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Maria Van Buul, Guillaume Vandekerckhof, Quinten Malfait, Mevhibe Ilhan, Yasmine Elena Homan


Vilvoorde is an industrial town located in the north of Brussels, where the river Senne and the Brussels-Schelde canal cross. Because of the housing shortage in the big cities, there is an urban exodus. Vilvoorde has a lot of undeveloped land and is investing in these sites for urban development.

The site feels like a confluence of different identities. The city’s past and Brussels’ presence is very tangible. The 35-metre-high viaduct casts a shadow over the plot. A busy cycle path, the Zenne and the canal run under the viaduct. A few metres further on, there is an old crane. We used it as inspiration for the crane.
The tower is ‘future-proof’. The structure is dimensioned so that it can stand for more than 400 years. The grid with a primary and secondary structure provides an open plan. With the modular system of walls, window frames, sliding walls and floors, each floor can change programme at any moment.
The programme we have now worked out is: the plinth as a technical school and material depot and workshop. The first community on top are offices of the CO-FABRIEK institution. Above that is the residential programme. The unit system clicks into the secondary structure.
The crane is a fixed element in the CO plant in Vilvoorde. It symbolises the productive city and a new sustainable circular economy in the building process. The construction of the tower takes place in several phases. The first phase is the erection of the crane. This is a second-hand purchased crane that will be given a new external structure in CLT. The next phase is the construction of the school and the material depot. The footbridge and bicycle bridge can also be built by the crane. Now the next phases can be used depending on the need and demand for the tower. The structural construction takes place per three floors. The filling in can be determined afterwards. The materials for the construction of the units are lifted in packages. This can also be done when demolition is required in the course of time. Unloading and loading the materials onto the boats is also done via the crane.
The crane itself is a public attraction and an icon of the project. It is located right next to the viaduct, and the plants hanging around the crane absorb CO2 for better air quality. To connect with the other side of the site, a walking and cycling bridge will be designed along the crane. The crane will also be used as a public watchtower. The structure is equipped with the PLANT-E system. A low voltage of electricity is generated by the plants from the surplus in the process of photosynthesis. The power can be used as a public charging point for bicycles, scooters and telephones.

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