Project owner: BELIRIS, Owner and manager: Le Foyer Schaerbekois – Brussels, Belgium 01/616
50°51’30.87″ N, 4°22’16.22″ E
4,165 m² total above-ground surface area, 30 apartments.
2014 – work in progress; (01/616).
An invitation-only competition, winning project.

Services carried out:

• Landscaping
• Architecture
• Interiors
• Structural engineering
• Equipment engineering
• Building physics
• Acoustics
• Project Management
• Cost control
• Restoration of sgraffito


The estate on Rue l’Olivier, built by the architect Henri Jacobs in 1905, blends functionality and aesthetics, and remains almost entirely intact to this day.  The thick load-bearing facade and shear walls give the interiors almost Roman proportions. The balconies and terraces systematically placed between huge masonry towers make the inner courtyard look as if it has been etched by Piranesi.

The project aims to respond to the challenge of making attractive and affordable housing while respecting their heritage, combining grand and cutting-edge design, while at the same time reducing their environmental impact.

With this in mind, the project does not include lifts, due to the construction and maintenance costs this would entail. This decision was crucial in determining the layout of the apartments.

The original 50 small apartments have been refashioned into 30 more spacious ones, as per current standards, in 9 different types.

The 20 apartments on the 3rd and 4th floors have been combined to create 10 duplexes. The 20 other apartments on the other floors are all on one level (+0, +1, +2). Finally, two apartments for those with reduced mobility have been created on the ground floor of the two road-facing buildings.

On this same level, the apartments on either side of the central passage have been removed to create communal and reception spaces for the entire site. There are two entrance halls, letter boxes, bike racks, a pushchair park and an area for bins. These areas can be accessed through two new entrance ways in the cavities in the two gables in the central passage.

All residents therefore enter via this central passage. A semi-public space is thus created, strengthening the sense of belonging to an urban community.


The impressive ironwork staircases have been restored and kept as entry and fire exit stairs, keeping the backbone of the buildings and access ways.

External modifications

The original dimensions have been retained, apart from the changes made to the 4 bow-window terraces on the ground floor at the 4 darkest points of the courtyard.

The facades with a heritage interest have been preserved and identically restored, and in these cases, have been insulated from inside. 

The facades with no heritage interest, the adjoining gables and the rear South-facing facade of the Southern block have been insulated externally and rendered.

The balconies looking out over the central courtyard have been restored and retain their original function as external terraces. They are enclosed by a taut stainless steel mesh which provides visual harmony and protects the terraces against pigeons and intrusions, and act as safety guards. These meshes can also act as guides for climbing plants.

New steel and grey glass canopies have been placed over the top floor terraces, replacing the previous polycarbonate canopies.

The frames have all been replaced. They are now made of wood in its original colour and are fitted with triple glazing.  They adhere to the original divisions and the specifics of the glass on the road-side stair cages.

Natural light

To improve the amount of natural light, bright colours have been used liberally, both inside and out. The inner window openings have been fitted with mirrors to increase the reflection of light. The spandrels of the South facade of the rear block have all been removed from the upper floors and the bay windows have been enlarged to allow more natural light to enter.

Energy efficient design

The energy criteria established for this project comply with “low energy” standards (BNC < 60 kWh/m² per year). The design strategy set out takes into account overall energy consumption, and fits particularly well with the new regulatory framework for the energy efficiency of buildings (PEB 2015), which encourages designers to focus on overall efficiency.

As a priority, the energy requirements of the building have been reduced, mainly thanks to the choices made regarding containment (internal or external insulation depending on heritage interest, new triple glazing frames, optimised air tight features, elimination of thermal bridges, etc.).

Moreover, free sources of energy have been enhanced (direct sunlight, solar and thermal energy panels, etc.).

Finally, technical systems are optimised in accordance with remaining energy requirements (a single gas condensing boiler connected to thermal panels on the roof; low temperature radiators; plate heat exchanger to recover energy in extracted air with a yield higher than 75%, etc.)


The sgraffito has been restored.  It is a case of keeping as much as possible of the original material and designs by consolidating them and supplementing the missing parts with identical materials, ensuring that the sgraffito is preserved in the future. A new sgraffito has been created using a contemporary composition to replace the sgraffito decorating number 30, which had completely disappeared. 


Architecture and Engineering: Philippe SAMYN and PARTNERS All projects are designed by Philippe Samyn who also supervises every drawing
Structural Engineering: Philippe SAMYN and PARTNERS with SETESCO (sister company 1986-2006) or INGENIEURSBUREAU MEIJER (2007-2015) if not mentioned
Services engineering: Philippe SAMYN and PARTNERS with FTI (sister company since 1989) if not mentioned
    LOCALISATION 16-46 rue l’Olivier, 1030 Schaerbeek, Bruxelles, Belgique. 50°51’30.87″ N, 4°22’16.22″ E SURFACE et DONNEE Surface brute hors sol : 4.165 m² Nombre de logements : 30 logements MAÎTRE D’OUVRAGE Maître d’ouvrage : BELIRIS, rue du Gouvernement Provisoire n°9-15, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgique. Propriétaire et gestionnaire : Le Foyer Schaerbeekois, rue de la Consolation n°70, Schaerbeek 1030 Schaerbeek, Bruxelles, Belgique. ARCHITECTES & INGÉNIEURS Philippe SAMYN and PARTNERS sprl, architects & engineers Philippe SAMYN Chaussée de Waterloo, 1537 B-1180 Bruxelles. Propriétaire exclusif des droits d’auteur (copyright) Tél. + 32 2 374 90 60 Fax + 32 2 374 75 50 E-mail: sai@samynandpartners.com, mandataire, ÉQUIPE Architecture Design Partner : Dr Ir Philippe SAMYN. Partner in charge : Quentin STEYAERT. Collaborateurs : Nacer HOSNA, Mariuca CALIN, Serge NKAKA, Giulia LORINI, Paolo RUARO, Gunhi Boar SILVA BATICAM. Techniques spéciales : Philippe SAMYN and PARTNERS sprl, architects & engineers, avec FLOW TRANSFER INTERNATIONAL sa (sous-traitant) Frédéric MICHAUX. Rue du Ham, 137 1180 Bruxelles, Belgique Tel. : +32 2 375 75 40 E-mail : info@fti-sa.be Stabilité : Philippe SAMYN and PARTNERS sprl, architects & engineers, avec INGENIEURS BUREAU MEIJER bvba (sous-traitant) Thomas PERARNAU, Ben VERBEECK. Prins Boudewijnlaan, 53/2 2650 Edegem, Belgique Tel. : +32 3 448 25 00 E-mail : info@meijer.be avec en sous-traitance également : Physique du bâtiment et énergie : NEO & IDES Bruno BUSCH, Cédric TREVISAN. Rue des Chasseurs Ardennais, 3 B-4031 Liège (Angleur) Tel. : +32 4 366 00 17 E-mail : info@neo-ides.be Acoustique : ACOUSTIC TECHNOLOGIES sa Jean-Pierre CLERBOIS, Simon HAMARD. Avenue Brugmann, 215 1050 Bruxelles, Belgique Tel. :+32 02 344 85 85 E-mail mail@atech-acoustictechnologies.com Restauration des Sgraffites : Christine BERTRAND. Rue de la Baraque 127b Louvain-La-Neuve, Belgique Tel. :+32-10-45 48 31 E-mail : canela@skynet.be en contrat direct avec le Maitre d’ouvrage : Coordination sécurité et santé : SGI ingénieurs (SGI), 17 rue Jean Sonet à 5032 ISNES DOCUMENTATION Gestion documentation : Philippe SAMYN and PARTNERS (A. CHARON et Q. OLBRECHTS)

Location :

For plans sections and elevations, please refer to the archives section of the site available from the “references” menu.