The small Belgian town of Mons, in the Walloon region, was one of the two European capitals of culture in 2015. This major cultural recognition was the catalyst for significant building and infrastructure work, including a train station designed by Santiago Calatrava (but not yet finished) and the MICX conference centre, designed by Daniel Libeskind in collaboration with H2a Architecte & Associés.
The conference centre lies between the old town and the industrial area, on the other side of the railway line, in a location where it is both a landmark and a connection between new and old. The structure combines straight, curving and sloping lines, intersecting volumes and overlapping materials to create an image that shifts with one’s perspective. The sinuous, enveloping structure rises to a typical Libeskind pinnacle that, in this case, indicates the location of the town centre.
The lower section is clad in steel bands, while on the upper part anodized aluminium is used. But it is done to reveal the inner structure, adding lightness to the design while simultaneously enriching it. The green roof doubles as a panoramic terrace with a view of the 17th-century Beffroi tower, a UNESCO world heritage site.
Inside, beyond the grand double-height entrance hall rise three auditoriums, a multi-purpose hall, 16 smaller meeting rooms, offices and a restaurant.
The fluid nature of the entrance hall is marked by white, with the shapes drawing on the exterior dynamics of curving, straight and sloping lines. Natural light filters in through curved skylights, while the artificial lighting recreates the same lines as the flooring on the ceiling. The focus on details shines out in the precise design choices found throughout the complex. For the bathrooms, Duravit’s wall-mounted Starck3 series, designed by Philippe Starck, was the order of the day, fitting in superbly with spaces dominated by the dark tones of the walls and the cladding. The combination of whiteness, steel and essential lines of these ceramic features creates a sense of light beauty coupled with solidity.
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