This week our design team, alongside BC Architects, presented outline design sketches to the clients of Viroinval Tannery. The 60-meter-long building is currently in a state of disrepair, teetering on the banks of a confluence in the Walloon region of Belgium.

Jonathan Tuckey Design and BC Architects were appointed the project in November last year and in the past few months have collated a design proposal for this monumental building. The ambition is to solidify the tanneries auspicious future as an eco-retreat and community cultural hub within an area of outstanding natural beauty. The jaded tannery will eventually form the gateway to a future nature reserve, drawing visitors from across the globe to unwind amidst rich biodiversity.

At the forefront of discussion was how to maximise the vast interiors potential and implement communal circulation, whilst articulating intimate moments. A variety of accommodation typologies will be available to visitors, catering to a spectrum of stay durations as well as residencies. An enfilade approach will mirror the rhythmic spaces of a home, granting guests familiar comfort within an extraordinary context.

The buildings’ proposed purpose and retrofitting techniques will be uniform in principle. Ecological construction methods will be implemented such as sheep wool insulation throughout the internal walls and the reuse of existing pipes for ventilation. The tanneries authenticity and chequered charm will be preserved through the repair of stone walls, steel beams, timber floorboards and roof structure, as part of the sustainable design strategy.

The intention is to explore an alternative way of dealing with the building envelope and its energy efficiency, based on the principles of slow heating. A central theme is to reduce the environmental impact through calibrated energy consumption and the introduction of different climates, which are adapted according to the use of each room.

The tanneries relationship to the river plays a crucial role in the development of the project. The ground floor will be designed to withstand any future flooding to which the area is prone and, through the introduction of a turbine, electricity and heating can be provided.