Office / Architect
Nu Architectuuratelier / Armand Eeckels, Halewijn Lievens
Architectenbureau L-GROEP cvba / Philippe Micheels

Genk / Belgium
The Exploration Trail, is the winning project for the design of an underground expedition within the reconversion of the old mine-
complex. It is a low tech experience tour under and above the ground, made by linking some existing subterranean mine-industry constructions with new structures and tunnels.
The old ventilation shaft of the mine is the starting point. In this shaft some new, cultural elements are implemented and organised in order to create new relations with the public square above the ground and to introduce the aspect of creativity into these rough, harsh and functional spaces. In this way visitors are guided along a range of different disorienting spaces, passing instrument-like installations such as 5 hanging cones holding with audio-visual expressing 5 stories on the social context of the mines, a sound-machine, a panorama, showing the fascinating development of the landscape. The final episode of the trail is the climbing of the highest shaft-
tower of Belgium. This climb is made by three different types of staircases: the first one is a monumental double helix, as an extension of the underground concrete structure: heavy and stacked. Secondly the hanging stairs, giving back the function and soul of the tripod- tower and finally, on top the cantilevered staircase, a adventurous turn in the sky to reach the top.
The old and new do not clash because they use the same language of the metal architecture that expresses, beyond its use, the logic of construction. Although emptied of its history and repurposed, the site’s essence has been captured and the project arouses feelings in the user, shared by miners and visitors alike. The idea of creating a new function for this historical site is the most important aspect of our sustainable vision on the project.
Surface: 2350 m2

helix staircase ©Stijn Bollaert
hanging cones in ventilation shaft ©Stijn Bollaert
echo space ©Stijn Bollaert
hanging stairs ©Stijn Bollaert
pentagon tunnel ©Stijn Bollaert
a new element on the square and the new staircases in the back ©Stijn Bollaert
floor plan -1 ©NU architectuuratelier
section aa ©NU architectuuratelier