Brussels is full of treasures of architecture and history, but there are very few like the Ægidium: built in the early 1900s, this jewel of the Parvis de Saint-Gilles had remained unoccupied for 35 years. It’s going to get a second life now, thanks to Cohabs & Alphastone new project. But what exactly led them to the decision they would revive those 4500m2, and take the Ægidium into the 21st century? Well, we asked Youri Dauber, founder of Cohabs, and here’s what we learned.
A sense of community
This project’s first goal is to develop the sense of community beyond co-living only. In Youri’s own words: “We sensed that it was a project with which we could globalize the dynamics of co-living to other activities and domains in our members’ lives. At the moment, the community aspect of our houses works very well on a private level: our members live together and see each other for dinner or to have a drink. We figured they could also go see an exhibition or a show, or share a desk when they work. We wanted to provide them with an environment that would enable them to build relationships on a private level but also on a professional one!”
Can you imagine? You leave work at the end of the day and get home in under one minute, then you have a choice: you can have a drink with your housemates, you can go see a show, you can go eat at the restaurant… All that in the Ægidium, your home.
The specificities of the Saint-Gilles neighborhood
In Brussels, there are a few great neighborhoods that have gotten very expensive. For now, that’s less the case in Saint-Gilles. It’s a very cosmopolitan area with a large cultural and culinary offer as well as a developed nightlife. While walking the streets of Saint-Gilles, you’ll meet artists, expats, born and raised Saint-Gillois, entrepreneurs… It’s just a big mix, and that’s what makes the neighborhood so special.
This is the dream for a project and philosophy like Cohabs’. “A project like this one in that specific neighborhood is the perfect fit, it’s meant to be” says Youri.
An outstanding architecture
The Ægidium is a pure art nouveau building; it has that soul and energy that you could only find in an old majestic mansion. One look at the high ceilings, gigantic mirrors and oversized staircase will convince you that this place is like no other.
About the building’s architecture, Youri explains: “Carrying out that kind of project between four white walls would make no sense to us. Given the activities and the energy that are going to take place in the Ægidium, the building needed to have an intrinsic energy, which is the case here.”
A local anchorage
Out of the five partners at the head of Cohabs, one grew up in Saint-Gilles and another one lives there now. Lionel Jadot, architect and interior designer, is a born and raised Saint-Gillois and was the one who brought the project to the table, telling the team it was an opportunity they just couldn’t miss. “Lionel got the info that the building was unoccupied and for sale and told us it was absolutely sick, we needed to go have a look” recalls Youri.
About the timeline
The transformation and restoration works should start very soon. They will be phased in order to open step by step, square meter by square meter. The idea would be to open the bar in June, then the co-living in September and the rest of the spaces (co-working space, theater, library, study room …) in the course of 2019. And in the meantime, 3 other Cohabs houses are due to open!
ÆGIDIUM 16 – 18 Parvis de Saint-Gilles, Brussels