C-Mine is a distinct and precise answer on how to deal with large-scale abandoned industrial heritage. Since 2005 the city of Genk, being an important partner in the Carbon Belt stretching as far as the Ruhr Area, has been actively redeveloping its recent past. Since its completion in 2010 the old coalmine infrastructure is steadily becoming the new and pivotal cultural infrastructure node for the wider area.
The sheer overpowering scale and the straightforward engineering solutions of the listed power plant have rendered the new operations voluntarily restricted and extremely direct. The added-on cultural infrastructure is fully based on an existing vertical division – a 5-meter high base upon which stand top lit machine rooms. By extending the brick T-shaped base with two new concrete additions, a deep and fascinating ground level comes into being; a labyrinth-like foyer including exhibitions spaces, offices, a café, a restaurant, meeting rooms and accesses to the two new theatres. The natural prolongation of the old into the new at ground level is continued on the first level; there a piano nobile arises on which the two theatre volumes stand informally. The red and white tiling surface, reminiscent of the original (romanticized) flooring laid out by the coalmining company itself, is literally extended to the outside. The tiles, domestic in their scale and industrial in their seemingly infinite repetition, underscore a permissive open air sequence of old and new infrastructural spaces.
Most of the existing turbine halls and machine rooms are left untouched, both spatially and programmatically, ready to be used as surplus space (or not). The two new theatres are conceived as day lit machine rooms, from inside which the old brick infrastructure and the steel towers become the backdrop for a new stage. As a consequence, theatre conventions are challenged through the presence of daylight and real-time panorama. At the entrance a steel volume filters the public from the square into the foyer. From there on the routes are multiple, like in a city.