New Exhibition Hall Liège Expo+
A trade fair venue such as the one that is the subject of this tender in Liège has an institutional dimension coupled with the fact that it is a public amenity. This means that an architectural challenge is also a great opportunity to transform the immediate urban vicinity and enhance the city as a beacon of architecture.
This contextual dimension and the quest for urban value have to coexist with the organisational and functional efficiency of the programme of a trade fair venue. These two factors are not in the least contradictory. The programme to be completed may be summarised in terms of the following aims: 1) The utmost clarity to deal with the attendance of vast numbers of people in very specific periods of time; 2) the demand for a swift and effective management of the exhibition spaces, minimising the assembly times and movements; 3) the adaptive capability of these exhibition spaces to the various demands typical of a trade fair venue, and 4) clarity with regard to movement through and access to the venue.
The access plaza not only gives the building a public character and increases its potential to regenerate the context, it also regulates access to the building in a clear manner in so far as it is a space that precedes the entrance. All visitors who arrive from the tram station or parking spaces situated at the southern end are funnelled by an ‘access gate’ to this plaza. Once they have passed through the ‘access’, visitors are surprised to encounter the space of the plaza. It is on the eastern side, opposite the plaza, where the large utilities area is located, ideal for the convenient transit of trucks and the parking spaces allocated to exhibitors, employees and users other than the general public. All of the car parks are enveloped as green spaces.
The floor space, once one crosses the concourse that is open to the access plaza, which can also be used as an exhibition space, is resolved by the central layout of all of the halls, joined together and in continuity, in such a way that they can easily and immediately be joined or separated. These halls with this layout are bounded on three sides: to the west, north and south, by pedestrian walkways so that the public can gain easy and immediate access and, more importantly, the halls can be joined together without having to rely on the layout of the access points.
A 1,000 m2 hall is an exception to this central and linked layout of the rest of the halls. It is situated at the southern end of the plaza and forms the entrance from the access route marked out by the tram stop.
Nevertheless, this positioning means that it can respond to certain exhibition uses that call for contact with the plaza, as well as other types of uses.
We propose a section of the building in which the roof structure possesses great architectonic expressiveness, while at the same time qualifying the internal space. This is a programme in which it is essential to have clear surface spaces that are not constrained by the building’s structure, and this means that the horizontal structure acquires importance in itself, becoming a special part of the project that helps us to shape attractive spaces.