51N4E: How To Not Demolish a Building

The Belgian collective rethinks the possibilities of adaptive reuse.

May 19, 2023

Recorded on April 11, 2023.

Current Work is a lecture series featuring leading figures in the worlds of architecture, urbanism, design, and art.

In this video, the Belgian collective 51N4E (named after the coordinates of the city where they are based) presents their work transforming Brussel’s former World Trade Center into a program-neutral tower that vertically mixes residential, hospitality, office, and public spaces while remaining flexible for future use. The presentation, given by Olivier Cavens and Dieter Leyssen, includes a detailed look into the firm’s strategies for reusing as much of a building’s materials as possible, turning the building site into a marketplace to distribute the materials salvaged from its structure. 

The presentation is followed by a conversation with Elisa Iturbe, an assistant professor at The Cooper Union. Cavens, Leyssen, and Iturbe speak about dealing with the legacy of modernism, moving towards a system in which reuse is the standard, and how to deal with plumbing when converting offices into residential spaces. 


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