Mobility Hub

future-proof hybrid parking structure
Realising our competition-winning vision for a new mobility hub, POLO collaborated with architects from Archipelago to build an image-defining icon for Mechelen. Not only does this building mark the emergence of a new residential neighbourhood, it also imagines a future in which buildings are increasingly designed as adaptable containers prepped for functional flexibility.
Location

Elektriciteitstraat
Mechelen
Belgium

Year
2023
Surface area
19.400m²
Status
realized
Client
Kairos - Montreal
Architecture
  • Archipelago
Landscape design
  • Atelier Ruimtelijk Advies
  • Vogt Landscape Architects
winning competition design
Photography
Johnny Umans

When approaching Mechelen from one of the main access roads into the city, motorists are confronted with an eye-catching new building. Here we find more than 500 car parking spaces and nearly 19 000 square metres of built space. It rises up above the low-rise context to become a modest landmark at the edge of the city.

A striking facade grid of parallelograms envelops this sturdy car park structure, an open invitation for drivers to leave their car behind and transfer to a more sustainable mode of transport. It encourages us to slow down and explore the emerging neighbourhood here — a blend of past and present, a unique gateway into this historically rich yet vibrant city. Here we establish new forms of urbanity which play in tandem with the dense fabric of the old city centre nearby.

Wrapped emptiness

The facade is built up out of large prefabricated elements, integrating the columns as well as an edge beam. The floor slabs are suspended within this sculptural load-bearing diagrid. This facade structure covers only the longitudinal elevations of the building, opening up the end elevations for framed views of the surroundings. By concentrating the structural system along the perimeter, we free up the layout and create large, flexible floor plans. These are ideal for fitting in efficient car parking layouts but also open up the building for a wide variety of other functions.

The current minimalism of open floor plates without columns or protruding beams befits the infrastructural nature of the car parking function — but this does not prevent the structure from being furnished or “dressed up” to suit other activities in the future. For this reason the structure is over-dimensioned: we build in margins, knowing that what is made to measure to an excessive degree may ultimately prove constrictive. This is a kind of generous durability that pays dividends in the long term.