The new CDGAI building, built by Belgium-based Dethier Architecture serves as a starring example of a happy cohabitation of nature and innovation.
The project was to be a unique culmination of three diverse philosophies. The client: Centre for Group Dynamics and Institutional Analysis (CDGAI), which has become a point of reference in the field of psychosocial science-action in Belgium. The site: Liège Science Park, here research and development of innovative solutions is of prime importance. The architect: Dethier Architecture, which believes in matching requirements with appropriate solutions.
The CDGAI works with small groups in the field of social psychology. Their new offices needed to provide a space for individuals to gather and exchange their thoughts and ideas.
The Sart-Tilman Science Park in Liège was selected as the site for this new building. The team at Dethier Architecture had to ensure that the building was in accord with the urban planning philosophy of the Liege Science Park, that is, “high-quality architecture in harmony with a cherished wooded landscape.”
The resulting edifice is a cosy cocoon sitting comfortably under the watchful eyes of the towering conifers that surround it. At night, the transluscent wall and roof of the Centre emit light from within and the cocoon metamorphoses into a glow-worm.
The interior has been planned such that there is fluidity in movement, a trait that is important in the context of the clear-cut structure of the organisation itself. The single-storey building holds within it two meeting rooms and their annex as well as the entryway, a secretariat, a kitchen, a room for office equipment, lavatories and a machine room. Offices and a library occupy the mezzanine floor.
For Dethier Architecture the environment is an important consideration in all its projects. In its recent projects, the company has endeavoured to employ technology to minimise the impact on the environment.
At the CDGAI provision of rainwater harvesting has been made through gutters at the ground level which are easy to maintain. A free cooling system has been opted for to adjust the building’s temperature rather than an air conditioning unit. Screened vents let cool air in at night, which is absorbed by the masonry and the cement flooring and during the day the same air is released gradually to cool the interiors.
The plan has also accommodated the use of high quality yet innovative materials. The materials chosen are easy-to-install; these not only minimise costs but also diminish the carbon footprint. Their high durability factor works well towards reducing the burden on ecology.
A masonry façade faces the north; the southern façade is metal, thus, giving the structure both volume and lightness. Black rubber coating is stretched over the steel structure of the roof while semi-transparent glass and polycarbonate panels make up both the exterior and the interior walls. It was a conscious decision of the team at Dethier to stick to easy-to-install materials so that both the cost to the client and the environment would be minimal.
The use of transluscent walls to separate the different spaces within the Centre helps maintain the needed privacy but at the same time effectively diffuses light into all the niches and corners.
During daytime, natural light floods the interiors through the semi-transparent glass minimising the burden on electricity. At night, the Centre glows in the light emanating from the inside.
The Dethier website explains how the play between the colour scheme and light has been used to make an artistic statement, “Artist Jean Glibert chose to focus on this luminous intensity, using the sheen of the galvanised roof to reflect the green and red tones of the office and the library towards the reception area and meeting rooms. The interaction of light and contrasts finds an echo in the wooded area in which the structure rests.” The surroundings have been left largely undisturbed and in fact, the building has been planned to conform to the landscape that it exists within.
The CDGAI is a standout example of cost-consciousness and ecological awareness going hand-in-hand. The direct ground absorption of rainwater, preservation of the existing topography and vegetation, ensuring that the structure fits well into its natural surroundings and a meticulous planning to ensure on-time delivery – all this benefits the client with the most minimal of impingement on the ecosystem.
Text By Himali Kothari
Photographs Courtesy Serge Brison