Urban warehouses of the nineteenth-century are remarkable structures. As essential facilities in national and international trade and industry during that period, they were heralds of modernization: their presence signifying that a city was integrated into a commercial network made possible by evolving transportation technology. Today, these wonderful buildings are obsolete for their original purposes and therefore endangered. Preserving them has an important social value, in that it would maintain the distinctive look and ambience of former trading and manufacturing areas, and create a sense of continuity between the past and present. Brussels, as a commercial and manufacturing city, has a rich, diverse, and unique collection of old warehouses on its territory, which are worthy being preserved.
The objective of the proposed research project is to develop a base of knowledge about the history, structure, and architecture of warehouses to support their preservation and adaptive reuse. To date, there has been no comprehensive study of warehouses as a building type. This research project, and the typology we develop, will be models for the investigation and understanding of this building type. The products of this research will serve as a guide for public agencies, owners, and designers, both to promote policies to preserve these important resources and to encourage their respectful rehabilitation and reuse.
The main product of the proposed research project will be a typology of nineteenth-century Brussels warehouses, which identifies the defining features of this type of building, both architectural and structural. The focus will be nineteenth-century warehouses. The result will aid heritage preservation officials in identifying significant warehouses and districts, as well as owners, designers, and engineers in planning for the reuse of these buildings, so that their distinctive characteristics can be retained. With this architectural and structural guidance, this important building type can remain as bridges to the past, while finding a new life, serving contemporary needs. In order to create a comparative context, and to identify the particular architectural qualities of the warehouses of Brussels, the study will also include examples from other cities, in Belgium and other countries. The products of this research will be valuable to government agencies and designers in other cities, nationally and internationally, as well.