Project in the spotlight: Aan de Brouwerij

When you think of Alken, you think of Cristal, and therefore of the brewery, too! Recently, Alken gained a new landmark. Mark Bollen and his team from Univarchitecten in Neerpelt were commissioned to give the old Cristal Alken fermentation building a new purpose. The result? An residential complex with 39 apartments bearing the matching name "Aan de Brouwerij" ("At the Brewery").

The architectural firm Univarchitecten in Neerpelt is famous for its one-stop-shop assignments, including the coordination and management of projects as delegated builder. The multidisciplinary firm has projects in Belgium from the coast to Wallonia, with an emphasis on the Brussels and Leuven regions. For the Aan de Brouwerij project, Univarchitecten stayed closer to home. Architect Mark Bollen explains, "This project was one of the first projects within Alken's urban development plan with the goal of strengthening the city centre."

Brewery warehouse
"What is now an apartment complex used to be an existing brewery building. It was a kind of warehouse where some of the hops were kept," Bollen clarified. "The little bridge, through which warm air used to blow in, and the adjacent façade had to be preserved. We demolished the part behind it, and that's where the new building complex now stands."

The result is 39 wheelchair-accessible two- and three-bedroom apartments, each of which is sustainable. "We worked with heat pumps that warm with air-water systems. At the start of the project, some five years ago, this was not so straightforward."

Each apartment also has a large terrace on the front and back. "One side of the terraces faces the beautiful courtyard garden, and on the other side (the front) they create the necessary depth that better highlights the structure of the building," Bollen says.

The ideal choice of brick
One of the bricks Bollen chose for the project was Nelissen's paladio. "We wanted to recall the façade surfaces of the original building. For this, we looked for a stone that closely matched the Beerse red stone used in the past. We didn't want to opt for a recovery product. The paladio turned out to be the ideal choice, because the pieces inserted into the old façade do not stand out."

The other choice was the white face brick blanco. "As there are relatively narrow buildings on both sides, the white brick provides the necessary reflection and luminosity, both in the courtyard and on the terraces."

We're getting a lot of positive feedback on the project, including from the residents themselves. "The project is very much appreciated. It's really nice that people recognise the residential quality of the building," Bollen concludes.