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Tournai, Belgium

Carré Janson


Historic heart of Tournai

The UNESCO district of Tournai is home to the Notre-Dame Cathedral and its belfry, both of which are World Heritage sites. With the aim of strengthening the city's urban appeal by enhancing its economic and tourism potential through the revitalization of the cathedral district, the Carré Janson cluster will dedicate its multi-purpose spaces and teams to technological innovation and artistic and creative stimulation.

Carré Janson is located in the historic heart of Tournai. Adjacent to the Notre Dame cathedral, it comprises a series of interlocking buildings forming a "square.” with the main entrance on Place Paul-Émile Janson. Designed for residents, visitors, businesses, and tourists alike, the project will breathe new life into the UNESCO district. It will be a place of life, exchange, expression, knowledge sharing, and connection between business, the university, and the public. The tourist trail is designed to take visitors through surprising and moving worlds.

The current buildings on the Anciens Prêtres site dating back to the mid-18th century. At that time, an imposing classical-style mansion was built, with three wings framing a garden. This building was primarily intended as accommodation for the diocese's emeritus priests. On the second floor of the wing facing Place de l'Évêché, a large room housed the chapter house library. In 1931, a new building, perpendicular to the cathedral and connected to the Anciens Prêtres house, was erected to house an extension of the canon’s library, now communal, and the town's archives. The Quadrilatère is a former junction between the cathedral and the parish chapel, which burnt down in 1940. Finally, a house on Rue du Curé Notre-Dame is included in the restoration project for the Anciens Prêtres site. On the first floor, it housed a commercial space, with three apartments on the upper floors.

The project aims to create a "Center for Expression and Creation,” which will devote its multi-use spaces and teams to energizing technological innovation, art, and creation. It is intended to be a showcase for the strategic renewal of the city of Tournai, a driving force behind economic revitalization in the Cathedral Quarter (UNESCO), and a marker of Tournai's influence in Picardy Wallonia and the Eurometropolis. A showcase, demonstration, and exchange center for professionals and the general public, it will be built around a platform for innovation in smart cities and new technologies, an immersive sensory journey, and a space for creation and exchange.

Our proposal is for a discreet architectural solution that embraces the heritage character of the site. The project calls for a new interior structure, preserving the historic character while introducing new modular spaces for events, including a panoramic terrace overlooking the city.

Carré Janson houses a variety of programs, combining the old and the new. Complex coordination was required to fully restore the existing structures near the cathedral. Social activators such as a restaurant and bar, exhibition rooms, courtyards, an urban garden, and a panoramic terrace enhance the historic buildings, enabling users to take full advantage of the cultural center and all the new facilities.

Comprising a reception area, documentation area, and store, the ground level is adapted to that of Place Paul-Émile Janson. Inside, a 500 m² courtyard houses a 250-seat auditorium. Its layout provides a transition between Place Paul-Émile Janson and Place de l'Évêché, which have different heights. The auditorium is enclosed within the atrium by an acoustic curtain. Modular, multi-purpose rooms are available for hire for conferences, seminars, and other events.

The sensory and immersive tour (PSI) covers almost 2,000 m² and is designed to appeal to all visitors' senses, sometimes taking them into an imaginary world, an escape into an "Other Tournai” (Autre Tournai), and sometimes into the contemporary reality of the city through a subtle awareness. It is aimed at the general public, families, and children. Special attention is paid to young audiences, with an editorial language close to urban fantasy stories with a mysterious atmosphere.

Two large-scale modular floors, 230 m² on the fourth level and 260 m² on the fifth level, are designed to showcase the city's economic activity. A belvedere composed of two terraces with a surface area of 120 m² forms the contemporary extension. The 330 m² panoramic terrace on the roof offers a unique view of the city and the cathedral.

An urban garden has been laid out in the space delimited by the Romanesque wall still visible from Place Paul-Émile Janson. An aerial footbridge connects the cathedral's grandstands with the Carré Janson. The historic passageway creates a new public link offering views of the cathedral, in the midst of the restoration of its Gothic section.

Scheduled to open in 2024, the rehabilitation project is part of the SMARTournai project portfolio financed by the ERDF and Wallonia.

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