Brussels is a city full of surprises; what you see from the street can mask a completely different world behind the façade. Such was the case with the JR loft: an old millworkers workshop was hidden at the back of an architecturally uninteresting townhouse. Upon entering the house, a small hallway leads into a contemporary loft, minimal but comfortable. We accentuated the magic that comes from an encounter with the unexpected through our architectural sequencing, which made this project particularly interesting. It also came on the back of our experience of dealing with complex town planning processes, refusing to let them compromise the potential of the project.
The original millworkers workshop had been separated from the neighboring lot by a high brick wall, which resulted in a completely closed off box with only small glimpse of natural light coming in through skylights. Through a creative process of design and negotiation with the neighbors, we were able to let more light in by demolishing half of the back wall, giving up a small portion of the volume in order to create a triangular, light-filled patio at the back. A large, thin steel window frame linking the first and second floor hides the floor slab between the levels and creates the feeling of an airy, continuous structure.
The interiors are almost deceptively simple: mostly white, concrete floors and finished with a number of iconic furniture pieces from designers such as Jean Prouvé, Charlotte Perriand, Pierre Jeanneret, and Serge Mouille, which retains a sense of rawness against the flawless white finishes. Different shades of reclaimed wood floors and gray textures blend into the whiteness of the wall surfaces, creating a calm environment that feels like a secret escape from the city. A large painting by the Sri Lanka-based Belgian artist Saskia Pintelon brings some of the feeling of the creative process (with the use of graffiti style writing, erasure, and a sense of drafting) into the space, speaking to its history as a workshop.