fourth floor

communal staircase inserted into an intermediate slot between the new and old buildings. Despite being logements sociaux, the duplexes are quite inventive spatially, making the most of the awkward, wedge-shaped plot. The top floor flat even has a modish sleeping loft overlooking the living space below.

But the most striking aspect of the project is the rusting metal carapace that envelops the building in a coarse caress, as if the hull of an ageing supertanker had somehow careered into the block.Yet the monolithic appearance is slightly deceptive; the Cor-ten panels are only a thin outer skin (a mere 4mm thick) riveted to stainless-steel omega profiles attached to the concrete walls. Flexible bands prevent the risk of galvanic coupling (where one type of metal encourages the rapid corrosion of another) that can occur when Cor-ten and stainless steel come into contact.

Slight disparities in the ochre tones of the panels add a sense of patchwork variety and animation to the overall composition. Cor-ten shutters are incorporated into the facade, filtering light through vertical slits in the manner of a modern mashrabiya. When closed, the shutters lie flush with the panels, giving the block an unsettlingly seamless, hermetic quality.

Clearly this is a building that thrives on contrast (modern Corten and traditional wedding cake) enhanced by the jolting surprise of seeing so visually and culturally challenging a material employed on such an ambitious scale.Yet it is more than just a skin, attested by the generous proportions of the apartments and the way in which light animates the interiors. The gritty boiler plating conceals a sensitive soul. C. S.


Mario Garzaniti, Liege Photographs

Alain Janssens

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