Thor Central Waterschei Genk:
A monument for restructuring

An old mining tower illustrates the history of coal mining in Waterschei in Genk – one of seven former coalmines in Belgium’s Campine region. Following the restructuring within the region, the site was transformed into an up-and-coming technology park: Thor Park. The old main building, Thor Central, received a new role in the process. Thanks to the use of new Jansen Art’15 profiles, no compromises were necessary when it came to maintaining the old building appearance.

The pitmen in Waterschei once dug over 1000 metres underground into the earth. Coal mining began in 1924. Up until the pit was closed in 1987, 72.453.796 tonnes of coal were mined here – and the “Thor Central” bears witness to this. Today, the monumental main building of the site is preserved as a piece of cultural heritage. The rest of the site has meanwhile been transformed into a state-of-the-art technology park covering an area of 93 hectares. “Thor Park” emerged as a concept of architecture and development of the surroundings. To this end, the city of Genk and its partners brought together activities in the areas of research and development, innovation, business, talent development and urbanisation. The “Central” building was reopened in mid-2017 as the heart of the site measuring 22.000 square metres. In addition to a food plaza with two restaurants, it also contains other facilities such as meeting rooms, an auditorium, a main reception and a day care centre. One of the wings serves as an exhibition and events space. There is also a mining museum in the “Central” building. All of the facilities are available for use by local businesses and residents. The building is to take on the role of a facility centre for the businesses in Thor Park. It is therefore used as a lively intersection between the past and future – it represents the history of the region and is a new flagship building for the city of Genk.
Square metres of glazing was restored, repaired and coated

Glass tiles provide sufficient light to the glass-roofed hall

Change for the future
In order to carry over the “Central” building into its new role and make it fully operational again, a range of building work was necessary. In its old condition, the building no longer met modern requirements. It was not equipped specifically for the potential number of people present. Among other things, floors needed to be reinforced and the external brick façade replaced or rebuilt. 1500 square metres of glazing was restored, repaired and coated. Most of the building services were also upgraded. The aim of the preservation project was to bring out the historic character of the building and thereby do justice to the cultural heritage. At the same time, energy needed to be supplied in a modern, innovative way.

Transparency with new comfort
At the heart of the “Central” building is the light and airy Barbarazaal hall. Before the restoration, the hall was a gloomy space because a canopy covered the beautiful glass roof.
As the original Val Saint-Lambert glazed units and the concrete construction of the roof could not be retained and were no longer available, a special solution for the project was designed to infill new glazed units. Specially made for this purpose, 3600 glass tiles from France now provide sufficient light to the glass-roofed hall. A second glass screen was installed above the glass roof for protection.
In order to make full use of the light throughout the entire building, transparent walls were used in many places. To this end, new materials were also used which bear visual resemblance to the original in a similar way to the roof construction. Internal walls and doors were designed with profiles from the Jansen Art’15 system – a series which Jansen specially developed for very slimline steel doors with modern levels of comfort. The highly stable, non-insulated steel profile system ensures durable constructions in extremely narrow frames. Jansen Art’15 doors and partitions separate different spaces without compromising on the generous space. The traditional, handcrafted metalwork of Jansen Art’ 15 makes every product a unique piece.
Image sources: Lumecore, Antwerp
Project details
Autonoom Gemeentebedrijf Genk
Satijnplus / ELD Mijnsite Waterschei THV
window manufacturer
JK Glasconstruct, Kruishoutem
Jansen Partner
Kloeckner Metals Belgium NV, Antwerpen
Batineg SA, Vésenas/CH
Steel profile system