Day 74/365 of Steel – Pierre Dufau

Pierre Dufau (born 21 june 1908 in Arras)

He is particularly known for his work on the reconstruction of Amiens after World War II, including the railway station, and the Tour Europlaza in Paris. But I would like to focus on another project. The façade of the cross-shaped building that he designed together with René Stapels for the insurance company Royale Belge in 1967, was inspired by an earlier building by Finnish modernist Eero Saarinen. The Illinois headquarters for the farm equipment manufacturer represents one of the first architectural applications for weathering steel, which gave it a rugged and earthy look as the building oxidized and aged.

Renovation Royale Belge

Royale Belge
Fig 1: Royale Belge

The building, which was used by AXA until 2017 and has since been abandoned, is an emblematic landmark from the 1970s whose orange windows and cor-ten steel skeleton are widely known. Surrounded by a ten-hectare green space, the building is now the subject of a promising redevelopment project that will transform it into a mixed-use complex. A hotel, co-working spaces, and a fitness and wellness centre will complement the office function, while respecting the building’s heritage value.

Royale Belge
Fig 2: Royale Belge
©Séverin Malaud

The original composition and design will be preserved and, where necessary, restored to their initial model. Caruso St John Architects Llp and Bovenbouw Architectuur won the design competition and the general contractor is CIT Blaton.

Existing Building
Fig 3: Existing Building
©Mireille Roobaert

Initially, it was supposed to house the United States Embassy, but when the building couldn’t be modified to include heavier, bullet-proof glass without fundamentally changing the unique appearance of the structure (which the Brussels-Capital Region did not allow for), the Americans abandoned the project.

Existing Building
Fig 4: Existing Building
©Mireille Roobaert
Fig 5: The Construction Site
©Benjamin Wells / Caruso St John

About the Author:

Bruno Dursin – Managing Director at Believe in Steel. Bruno has more than 30 years of experience in promoting steel & steel solutions. His clients benefit from his extensive network within the building industry.

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