The project is located in an old industrial park along the railroad tracks at the entrance of the city of Dunkirk, in fact just a stone’s-throw away from the main railway station. The area is thereby extremely well situated and is developing fast. The building itself had been abandoned and empty for years and was originally a cotton mill, founded back in 1928.
The building has been renovated to house a contemporary co-working environment replete with workrooms, a conference space, a micro-nursery and a cafeteria. The four functions can operate independently but enjoy a common entrance. A principal objective of the project was to preserve the great architectural qualities the building possessed and to transform this space to fulfill new functions whilst respecting the square opposite as a social hub for the neighborhood. The adjoining water-garden also had a similar impact on the design project as well as because it is part of the visible panorama viewed from the bay windows of the cafeteria.
To give this symbolic building back its strength, the project fully preserves the existing as it was and implants at its base two new ground floor extensions that house the cafeteria and the nursery.
The extensions open the building up to the town beyond it via the sweeping bay windows and the mineral square, which itself looks on to a new urban green space. These low constructions do not conceal the old mill overlooking them, but actually contribute to highlight the original structure.
In the existing building, the contrast between the raw original materials and the new ones, which are fresher and more refined, creates rather a striking contrast. The original outlines have been entirely preserved in order to obtain the same surface on the plateau as it was in the olden times of its manufacturing days : the elevator has taken over the place once occupied by an industrial lift and the straicase has been conserved. To accommodate the entire program, two additional concrete slabs have been created and just slippled between the existing one, forming level 1 and level 3. New openings in the thick brick walls take place within an existing regularity while the outside metal staircase brings out the singular facades.
A certain discretion is achieved by the choice of materials used in the building’s conversion as the glass and metal blend perfectly with the original red brick. A calming, peaceful ambiance has been created thanks to the clear tint of wood with which the extensions were built.
The furniture is designed and custom-tailored: office tables, the reception desk and the cafeteria bar are made from materials recycled from the building’s construction and several pieces of furniture have been upholstered with jute fabric thus reinforcing the continuity of the idea of renewal and heritage preservation.
Four separate buildings
All offices and meeting rooms are located in the renovated building that develops on four floors. The existing windows have been preserved and feature surprising views and perspectives.
In the existing hall, a seminar room takes place on one level, enjoying a large opening onto the terrace and park.
At the foot of the existing building, two new constructions are implanted, both with the same height and architectural style. These two extensions house the cafeteria and micro-nursery, each enjoying their own outdoor space.
The first co-working space Dunkirk: an eco-citizen project
Work & Co is a social enterprise. Its founders, Pierre Bataille and Steffi de Jong, developed the first coworking space available in Dunkirk. Their concept is for entrepreneurs with small structures and who are in search of a flexible work place and exchanges. These entrepreneurs often have difficulty accessing conventional business real estate and dislike the isolation of working from home. This concept is innovative because this collaborative workspace creates a network for professionals and offers them additional support services. Work & Co also includes a nursery, Kids & Co, and an independent coffee shop, Coffee & Co. With this space of co-working supporting local entrepreneurship, the project contributes to the economic development of Dunkirk and its attractiveness. Work & Co has created 8 jobs and a dynamic network. Beyond the employment aspect, this space offers local residents a new friendly environment welcoming them and their children. The project is supported by a private investor, the Belgian Piet Colruyt that specializes in "impact investing": an investment that responds primarily to a social needs outweighing its financial profitability.
Work & Co has won the "Grand Prize" and the "Prize for the creation of businesses and economic development" of the 2013 FACE - ANRU Trophies "Committing to the neighborhoods".