MSA Stage 5 School of Architecture

Olivia Bissell (She/Her)

Hi, I’m Olivia, a final year student exploring tectonics, urban planning and contextual design in my thesis project based in the city of Brussels.

I went into this project with an interest in exploring the experience of space and how we as architectural designers can cultivate experience through the consideration of light, materiality, tectonics and dimension. I explore this in a project which investigates the contrast between light and heavy tectonics, both in the technology of the project and the character of the space I have designed.

I also have a strong focus on landscape, in this project I focus on creating now only a building, but a new landscape to support the architecture and gives back to the city.

Context, both historic and social, support the design choices, and I have a keen interest in how architecture can help support the social and political wellbeing of places.

I enjoy testing ideas through a range of mediums, working from sketches, through models and into final architectural drawings. The same methods have seen me through previous projects, and in my final year thesis project, and I hope you enjoy the outcome of what I have been testing this year!

Cultural Archive For the City of Brussels

Cultural Archive For the City of Brussels

This thesis project explores the themes of cultural protection both conceptually and physically in the form of an archive for the city of Brussels.

The theme of protection is symbolised in the heavy floating structures encapsulated within a light ethereal skin. Within the heavy structure is the archive, designed to physically protect the artefacts within, and allow public circulation and enjoyment of the building through adjacent contrasting and ethereal exhibition space. This concept aims to allow for public engagement with the archive, whilst protecting and celebrating the objects and information within.

The building sits as a beacon within the city of Brussels, nestled in an uninhabited node between the diverse and rich districts of Molenbeek and Anderlecht, aiming to engage and connect a diverse population through the landscape it creates as well as the space within.

Anchored on the canal, the building tells the story of the industrial territory’s history, uncovering a forgotten portion of the canal and utilising it within the building to engage and celebrate.

The building tells the story of the city not only through the artefacts held within, but in the architectural experience the user has whilst journeying through the perimeter landscape, and the spaces within.

Introducing the Theme of Protection

protection becomes a driver for the thesis, both programmatically, conceptually, and architecturally.

Developing the Concept

embedding the driver into an architectural form.

Location Plan

location in the context of the city. the industrial territory lies to the east of the city, and the building resides in one of the largest, uninhabited green spaces in the city.

Historic Condition

the building anchors on the canal, the historic condition of the canal becomes a key anchoring.

Site Plan

defining the landscape around the building's footprint.

City Cross Section

Beacon in the City Scape

testing the concept in the backdrop of Brussels.

Site Model

approach to the building through the new landscape.


Elevation Detail

Courtyard Diagram

the historic condition of the canal is utilised in a series of sunken gardens.

Courtyard Birdseye

Views Over the City

the facade pulls back to reveal framed views over the city, relating to the themes of each level of the archive.

Key Ground Plan

Layering and Revealing Views

diagramming the idea of layering solid and heavy, and pinpointing where views can be achieved.

Diagrammatic Floor Plans

Core Diagram

exploring the idea of circulation through the tower, a journey is created.

Section A-A

highlighting direct circulation with access to each floor via lift, and experiential circulation via each level.

Key Section

decoding the programme.

Section B-B

the division of protected archive and public exhibition.

Key Perspective Section

clarity on the concept of heavy objects floating in space, the contrast between the dark, protected archive and the ethereal, exposed social space.

Inside the Box View

Looking Up at the Box View

Motif Lighting

incorporating cultural motifs into the bones of the building, taking influence from the beauty of Islamic architecture and its handling of light.

Cast Core Model

The 'heavy' structural bone of the building.

Lighting Motif

the experiential journey created around the core.

AT Model

decoding the materiality and construction of the tower, exploring cantilever and tectonics.