Daniel Libeskind designed the MICX in Mons, Belgium

The initiative “European City of Culture” initiated in 1985, proposed by Melina Merkouri at that time Minister of Culture in Greece, it was conceived as a way to bring European citizens closer. The success of the event was such great that, by 2011, the award is bestowed every year to two cities of different EU countries.

The cities chosen each year by the European Union, thanks to the aids of the Community, have the possibility to leverage the event to enhance their cultural life and, consequently, its international visibility with great advantages for tourism as a result. "European Cities of Culture - 2015" were Mons, Belgium, and Pilsen, in the Czech Republic.

For the year in which Mons was the European City of Culture, many events were organized, among others: an important exhibition dedicated to Vincent van Gogh, with visits to the famous artist residences, and the inauguration of five new museums, including the Memorial Mons, representing the history of the region during the two world wars.

However, the most significant work was the building of the Mons International Congress Xperience (MICX), the new Conference Centre designed by Daniel Libeskind.

The municipality of Mons, who commissioned the work, desired that the new Conference Centre would be the new architectural landmark for the entire city, a key element of its economic recovery plan and a bridge between the old and the new.

An ideal project for Libeskind that has always retained that, before developing a new project, the history and the life energy of the “place” must be understood. Therefore, the Polish architect and designer planned for Mons a project inspired by the Haine River: in the past, this was at the base of the economic and commercial flowering of the city and today it seems to challenge the urban development.

Libeskind has thus created something unique for Mons, whose extraordinary façade reminds a huge ship with its bow pointed like an arrow towards the center of the city. Actually, from the viewing platform on the roof of the building, you can see the old town center with the Belfry tower, built in the seventeenth century and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as the new railway station designed by Santiago Calatrava.

The project

The Haine river is symbolically represented by the facade of the Conference Centre, made up of two different parts that Libeskind has interwoven like ribbons, or better, waves that meet catalyzing the light.

The walls are covered with vertical, unrefined black locust wood, staves echoing the trees of the nearby park. In the extremities, the staves are held by anodized aluminum vertical panels that accompany and highlight the curve of the wall. To maintain the visual integrity, the architects faced the windows, open on the lower band, with wooden shutters that can be rotated to get a better lighting. The tape walls provide great flexibility for the organization of the interior spaces.

The entire complex (a total of 12,500 square meters) is surrounded by a polished concrete square divided into lozenges and bands made of Belgian Blue Stone marble that spread also on the inside floor of the building and symbolize the raw material of the region and the concept of sustainability so valued by Libeskind.

The interior spaces are divided into 3 auditoriums with a total of 800 seats, a multifunctional event room, 16 small conference rooms, offices and a restaurant. The bathrooms were designed by another great architect and world famous designer: Starck 3 is a versatile bathroom series designed by Philippe Starck for Duravit. Bowls and washbasin of the series fit perfectly into the design of the conference center.