The world-renowned British architectural and design firm Foster + Partners recently proposed their design for the ICÔNE, a new office complex in Belval, Luxembourg. The iconic design of ICÔNE is a shift from the traditional closed office designs with endless rows of cubicles that made employees feel like rats in a maze towards expansive spaces, vibrant colors, natural lighting, and materials that anticipate the ever-changing needs and well-being of the modern worker with the ability to adapt to the interactive, collaborative and experiential working demands of tomorrow. With this, the ICÔNE is a flawless example of how architecture and design should be defined by human need, making the structure not just a place of work but a space to live.

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Well-articulated play of punctures within the structural grid creating a create a dramatic and breath-taking arrival sequence_©Foster + Partners

Located in the heart of Europe, the 18,800 square-meter office building reinterprets the rich industrial heritage of Belval and regenerates the surroundings to create a positive impact on its context. Efforts were made in the design to relate to its neighbouring buildings and address the different characteristics of the principal axes to the east and west. It has been given entrances on both, the North and South facade, which are articulated fundamentally such that it resolves the level changes between the street and the plaza through a series of stepped terraces that create a dramatic and breathtaking arrival sequence. The building edge along the side of Porte de France contains shops, while Place de l’Académie harmonizes with the cafés and restaurants on the ground floor. Once constructed, the project will be able to host up to 40 small startups or the headquarters of a single-tenant, occupying approximately 1,200 people, and will be able to respond to the employment market for the next few decades to respond to the changing needs of the workplace.

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Dignified and formal exteriors that interacts with the adjacent building, plazas and streets_©Foster + Partners

The central atrium acts as the heart of the building and is the main social part of the project. It is enclosed by two wings of workspaces surrounded by a series of communal terraces for informal meetings and break-out spaces at every level which overlooks the central volume. This green light-filled space of the gridded structure has been designed by the principles of biophilia, and creates an excellent visual connectivity across the indoors, resulting in a dynamic atmosphere that encourages a collaborative and communicative work atmosphere. The structural grid for the building has been set such that it allows for flexible floor plates which can be altered as per the working patterns of the future. The organic nature and fluidity of the internal space contrast with the building’s exterior which is formal and dignified. The orthogonal façade on all four sides and a roof that emphasizes the structural grid give the building its unified industrial look. 

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The organic nature and fluidity of the internal space created by a series of communal terraces for informal meetings and break-out spaces_©Foster + Partners
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A successful effort to create a dynamic atmosphere that encourages a collaborative and communicative work atmosphere_©Foster + Partners

Receiving the certification for BREEAM Excellent rating and a WELL Building Standard, the building incorporates active and passive design strategies as an incentive to achieve a sustainable and healthy work environment. Some of the implemented strategies in the design are:

  1. Structurally and environmentally responsive façade that focuses on providing an integrated solution to create column-free internal office spaces, and at the same time provide solar shading while maintaining proper internal daylight access.
  2. A chilled ceiling system with exposed soffits has been installed which allows radiant temperatures and at the same time lowers the demand for cooling/heating of internal spaces.
  3. Green roofs that partially cover the building’s roof ensure proper rainwater collection which is later recycled for non-potable water use functions.
  4. Acoustic baffles and materials which create a pleasing indoor environment have been used.
  5. Lighting systems with detection for human presence or absence in a room have been installed which respond by automatically turning off lights when they are not required.
  6. Indoor plantations and greenery keep the atmosphere purified and fresh, maintaining the health and well-being of the users.
  7. Mobile application for management of indoor shades, windows, temperature, and lighting to prevent unwanted wastage of electricity.
  8. Provision for electric vehicle charging points and bicycle parking has been provided in the basement to promote the use of sustainable commute facilities amongst the employees.
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The spaces allow for maximum daylight intake to reduce the load on artificial heating and cooling_©Foster + Partners

To put it all together, the design for ICONE’s new office building is yet another architectural marvel from Foster + Partners which arises from an integrated approach in the design process, where the core disciplines work together to conceive and design a project from its earliest inception. They have beautifully explored and envisioned the future of communities, local culture, and corporations to understand how these will influence the requirements of modern-day workspaces. Foster + Partners have once again maintained sustainability as their central focus for the design and strongly considered throughout the project without compromising the design process, hence proving to us that the best architecture comes from a synthesis of all the elements that separately comprise and inform the character of a building – the structure that holds it up; the services that allow it to function; its ecology; the quality of natural light; the symbolism of the form; the relationship of the building to the skyline or the streetscape; the way users move through or around it; and last but not least its ability to lift the spirits. 

The ICÔNE is a flawless example of how architecture and design should be defined by human need, making the structure not just a place of work but a space to live_©Foster + Partners

References:

  1. “ICÔNE — an ICONIC ARCHITECT for an ICONIC BUILDING.” Www.iconeoffices.lu, www.iconeoffices.lu/.
  2. www.fosterandpartners.com  Foster + Partners /. “ICÔNE Breaks Ground in Belval | Foster + Partners.”
  3. www.fosterandpartners.com/news/archive/2020/06/icone-breaks-ground-inbelval/. Accessed 11 Dec. 2021.
Author

An aspiring architect who is passionate about designing spaces that creates a healthy and sustainable environment. She is a firm believer of simple, logical and research based design which makes the built environment highly adaptive, functional and user friendly. With the quest for knowledge, zeal to learn and passion to create, she has keen interest to perform and grow along the learning curve while contributing her best for the upliftment of the society.

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