C-Mine is a distinct and precise answer to the question as to how to deal with large-scale abandoned industrial heritage. Since 2005, the city of Genk, 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 former coalmine infrastructure has steadily become the pivotal cultural infrastructure node for the wider area.

The sheer overpowering scale and the straightforward engineering solutions of the listed power plant rendered the new operations deliberately restricted and extremely direct. The added cultural infrastructure is based fully on an existing vertical division – a five-metre-high base on which stand top-lit machine rooms. By extending the T-shaped brick base with two new concrete additions, a deep and fascinating ground level comes into being: a labyrinthine foyer including exhibition 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, where a piano nobile emerges on which the two theatre volumes stand informally. The red and white tiling, reminiscent of the original (romanticized) flooring laid out by the coalmining company itself, is literally extended to the outside. Domestic in their scale and industrial in their seemingly infinite repetition, the tiles underscore a permissive open-air sequence of old and new infrastructural spaces.

The existing turbine halls and machine rooms have mostly been left untouched, both spatially and programmatically. They are ready to be used as a surplus space (or not). The two new theatres were conceived as day-lit machine rooms, from inside which the old brick infrastructure and the steel towers become the backdrop for a new stage. In consequence, theatre conventions are challenged through the presence of daylight and a 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.

  • Location

    Winterslag, Genk, Belgium

  • Client

    City of Genk

  • Invited competition


  • Completion


  • 51N4E project team

    Johan Anrys, Freek Persyn, Peter Swinnen, Aglaia De Mulder, Kelly Hendriks, Chris Blackbee, Joost Körver, Lu Zhang, Tine Cooreman, Aline Neirynck, Tom Baelus, Sotiria Kornaropoulou, Bob De Wispelaere, Jan Das, Philippe Nathan

  • 51N4E involvement

    Full process

  • Consultants

    TTAS (theater techniques), Bureau Monumentenzorg (heritage)

  • Structural engineer

    BAS/ Dirk Jaspaert

  • Technical engineer


  • Building physics/acoustics


  • Conservation

    Arat/ Philip Baelus

  • Calculation


  • Construction


  • Construction cost (excl. VAT)

    30.000.000 €

  • Programme

    Theater & Concert Hall, Tourist Centre, Design Museum

  • Site surface

    8.800 m²

  • Built surface

    15.000 m²

  • Photography

    Stijn Bollaert, 51N4E

  • Image credits