Le Freeport Luxembourg

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Artwork by Johanna Grawunder

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Artwork by Vhils

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Le Freeport Luxembourg

Luxembourg | Atelier d’Architecture 3BM3 | 2014

Freeports are designed to conceal. Often built as fortresses with windowless facades and robust materials, freeports work as storage enclaves not subject to taxation or national laws. In the last ten years, new purpose-built freeports have emerged in cities like Singapore, Monaco, Geneva and Beijing. The Le Freeport Luxembourg is the first precedent within this travelling research.

Situated next to the Luxembourg Findal Airport, Le Freeport Luxembourg is a 20,000 square meter duty-free depot for valuable objects. Designed by Geneva based firm, Atelier d’Architecture 3BM3, who also completed the Le Freeport Singapore, the freeport is composed of two stacked masses. The ground floor volume is cladded with vertical precast concrete panels, while the upper volume has a gabion screen filled with locally sourced rocks. It contains a security checkpoint, waiting room, public lobby , showcase rooms, administrative offices, loading dock, rentable storage rooms and mechanical/IT infrastructure.

Le Freeport implements state-of-the-art technology to secure and maintain the ideal thermal environment for the objects. The facility rents out its four levels of store rooms to different clients who manage the arrival and departure of goods. The loading dock is divided into two zones: objects arriving from land and objects arriving from the cargo airport. Each method of arrival has their own inspection space and freight elevators. The storeroom floors remain highly anonymous with limited signage, which are all part of the building’s defensive strategies.  

The front of house has a small semi public interface. The double height lobby features site specific artwork by American designer Johanna Grawunder and Portuguese artist Vhils. The showcase rooms, clad with translucent glass and steel vault doors, serve as the threshold between the public lobby and the private storerooms. Within these rooms, clients can show potential buyers art in a conference or living room like setting. Trades happen here. If purchased, the selected artwork could simply move back into the storeroom. 

There has been a lot of press on contemporary freeports and the corruption that occurs within and around them. From an architectural standpoint, these are fascinating typologies that are sharing space with major airports and train stations. How can freeports engage with the public but still offer clients the security and anonymity they value? Can an enclave be semi-porous? 

Visited: February 28, 2018

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