for electric cars which serves has a battery to stock the energy from the electric central in the north of the city.

In a soon to be reality, batteries could become a treasure which producers will need to carry in secured placed. The formal research is based on the roll-on/roll-off, a contempory architecture which is used to stock cars and secondly in relation with the need to make a certain symbol, on steel castles or any military naval architecture.


The main program of the building is space to park electric powered cars.
When let parked, the batteries of the cars permit to stock electric energy. This kind of element will, in our close future, be the key to develop massively the uses of renewable energies, as they will be as capable, based on the availability, as our current sources.
The typology of the building as two alibies.
One, by belonging to the Renault site and in order to participated actively to the dynamic promoted by the masterplan designed by XDGA, the building faces orthogonally Broekstraat. This street is going to become a strong link between the canal and the Machelen. Hence placed on such a location, the new building has a public duty.
It serves the cars, their human users and anyone which benefit from the energy stocking but its implantation it also serves the city. Set back from Broekstraat, the building decongest the site. It set free and assist a public place in which public activities such as a market can occur. In expansion of this place, the void of the building, inherant to the typology, becomes a feature of the city. During rainy days, public activities can be set inside.
Two, as the building has, by its program, a major aspiration on promoting a new source of energy, its roof becomes its generator. It is treated in a autonomous way and becomes technically aggrandized by solar arrays wings.
In the infinite number of forms, ideas, typologies, concepts physically possible in the site, due to the technical need to produce energy, the alibi of the hall become sincere. In this case the quality recherchée is m².




Reference 1 : Robbrecht en Daem, Market Hall, Ghent, 2012

cons : context too elegant

Reference 2 : MVRDV, Market Hall, Rotterdam, 2014

cons : the opposite + the viceral metaphore and the pseudo analyse which has permitted to determine the incorporated functions



The next documents present the project at a stage that permits to identify the ambitions of the building, its relation to the site in the temporality of XDGA masterplan accomplished.











In which temporality does the project occurs? What will happen with our good internal combustion engine? Will cars be all replaced by self driving vehicles, collective ones? Doesn’t the late research endeavored show a predilection for decentralized models?

I think it would be bold to be affirm something and I have not this kind pretention nor any psychic skills.

Even if I can count that 1303 cars can be stocked inside this version of the building, in order to understand this study, one has to recognized that the project is only good or right by its conceptual definition as too many parameters have to be taken in account for the determination of the most precise reality.

Accepting the immensity of the possibles, the scriptwriting based only on subjective assumption is potentially harmful toward the constitution of the project.

Beyond any egotic vanity about designing which could lead to the scenario maximum, the gigabatery, and without diving into a strico sensus reality and opt for the individual home battery which is more likely to be accepted judging by common behaviors, the research is an in between where size does not matter.

The only interesting answer, that I found, is to think the form, the capacity and the technology of the building in order to satisfy the context and subtiles scenarios at a macro level of definition. The context only will determine architecture, definitively not provoked numbers.


In this though experiment, three kind of users exists.


The first one is at full tilt. He drives a grey sedan. He arrives in A1 and parks the car, jump on the moving walkway. Crossing the hall takes him 10 sec. At this speed it becomes difficult to enjoy the spectacle of flying cars a few meter higher. Before he has time to put on feet of the high-speed automated walking machine, he can see the bus he wanted to catch pulling away. No time to waste, he takes place in D1 and ask via the application for a new car. Instantly, in front of him, a plateforme is dropping of a grey sedan.


The second one is not in the same hurry. He accepts the preferential slot proposed by the algorithm, get a reduced bill and 35min to check the Bureau of Electric Car Management in order fix a bug on this membership id and for socialization at the café. From his table he will be able to see his car being dropped at D2′, jump in it direclty and the plateforme will continue its descent to the level -1.


The third one only come by the hall the wednesday and sunday mornings for the market. He did participate to the purchase of a car but for satisfying ethical concerns about money investment. Every months, he received xx euros in return for investment from the Bureau of Electric Car Management.








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