VLV Red Cross

Sandrine Moura

0. Red Cross Site

After the analysis of the area of the crematorium, a particular site stood out. A completely abandoned industrial area with industrial hangars and brick buildings. There’s no information about the former use of the industrial hangars, but the brick buildings have been formerly used as a firefighter station and more recently as an elementary school for the city. Last year the whole site was a home for refugees offered by the Red Cross.
No information about soil pollution for this area is available, so for I assume that it is no restriction for the future use of the site.

After a visit on the site, it was clear that the industrial hangars are in a good condition to be re-used.



The area is mainly surrounded by other industrial areas. Nevertheless the residential areas mingle into the industrial ones. The electric power plant (that is currently on stand-by) creates a particular impressive landscape.


The site is accessible directly by the main road that leads to the city center or the highway, thus creating good condition for heavy duty traffic. A bicycle path access the site along the Senne river.


As mentioned above, a large part of the site is composed by industrial hangars and brick buildings that are in good more or less good condition. Some can be refurbished to zero-energy use buildings. The hangars can be adapted to their future use.

The site is about 2/3 free of buildings thus offering opportunities to install recreational areas and outdoor activities like urban farming, workout stations, leisure gardens, …


One stand out element of the area in general is the heavy truck traffic due to the industrial typologies and the residential areas that mingle themselves into them. The site is vacant and offers an opportunity to create a place in the city that provides a service for the community. One of today’s emerging topics is the wasteful attitude to our planets rare resources. Not only are we facing and end of those rare earths and metals, we are also throwing them recklessly away, burying them forever (or not?) in our landfills. According to blueeconomy.org statistics, in a ton of e-waste is more gold that can be extracted than in 17 tons of gold ore. We are today considering e-waste as worthless thus their high value.

The main goal of my project is to create a place where this e-waste can be handled with respect and where their true value is recognized. As an example, some companies throw away 2 year old computer even though they work fine and could be of use for a broke student.  In this new “ReCiRCLE” (not recYcle) center collected e-waste is refurbished, repaired, re-sold or decomposed to extract the precious metals and separate the parts to be further recycled. This creates 1. a physical space where this activity can happen and 2. an educational space where this precious information can be spread out to the large public.


The scheme of a perfect closed circle of a circular economy would look like the drawing on the left. In reality, the circular economy loop would look like the one on the right because we will always need to have new extracted resources added due to lost ones during usage.


Currently some collecting points for small e-waste exist in Vilvorde. Nevertheless it is important to install new collection centers for small and large e-devices all over the city. Information and education is key to create a successful circular economy since it depends largely on public participation. By installing public and anonymous collection bins for e-waste, a new social space is created that contributes to the functioning of the Red ReCiCLE Cross site.


With the information of the functioning of the circular economy, an organigram can be draw to recap the organisation on the site. Along with a lot of storage space and the repair and refurbish stations, we add  a Repair Café that provides a space for the individual to come and learn to repair their broken devices, a cantina for the workers and dormitories for visitors (or as urgency home).


Intuitively, the site can be organised in a similar way as it’s context, mingling residential activities with industrial ones. Storage and delivery spaces should be close to the accesses. The social services as the repair café and the cantina should be visible from the street.

With the information obtained by the analysis of the circular economy setup and it’s organigram, the different functions plus the additional social functions can be distributed on the site. According to its function and the type of the building present on the site, a classification naturally happened. Now we find on the right in the industrial hangars all of the heavy duty functions like the sorting, repairing, extraction,.. towards the river we have the social functions like a new place for the scouts of the area and housing, near the principal access we find now all the social interactions like the second hand shop and the repair café and canteen. A public space in the middle of the site links all the 3 poles together.

If this is the initial state…

So far, new larger path along the site replaces the narrow path that accesses the bike path. All the industrial barns are conserved and refurbished to adapt to their new functions. The main focus will be the design of the façade that will help create a link with the public visiting the site. New accesses for the trucks are redrawn. Most of the vegetation stays as there is enough space.

The building that is being used to store a large fuel tank will be used as a future network heating central for the whole site. The one-story building with an industrial caracter will be refurbished in a new base for the local scouts. The same place can be used as an event avenue.
On the left of this scheme, the housing part of the site, aims to be some experimental housing where the new residents share gardens and garden tools.  The gardens surround the houses and create a natural barrier to the public part of the site. One of the industrial hangars is replaced by a new row-house to create a nicer space.

The elongated building with the numerous windows and porches has a great potential for a second hand store with a drive in. People can drive into the site (one-way), pick up their new e-device and drive back home.

The link between the main street and the central public place becomes the spare parts store with the public street mingling in between. Some of the existant infrastructures can be kept, thus adapted to their new uses with larger windows.

More details will be added in the next steps …

Especially the Repair Café and the Canteen should become the main attraction point of the whole site. They will become a rotation point of the public space and interact with the other facilities, especially the repair hub.

Main view of the current state of progress.

I plan on adding more details to the refurbishment of the existant buildings, as well as drawing detailed sections and facades. The public space should given more attention and a better design that dialogs more with the surrounding facilities.





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