Nelissen Bricks comprises a stone factory with adjacent quarry in operation since 1921. The company transformed from a small-scale family business into a modern international player. The rapid growth and the ambition to come forward as the absolute pioneer in the brick industry asked for a high-performance building in which all products can be displayed professionally. The ambitious trajectory is translated in an accumulation of 3 volumes into a complicated and innovative construction.
The ground floor has a U-shape that opens towards the street and thus symbolizes transparency for the visitors. Logically, the reception and several administrative posts find their place here. The higher level has the shape of a parallelogram with an open space in the middle. This level of the showroom makes it possible to organize a tour around the open space. The top floor will once again house administrative services in a U-shape that opens towards the industrial site. By positioning these three discs in a staggered way on top of each other, the interior and exterior space seem to merge.
The complex is the new business card of the company and the international image is also translated in the interior concept. In a museum-like tour, the visitor discovers the brick as an art object, and this both in the real and the virtual reality.
The fourth generation of this family company wants experience to have a central position in the new building. Experience for visitors, but certainly also for its administrative employees. In the preliminary design process, a program study based on all services and individual employees was developed. Existing workplaces were evolved and in the workshops diverse scenarios were outlined. This resulted, in addition to an architectural accumulation, also in a programmatic accumulation of various functions.
Thus, the internal services department on the ground floor receives a central place in the form of an open landscape office. Besides the open character there is also sufficient privacy and this in a homey atmosphere. High-quality materials help to create an office as the eye-catcher of which the family company is very proud. The family atmosphere also immediately catches the eye by means of the video wall in the waiting area. Here all employees are presented to the visitor. The various visitor flows are separated on the ground floor. There is, for instance, a separate entrance for drivers who are welcomed cordially at the reception with coffee corner.
The showroom on the first floor is based on a museum-like route, but in addition to this, various options for consultation are created based on the type of conversation one wishes to have. Consultation boxes are alternated with a workshop area and also a spectacular bar that forms an important meeting place for Nelissen Bricks. Besides the tactile aspect of bricks, the experience is also stimulated by the digital customer experience journey. A special app was developed to go through the showroom and indicate favorite stones. In addition to the app there are also several touch screens, which makes that at the end of a visit to the Experience Room (Brickxperience), the visitor receives an overview of the personal stone selection. On a 180° screen this selection can be implemented in an architectural model in order to visualize the whole and to once again generate amazement.
The top floor houses the majority of the offices and this in an open atmosphere with glass walls. The transparency plays an important role, both in the architecture and in the work environment. The various offices are designed cozily with open niches for personal items or decoration. Furthermore, there are two dressing rooms on this floor that provide the employees with the possibility to get to work by bike or to use their lunch break for sporting activities, as is already customary.
The conference rooms on this floor can also be booked based on the nature of the meeting that is planned. Hence one can meet with a large group at a table designed by UAU collectiv where everyone has contact with all interlocutors. The smaller conference room aims at standing meetings. This interpretation and realization of the new office building is tailor-made for Nelissen Bricks for their valued employees.
Being a pioneer in the brick industry is Nelissen Bricks' ambition, and the new building also exudes this philosophy. The atrium was fully executed in the repeatedly acclaimed Dubio-brick designed by Roel Vandebeek of product design company 'It's a Roel' in Maasmechelen. Upon entering the building, the Dubio wall in special masonry work immediately catches the eye. It evokes deceleration and refers to the unwinding of the visitor. In the open space, one sees the vertical application to intensify the amazement when looking upwards. Further, the building includes artful claustras and even stone strips glued to a large glass section. By collaborating with the right people who put their heart and soul into the same objective, these applications were possible. Nelissen Bricks, after all, attaches great importance to co-creation.
Innovation and sustainability
The uniqueness of the building translates into the innovative brick architecture. Elements such as transparency or innovation become visible in the formal story and the functionality of the building. They even reinforce one another. A beautiful example of this is the implementation of the Iso-facade system in the building envelope. In this way, the underside of the cantilevers is finished in brick, and it is shown that iso-facade also lends itself to new buildings, and not only to renovation. Additionally, also the ecological N70 brick is applied in the building envelope.
The implemented techniques contribute to the progressive character of the building. Great efforts are being made towards being a nearly zero-energy building, and hence better results will be shown, for instance, in comparison to the current requirements concerning K- and E-level of an office building.
Heat pumps linked to photovoltaic panels are used for the heating and hot water production. Heating and cooling are combined and take place at low temperatures, in the form of floor heating and climate ceilings. The design first relies on natural ventilation via the atrium throughout the three floors. The ventilation system D with heat recovery provides assistance when needed. The design team also implemented standardized principles such as rainwater recovery. The symbiosis of various techniques has to lower power and energy consumption as drastically as possible.
This building project is the result of a cooperation between two architectural firms, Architectengroep PSK and UAU collectiv. During the entire process, there was a powerful symbiosis between the parties. The strengths of the different firms could be capitalized in this way, and additionally they could complement each other in terms of aesthetics and technical monitoring. Both parties are enthusiastic about the high degree of detailing that could also be achieved because of the involvement of the client and all construction teams.