The architecture of convention centers often appears confusing, intimidating and unwelcoming. Though it remains impactful to the distant eye, given the imposing scale and demeanor, once inside, sometimes, the script gets flipped.
The NEO 2 Convention Center, symbolic of Brussels’ rich culture and public interests, integrates people, connectivity and identity. The concept proposed by Scandinavian architecture firm, Henning Larsen in collaboration with Belgium architects, A2RC was shortlisted as one of two finalists in a design competition. This scheme presents a ‘European model for a modern and multi-functional conference district’, which the team at Henning Larsen believes, “creates a space connected to the surroundings, the city, nature and the changing seasons.”
“Our proposal for the 76,000 sqm NEO 2 convention center in Brussels is a friendly gesture to the area with accessibility, human scale and transparency as focal points for the design,” explain the designers.
The context largely comprises of cultural buildings and public spaces including museums, theatres and parks, whereas an underground metro station sits below the site. The convention center has been modelled to harmonise with the human scale. The entire massing is broken into smaller volumes where each block from inside-out, creates a micro-climate that provides comfort and ease for people to meet and work.
“Architecture, no matter size or budget, should allow people to gather and stage human interaction through eye-level design: design that frames people and their relations to each other and the city,” say the designers of the Copenhagen based firm.
The space is designed as a glazed fluid form, which is an interconnected structure with several levels. Sitting at the heart of the building is a large foyer that brings people together and offers panoramic views of the built environment and beyond. At one corner, a slope leads to the rooftop which is a big public park. These terraces overlook striking views of the Brussels’ World Fair and its famous Atomium installation. Other spaces include a 5000-seater plenary, exhibition areas, multiple squares and a public plaza that support the inviting and alluring appearance of the NEO 2.
The proposal attests to the firm’s strong belief that grand projects could be more than just iconic buildings. And rightly so, architecture comes first for the people and later for what it is like and how it is built.