UNStudio’s Le Toison d’Or in Brussels is a hybridization of a traditional building-block typology and a mixed-use development with a retail podium. Located on the Avenue de la Toison d’Or between two historical gates (the Porte Louise and the Port de Namur), the mixed-use complex integrates into the urban fabric of its surroundings, whilst simultaneously merging a retail and residential system. The design includes 72 apartments, 13,000 m2 of commercial space, a daycare, 330 parking spaces and an elevated city garden of 2,950 m2.
In order to avoid the monolithic qualities common to block structures, the façade of Le Toison d’Or is broken up by means of variations in texture, depth and the repeating rhythm of a series of curved vertical frames. These frames serve to enclose the balconies of the apartments on the upper floors, whilst also facilitating the large display windows of the retail units.
According to architect Ben van Berkel, it was important that the retail units be as open and light as possible. This is in contrast to 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 had the potential to float above the avenue.