Oxygen housing project to give Oudergem breath of fresh air


A new office-to-housing project in the south of Brussels is set to boost the municipality and bring a new dynamic to the area

New lease of life

A business-to-residential building project in the capital is expected to regenerate its location and help revitalise the neighbourhood. The conversion, known as Oxygen, will see a 1960s concrete office block in the southern Brussels municipality of Oudergem replaced with housing.

“Oudergem is one of the first communes to opt for this type of reconversion,” says Didier Gosuin, mayor of Oudergem and Brussels’ minister for economy and employment. “The reconstruction of 191 Vorstlaan is more than a symbol, it’s a sign of change. Apart from certain zones less suited for housing, the ‘all-about-offices’ theory no longer has a place in Oudergem – there are only two office blocks left on this street.”

Oxygen is connected to the city centre by metro, tram and bus, and Gosuin believes it will encourage workers to move from the suburbs to the city. “We must stop the negative trend of people living 40km outside the town and commuting to work,” he says. “This idea is now dated, and in 20 years we hope it will be completely reversed. Possession of a car is no longer the be-all and end-all.”

Frédéric van Marcke, development director at Sint-Lambrechts-Woluwe-based property developer Besix Red, which pioneered the project, says Oxygen’s key attraction is “location, location, location” – close to a supermarket, schools, cafes, restaurants, parks and a hospital, with the library, cultural centre and town hall opposite.

A last breath

Local artist and musician Sozyone Gonzales has created a mural on the side of the building featuring birds and a man raising his hat. Van Marcke says the painting (pictured) is a complement to Oudergem’s upcoming art festival, Kunstensteenweg (Arts Street), which runs from 6-14 May and features talks, shows and exhibitions.

Nicolas Moreel, one of the founders of Urbana, the company that initiated the painting and is behind Bozar’s Interfaces portrait exhibition, says the current trend is to use building sites for art instead of leaving them as ugly construction areas.

“We wanted to give a last breath to the building and bring life and dynamics to the district,” Moreel says. “The 1,000m2 mural, the biggest temporary painting ever made in Brussels, will also help attract people to the project.”

We wanted to give a last breath to the building and bring life and dynamics to the district

- Nicolas Moreel

The artwork was finished in February, Moreel explains. “This mural is part of the ‘game’, but of course I won’t be happy to see it disappear.”

Oxygen will offer 89 one- to three-bedroom apartments, each with a large sun-facing terrace. The complex, designed by the Watermaal-Bosvoorde branch of Assar Architects, also has very low energy consumption, due to triple-glazed windows and photovoltaic roof panels.

Living in the brand-new complex, set in parkland with a panoramic roof terrace looking over the Zonienwoud, won’t come cheap, with prices ranging from €200,000 for a studio to €650,000 for the 253m2 penthouse suite. Prices are in line with new-build flats in the district, and about 20% have already been sold. Work is due to be finished by spring 2019.