UNStudio's first building in Belgium features a stone facade and golden balconies


Dutch firm UNStudio has completed a retail and residential complex in Brussels that combines curving architectural forms with flashes of golden-hued aluminium.

Le Toison dOr by UNStudio

Named Le Toison d'Or, the eight-storey building is UNStudio's first completed project in Belgium, and is located between the historic Porte Louise and Port de Namur gates in the centre of Brussels.

Le Toison dOr by UNStudio

The building's unusual facade is its most prominent feature. Framed by curving bands of glass-fibre reinforced concrete, the exterior walls feature stone tiles, expansive shop windows and golden balconies.

The corner retail unit is taken up by a Foster & Partners-designed Apple Store, which was the first to be rolled out after Jonathan Ive became the tech giant's chief design officer.

Le Toison dOr by UNStudio

"It was important that the retail units be as open and light and possible," explained studio principal Ben van Berkel, whose portfolio also includes Rotterdam's Erasmus Bridge and the new Arnhem station.

Le Toison dOr by UNStudio

"We wanted to contrast this with the apparent solidity of the upper floors, to create the illusion that the vertical balloon-like frames were carrying the building; as if the whole block almost has the potential float above the avenue," he said.

Completed in collaboration with Belgian studio Jaspers-Eyers, the mixed-use building was planned as a "hybridisation of a traditional building-block typology and a mixed-use development with a retail podium".

Le Toison dOr by UNStudio

Approximately 13,000 square metres of commercial space, as well as a creche, occupy the lower levels, while a total of 72 apartments are housed in the upper levels, surrounding a rooftop courtyard.

From the street, the curving frames help to visually tie the two disparate sections together, while the different materials offer variations in texture.

Le Toison dOr by UNStudio

"In architecture we tend to favour abstraction and to avoid figuration," said Ben van Berkel.

"But on the street facade of the Toison d'Or building we wanted to investigate the space between the abstract and the figurative, to create moments of tacit allusion to the pictorial."

Le Toison dOr by UNStudio

A slightly different approach was taken for the courtyard-facing elevations, where long golden balconies emphasise the horizontal rather than the vertical lines of the building.

Le Toison dOr by UNStudio
Photograph by Eva Bloem

Inside, a sculptural staircase leads residents up to their homes. These vary in size, ranging between 50 and 750 square metres, with ceiling heights of at 2.7 metres to bring in plenty of daylight.

Le Toison dOr by UNStudio
Photograph by Eva Bloem

The curves of the building's exterior are picked up inside these homes – the architects have created smoothly curved cabinets and worktops in the kitchens and bathrooms.

Le Toison dOr by UNStudio
Photograph by Eva Bloem

The building also includes four additional subterranean floors, accommodating car parking for both residents and shoppers.

Photography is by Hufton + Crow, apart from where otherwise indicated.

Project credits:

Client: TD Immo Invest
Architect: UNStudio
Project team: Ben van Berkel, Gerard Loozekoot with Wesley Lanckriet, Jacques van Wijk and Hans Kooij, Tina Kortmann, Tatjana Gorbachewskaja, Philipp Meise, Jaap-Willem Kleijwegt, Marie Prunault, Tomas Mokry, Nanang Santoso, Olivier Yebra, Thomas Harms, Rene Wysk, Todd Ebeltoft, Patrick Noome, Chartlotte Guyaux, Johanna Mencia, Machiel Wafelbakker, Bartek Winnicki, Aurelie Krotoff, Ondrei Kyjanek, Wendy van der Knijff

Belgian architect: Jaspers-Eyers Architects
Local project leader: Wesley Lanckriet, U/Define Architects
Structural Engineer: ABCIS Van Wetter
Landscape architect: Lodewijk Baljon landschapsarchitecten
Atelier Ruimtelijk Advies
Installations: Techniplan adviseurs, TDEC
Building Physics and sustainability: DGMR
Cost calculation: BBN adviseurs, Widnell Europe
Fire Safety: FPC Fire Protection Consultants
Quality Control: SECO
Main contractor: CFE NV – BPC Brabant

  • blurgh

    Digital Postmodernism.

    • Davide

      So true. UNstudio, what’s going on at your place?!

  • Dylan Milne

    I thought I wouldn’t like it looking at the photo on the feed, but actually I think this building is quite beautiful and the exteriors and interiors match very well. Overall the whole thing looks quality. I only wonder how it looks in its surroundings.

  • Michal Sikorski

    We call it the Temple of Squash.

  • spadestick

    Except for the bottom where the retail is housed, I find these apartments are appallingly ugly. The curves and aluminium cladding are so 90s and pre-dot com-boom dated.

  • Kay

    I don’t hate it (mainly because of the spacious balconies, which is nice). Other than that, yeah I agree.

  • Hej!

    Just demolish it.

  • The_Pinchhitter

    It looks like a 1930s building in Miami.