Deelfabriek / Co-factory

mix of sustainable enterprises and grassroots operations
We transform a picturesque fire station into a centre for innovative businesses and social organisations, in the process reigniting the community spirit of a neighbourhood in transition.


Surface area
competition design
City of Kortrijk
Participation trajectory
  • University of Antwerp

A sturdy brick landmark stands in the periphery of the city of Kortrijk. Its characteristic tower once used to signal the essential firefighting services it housed to the wider environs. Now this building is set to serve the community in a different way. The city plans to transform it into a low-threshold hub of creativity in the form of a “Deelfabriek” (Co-factory) focusing on social and sustainable entrepreneurship. 

In line with the ambitious brief we make sustainability a leitmotiv in our proposal for the refurbishment. This means future-proofing the building by incorporating flexibility, versatility and reversibility into the design.

A hospitable hub of creative energy

The different buildings that make up the former fire station are grouped around a central courtyard. Accessible from the street through a gate flanked by curved protrusions, this semi-public space becomes an important driver of the design. It makes the complex supremely accessible and guarantees flexibility: it acts as a distribution and congregation point for visitors as well as tenants.

The main historical heritage buildings capitalise on their photogenic image as the street-fronting face of the Deelfabriek/Co-factory. These blocks will be stripped of any later additions to restore clarity of plan.

The facades of the building blocks around the courtyard are being opened up as much as possible; window thresholds are lowered and perforations enlarged. New trees and a canopy make this a pleasantly shaded place for relaxation and gathering — not just for the building occupants but for the neighbourhood at large.

Comfort in contrast — old and new

Respect for the existing building and its acquired patina is a guiding principle in our design. Whenever possible we refrain from replacing building elements to make them look “as new”. We prefer to fixate the current condition and leave the traces of repair visible — in accordance with the Japanese Kintsugi philosophy.

A lot of our interventions take the form of furniture installations which can be easily moved, disassembled or stored. They are little injections of life into the old carcass of the existing building shell. In order to give the design a recognisable identity, these all follow a similar formal language and palette of materials.

Associated themes