Food hall site check

The building industry’s holidays are over. You bet they are! Jacques Delens, our contractor, is back in business. Concrete mixers are constantly driving to and fro in their attempt to finish the new Food hall. A pretty hectic activity it certainly is. Together with my colleagues from Abattoir’s administrative team, we went to have a look on the building-site. Here’s our report.

Countless foundations and walls having been built over the last couple of months, with the contours of the new hall gradually becoming visible, we thought it was time to go out and have a look. So colleagues from Abattoir’s accounting department and  secretariat joined to pay a visit to the building-site. Maria, Christiane, Nathalie, Yves and Michel Geeroms, one of the administrators, were my companions during that visit. Soon some 45 new shops will open in our new food hall, selling meat, poultry, smoked meat products, vegetables, fruit, olives, bread and … you name it, to private customers.

THE FOOD HALL

Mrs Griet Ceupens (far right on the picture) representing ORG, our architectural office, is waiting for us at the site container. She wants to take us straight away to the load-and-unload docks at the rear of the building. Safety helmets and shoes are being put on, as rules are there to abide by.

An immense concrete wall, the back wall that is, is overwhelming us and is hiding at the same time all activity behind it. From the place where soon lorries will be loading and unloading their cargoes, tons of building material is still being stacked. We recognize the openings in the wall through which the goods will be passing. We also notice a service entrance and a service elevator. This elevator is meant to take you to the technical installations on the roof, but also to the Urban Farm, a 4,000 sqm city vegetable garden and a restaurant.

We enter the building by one of the docks to find ourselves right in the centre of the logistics hall (the total size of which one can easily imagine without the inner walls being built yet). Griet, our guide, shows us where exactly the butcher’s shops will be separated from the hallways. It is remarkable how wide the latter are being kept so to make it easier for traders to move to and fro delivering their goods. Docks and gangways for delivery of meat are kept separated from those destined for fruit and vegetables or still other merchandise. Because of food safety, cross-fertilisation is to be avoided at all times.

The "meat corridors" are going to be chilled. We see technicians above our heads installing ducts and all sorts of wiring. The noise that is being produced by the hammering on the metal tubes is making life tough for our guide. Still, everybody keeps paying attention to what she is trying to explain to us in pretty much detail.

A couple of minutes later, we are walking through the area where the butcher’s shops will come, to finally find ourselves in the public area. This place will be crowded in a couple of months from now. Unbelievable, considering today’s emptiness. But once the inner walls will have been placed, this will soon change.

The public area is strikingly covered with natural light, thanks to the roof especially built for that purpose, our guide/architect explains. For the time being, this roof hole is still open to allow for two huge cranes to serve the rest of the building-site. The shape of some of the prefab walls inside the building make me think of Moorish influences, but I don’t know whether my colleagues share this impression.

In the meantime, a lot of activity is continuously and uninterruptedly taking place above our heads as we move along into the direction of the Chaussée de Mons, where the building approaches the private houses. Here, the refrigerators for the concessionaires will come, for which the dedicated outer freezer wall has been built already. The colour of this freezer wall will be painted from the outside in a soft, nice looking colour (so not in black, as initially planned), which will certainly please the neighbours. There will also be an emergency exit into the direction of the chaussée de Mons (not existing as yet).

Griet is guiding us towards the frontal part of the hall, where the fruit and vegetable shops will come, and a bakery too. At the main entrance (rue Ropsy Chaudron’s side), a cafetaria will be installed. Although there will be several entrances/exits, this will remain the main entrance. The ready made concrete of the main central plate has been poured only recently, but we can walk over it already. The prefab construction elements are being put in place and once the walls will be there, this part of the roof will get its finishing too. There is still a lot of work ahead, but things are moving along quite well. We can see where the elevator and the stairs towards the roof will come. The public toilets and the roof restaurant will be situated on level +1. At the back of the Freshmarket, there is a nice passage towards the new food hall. At present, it is being used as an access to the markets during the weekends.

I must say,  we were all very impressed. Having had the privilege of having seen the 3D plans and drawings before as well, today we have got a pretty good idea of how this place is going to look like in a couple of months from now.

URBAN FARM
Griet really wanted to impress us even more, so she took us to the roof of the complex, where a gigantic green garden will be installed to grow fruit and vegetables, and maybe even fish.

We all have a good look around, while workers are mounting the steel frames before the concrete gets thrown in. Meanwhile, concrete water drops are making our clothes worthless, but nobody cares because of the breathtaking views that are being exposed to us. The surface of the future Urban Farm and restaurant attached to it are immense. Bit by bit, inch by inch, the roof is being installed, so that the roofing-works too will be finished in a couple of months. 

A food hall like this is unique in our country (inspiration gathered in Barcelona). Even before winter, most of the rough construction works will be finalized, so that we will find ourselves “under roof”, enabling us to continue the interior works without any hindrance. It is still our objective to open the new hall around Easter 2015.

An interesting visit it sure was. Thanks to our colleague Sonia, for washing our clothes afterwards. Thanks also to Luc Blancke, one of our administrators, who was so kind as to meanwhile man our reception desk!

You can follow the evolution of the works in a high speed video, refreshed on a monthly basis. Just click here .

 

Text and pictures : Paul THIELEMANS (copyright Abattoir nv-sa)