On Friday 9 January 2015, the Mayor of Mons and Minister of State Elio Di Rupo, Prime Minister of Wallonia Paul Magnette, Local Government Minister Paul Furlan, Tourism Minister René Collin, the board of aldermen of the city of Mons, Artexis CEO Eric Everard, the internationally renowned architect Daniel Libeskind and architectural firm H2A introduced the new Conference Centre of Mons, the Mons International Congress Xperience (MICX), to the press.
The construction of this magnificent, contemporary building that will be hosting symposia, conferences and conventions, started in June 2012 and ended in late 2014.
The city of Mons initiated this project with the help of intermunicipal company IDEA. The project is perfectly in line with its tourism and economic development strategy for the city and the region. Wallonia and the European Union granted the funding of 30 million euros under the Convergence Fund.
The company will organise 'ultimate meetings and market places' at the MICX, which will be a venue for meetings and business events.
The MICX is located right in the middle of an area that is currently experiencing significant growth, near the footbridge of the future Mons train station designed by Santiago Calatrava.
The area and its footbridge connect the historic centre of Mons (Place Léopold, currently undergoing a complete renovation) with the new part of the city. The Conference Centre will be flanked by a four-star hotel, offices and new homes. In addition, a new bridge across the river Haine will connect the area directly to the Les Grands Prés shopping centre.
The festive opening of the Mons Conference Centre marks the completion of the very first major architectural structure launched as part of Mons 2015, Cultural Capital of Europe.
Arsonic ('La Maison de l'Écoute' or House of Listening) and a design business centre, which Daniel Libeskind claims will be 'the nerve centre of tomorrow'.
This nerve centre includes two major structures by internationally renowned architects: Santiago Calatrava and Daniel Libeskind. They are the architects currently also working on the renovation of Ground Zero in New York.
For six years already, the city of Mons has been pursuing an ambitious policy for economic, cultural and urban development. The aim is to put the city and the region of Mons-Borinage-St Ghislain on the right track towards new prosperity.
To reinforce this strategy, the city's board of aldermen has set up a series of projects.
Mons 2015, Cultural Capital of Europe, is one of the largest projects.
Another major project is the construction of the Mons Conference Centre, which will create much-needed economic leverage for the city's continued development.
The building offers structural facilities and is a symbol for the city's social and economic renewal. In that capacity, the Conference Centre will stimulate the local economy, not only by offering businesses, universities and other organisations a modern, quality conference venue, but also by breathing new life into the city's business tourism.
For instance, the Conference Centre will have a direct and indirect impact on various economic sectors (the hotel industry, restaurants, local commerce, tourism and cultural activities, real estate, caterers, technicians, temporary workers, etc.) and it will actively contribute to Mons' reputation in Belgium and abroad.
Mons is located in the middle of the golden triangle connecting Paris, London and the Ruhr, a region of 28 million residents. It is easily accessible by car (on the intersection of two important motorways), by train and by air (airports of Charleroi, Lille and Brussels).
The Conference Centre itself has a very strategic location near Lotto Mons Expo, behind the future footbridge from the train station designed by Santiago Calatrava and near the Les Grands Prés shopping centre. It is part of the plans to develop the new city around infrastructures that will create a physical connection between the historic centre of Mons and the development pole of Les Grands Prés and provide a natural transition between the various districts.
By 2017, the station and Les Grands Prés will undergo a complete makeover, mainly thanks to the combined action by the city, the Belgian national railway company SNCB, the European Union and the Walloon region.
The new station will bridge the two sides of the railway line to connect the historic centre with the new part of the city.
The new station was designed by Santiago Calatrava, one of the great architects of our time. In combination with the construction of the new district, which will offer a wide variety of possibilities including the MICX, this multimodal station will literally make the city bigger.
What was a 10-hectare area of unused land between the river Haine and the railway line two years ago, is now gradually taking shape as a quality district with an ideal location in terms of transport. The creation of this district resulted from the master plan drafted by Santiago Calatrava at the request of the SNCB, which is the original owner of the land.
The master plan was approved by the city and is currently in full progress: today there is the MICX, tomorrow it's the four-star hotel owned by Le Pélican and soon afterwards offices and homes will be erected as well.
The MICX and the hotel overlook a vast square starting from the bottom of the stairway access to the station. Underneath the square lies a car park of almost 500 spaces. The underground car park is an integrated part of the station (at the other side of the Place Léopold another car park provides 400 spaces) and is directly accessible from the motorway via the Imagix roundabout and the new bridge (IDEA) across the river Haine near the MICX.
Three office buildings (11,000 m² in total) have been planned between the square and the railway along the road leading to the station car park. 43,000 m² of homes will gradually be built in a wooded park along the avenue from the square.
It's worth mentioning that the city of Mons received European subsidies as part of the Convergence Programme in order to renovate the exterior walls and access routes to the station district, this to ensure urban and architectural coherence.
From 2011 to 2012, SPAQυE remediated the soil to allow the construction of the MICX and the adjacent hotel.
In 11 months, more than 185,000 tonnes of polluted soil were excavated from the site of the former SNCB workshops. The soil had been contaminated with cyclic hydrocarbons, heavy metals and mineral oils. This work was funded by Plan Marshall 2.vert.
The first stage of the work to economically restructure the old SNCB workshops ran from December 2011 to April 2012. The objective of this work was to remediate the polluted soil in the site's central area.
This is where the MICX is located today and where the new hotel is currently being completed.
The second stage of the remediation work started in August 2012 and ended in July 2013. This involved the area between the future station of Mons and the MICX along the railway. An underground car park was built at this location.
The third and final stage of the project started in the summer of 2013 (and is still on-going) on the site's west side, where a collective housing project by the Walloon housing association (Société wallonne du logement or SWL) will be realised.
SPAQuE's preliminary soil tests of the entire site showed that the soil was contaminated with substances such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), heavy metals and mineral oils. During the first two stages of the work, thousands of tonnes of contaminated soil were excavated and moved to approved remediation plants.
Until now, the completed remediation work on-site has cost 8 million euros, which was funded by Plan Marshall 2.vert.
The Conference Centre will put Mons on the map as a Walloon centre of business tourism. At the moment, the country's business tourism is divided across the three regions as follows: 49% Brussels, 41% Flanders and 10% Wallonia. Besides the Palais des Congrès in Liège and Namur, there is no professional conference infrastructure available on the market in Wallonia and northern France.
Business tourism is a sector that is expanding fast: from 2003 to 2013 it grew by 60.2% in Belgium and by 60.4% in Wallonia.
The Conference Centre in Mons will accommodate seminars, conferences and various other events.
Business tourism generates three to four times more revenue than traditional leisure tourism and also has a significant impact on many other sectors of activity.
Earlier this year, the Tourist Office issued a Convention Guide offering all the relevant information to companies wishing to organise a meeting, event or conference in Mons: the major locations (Lotto Mons Expo and the Conference Centre, of course), the smaller venues (prestigious quality rooms), the hotels, restaurants, caterers, nightlife, services (such as rental), incentives and event organisers, team building events and Destination Management Companies (DMC). The bilingual guide in French and English is available from the Tourist Office in hard copy and is also provided on Webkey.
To put Mons on the map as a business tourism destination, it is important to ensure that professionals have the chance to discover what is on offer. In 2014 the Tourist Office therefore participated in four specialised trade fairs in collaboration with Wallonia - Bruxelles Tourisme: Meedex in Paris, IMEX in Frankfurt, MICE PLACE Nord in Lille and EIBTM in Barcelona.
Visit Mons wants to continue to develop the venue's range further, but also aims to provide guidance to local operators in close collaboration with the Convention Agency of the Tourist Federation of the province of Hainaut. Visit Mons will also pay more attention to business tourism on its website www.visitmons.be. The new website is still under development at the moment, but the section of the site dedicated to business tourism will go online at the end of January. The Visit Mons mobile app is available as we speak.
First, the city issued a public tender for services in order to define a precise programme for the infrastructure (general programme based on market research and a detailed technical programme).
The contract went to Parisian firm AUBRY & GUIGUET.
Based on this programme, special work specifications were drafted for the design and construction of the Conference Centre.
In 2007 the city of Mons submitted the €32 million project for:
In March 2011 the city had received eight bids in this respect, which were analysed by an independent assessment committee chaired by Ann-Lawrence Durviaux, professor at the University of Liège and lawyer specialised in government procurement and contracts, administrative law and litigation.
The contract was won by CIT Blaton with a project developed by various authors including studio Libeskind and architectural firm H2A.
Born on 11 May 1946 in Łódź, Daniel Libeskind built a reputation as one of the great American architects. Daniel Libeskind is a musician, scientist, artist and architect and drew the plans of some of the most prominent buildings to be erected in the last few decades.
After his music studies in Israel, Libeskind moved to the United States, where he studied at the Bronx High School of Science until 1965. His interest in architecture grew and he enrolled with the Cooper Union School of New York. He then completed his architectural studies during two postgraduate years at the university of Essex in the United Kingdom.
In 1985 Libeskind won the first Leone di Petra prize at the Venice Biennale. In 1988 he participated in the exhibition for deconstructivist architects at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. From 1988 to 1999 he devoted himself to the design of the Jewish Museum in Berlin.
Daniel Libeskind then founded his own company in Berlin: Studio Daniel Libeskind. He has taught at the University of California in Los Angeles since 1994 and has also taught at many other universities around the world. He has several projects under his wing, some of which are to do with Judaism and the Holocaust (Jewish Museum in San Francisco, the Holocaust Centre in Manchester).
Daniel Libeskind was chosen for the reconstruction of the World Trade Center in New York. His project is not only a reminder of the tragic events of 9/11, it is also a symbol of hope. The memory and the duty to keep the memory alive are symbolised by retaining the subterranean levels of Ground Zero (the Memory Foundations), while the hope for the future is symbolised by a 541 m high arrow-shaped tower (One World Trade Center), the highest on the American continent. In 1994 he was elected as a member of the Akademie der Künste (Academy of Arts) in Berlin.
Regardless of how innovative his technical and formally elegant solutions are, his designs always accentuate a highly emotional symbolism. His extremely personal architecture stays true to the historic context of the location. For the MICX in Mons, he came up with a 'dramatic eruption', an urban, clear awakening referring to both the city's economic development and its social and cultural future.
Based in Mons, H2A-Ingénieur Architecte & Associés is an association of architectural engineers, architects and interior designers working on joint projects. Its structure is interdisciplinary and allows its members to gain more and more experience thanks to the diversification of the projects. It is a human, transparent and efficient structure in which the experience of each member is used as a springboard for the evolution of the entire team.
H2A focuses on diversity. From the interior design of small private projects to the implementation and management of large public and industrial projects, the team deliberately takes up challenges of different sizes in all fields of architecture.
The employees of H2A Ingénieur Architecte & Associés are very much aware of the problem of energy overconsumption and have already completed various pilot projects in the field of renewable energy, such as the FOREM INITIALIS Competence and Environment Centre in Mons (2005 Belgian Award for Architecture and Energy), the H&M logistics distribution centre and more recently the Conference Centre in Mons (VALIDEO label - very good). These projects enabled H2A to develop specific competencies in all design stages.
H2A also regularly works with other agencies in order to meet specific expectations requiring sizable multidisciplinary teams, which H2A is nationally and internationally renowned for. The origin of the H2A employees is very diverse (the Ukraine, Poland, the US, etc.). This rich diversity makes it easy for H2A to forge international partnerships.
And finally, H2A has also participated in a number of important projects that have left their mark on the development of Mons and the region: Les Grands-Prés shopping centre, the Forem Initialis training centre, Digital Innovation Valley (Data Centre in Ghlin), the H&M logistics distribution centre and now the Conference Centre.
Business Managers: Pascal DASPREMONT - Engineer and Architect / Nina Myronenko - Architect
The Mons Conference Centre Mons is located in the heart of the Master Plan area and is the counterpart of the new station building along the avenue, which Calatrava has named 'the Mall'. The project's form and orientation far exceed two significant elements of the Master Plan: the building's curved exterior and green roof echo the nature park along the river and the structure's swirling shape opens up the public space and makes it an obvious place to go when leaving the Mall.
The two main ribbons interlock to create a kind of ship taking the complex programmes of the Mons Conference Centre safely to port. The shape of the buildings appears to be inspired on the energy of the activities that will take place there, from conventions to public events, a bustling place of encounters.
The inner ribbon, wrapped in wood, appears to rise from the ground and then reveals the sloping glass wall of the forum.
The upper part of the metal encases the forum and the main auditoriums. This section leads to the cantilever protruding above the pavement as a viewing platform over the city. On the roof, between the ribbons, green roofs and terraces are created at different levels.
The openwork cladding lends the building a light, textured appearance. The bottom of the walls is covered in vertical rough acacia wood slats, a nod to the nearby park. The top of the walls is covered in vertical bands of champagne-coloured anodised aluminium following the curves of the ribbons. Apart from the building's glass corner, the walls present few openings. Slats perpendicular to the windows rotate to allow natural light in and ensure an open view whilst maintaining the integrity of the building's shape. The area surrounding the building is covered in brightly polished concrete with integrated bands of Belgian blue stone. These bands create an irregular pattern that is repeated in the building itself.
Inside, the curved walls of the ribbons offer an ambitious framework for all public spaces by connecting them both horizontally and vertically. The forum is designed as a high open space on two floors. It provides access to the most important public spaces: the reception area on the ground floor, the auditoriums and the Committee rooms on the first floor. Both floors are connected by a monumental staircase and a large platform giving out onto the forum. This design makes the spaces extremely flexible: they can be used separately or together as one large, continuous space. A multi-purpose room completes the project, while at the same time having its own identity and a separate entrance.
The Conference Centre includes:
The Conference Centre is a model example in terms of accessibility and specific access equipment for the disabled (detection loops, sound beacons, route for the visually impaired, flash sirens in the floor, etc.). This equipment was selected in collaboration with the Mons Platform for the Disabled.
As part of the SNCB's master plan, IDEA also studied and funded new access routes for the city as well as the bridge leading to the MICX.
The surrounding area and the footbridge for pedestrians and cyclists are still in the engineering stage and will soon complete the entire project.
The city of Mons wanted an eco design project:
An example in terms of:
Service and maintenance
As the client, the city of Mons drafted special specifications for the public services tender for the operation of the future Mons Conference Centre.
On 14 October 2013 the Mons city council chose Artexis as the concession holder for the Mons Conference Centre.
Under Article 1 of the operation framework agreement between the city and Artexis of 7 May 2014, the execution of this right includes:
From a financial perspective, the city will have a return on investment consisting of a fixed part and a variable part based on the revenue.
Artexis Easyfairs Benelux manages an extensive network of exhibition halls and conference centres at six locations: Ghent (Flanders Expo), Antwerp (Antwerp Expo), Namur (Namur Expo and Namur Palais des Congrès), Mechelen (Nekkerhal) and Mons (MICX).
These centres accommodate trade fairs, seminars, product presentations, conferences, conventions, events, shareholder meetings, other meetings and many other happenings.
Every year, some 400 trade fairs and events attract more than 15,000 exhibitors and 2 million visitors.
This year the Artexis Easyfairs group achieved a turnover of €100 million, thanks to the efforts and enthusiasm of its 380 employees and its activities in fifteen countries.