Transparency is the central theme for 'the Circle', the new headquarters of Belgian technology giant Barco. Designed by Jaspers-Eyers Architects, the glass facade and roof systems form a skin around the building's open-plan interior and central atrium space, where daily activities are illuminated with a full 360° of natural light.
"A cylinder shape was chosen in order to make the building the centre point between the surrounding buildings on the campus," says architect John Eyers. "You can create space, but you also have to create openness. The relationship between nature and technology was very important."
Positioned at the centre of the site with corridors linking it to new and surrounding buildings, the Circle, which is 75m across and 25m high, has a total floor area of 32,000m2. In order to achieve a maximum amount of daylight and transparency, the architect chose steel to carry the weight of the structure, together with slender aluminium profile systems for the curtain wall facades.
Giving the facade life and dynamism, the interior functions of the building register against its exterior. For example, the structure above the atrium is realised with a criss-cross rhomboid pattern that appears to float above the minimalist, vertically oriented glazing system.
Strong horizontals to the upper levels provide solar control for the interior, while a grand staircase in the atrium makes itself apparent on the exterior as a dynamic sloping line. Further emphasising interior/exterior connections, a water feature flows from indoors to out, blending the building into the landscape.
Eyers explains that the circular form of the design contributes to the building's social function: "The unique rounded shapes and the internal connections ensure that employees bump into each other more often and create an active ambiance. The oval-shaped 'meeting decks' stand out, appearing to float in the space. Gateways to the fixed core of the building balance the structure and ensure a constant level of activity."
In total, 7,900m2 of glass and aluminium facade systems were installed, in close collaboration between not only the architects and Reynaers Aluminium but also contractor Cordeel aluminium construction experts Belgo Metal. Adding complexity to the design, nearly 3,500m2 of the total facade area was installed with what is known as a 'reversed curtain wall facade'. Basically, the structural element of the wall is positioned to the exterior of the building, with only the narrow trim caps of the curtain wall itself visible to the interior. This type of system greatly improves transparency and outward sightlines in line with the architect's design goals for the Circle.