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Image before the intervention. At the end of the tunnel closest to the Gare du Midi, just opposite the church of Notre Dame de la Chapelle, a small triangular square sown with grass, some shrubs and a row of poplars was created. Until quite recently the space, lacking any kind of specific quality and hidden by the density of the traffic around it, was only used for walking the local dogs.

BEFORE

images  (11)

AFTER
 

description

previous state

In the 1930s a railway connection was built in the centre of Brussels between the Gare du Nord and the Gare du Midi. Although most of the three and a half kilometre route is covered by a concrete platform, the railway line, which involved demolishing a large number of buildings and public spaces, was a traumatic gutting of the historic fabric of the city. At the end of the tunnel closest to the Gare du Midi, just opposite the church of Notre Dame de la Chapelle, a small triangular square sown with grass, some shrubs and a row of poplars was created. Until quite recently the space, lacking any kind of specific quality and hidden by the density of the traffic around it, was only used for walking the local dogs.

aim of the intervention

In the summer of 2003, the Recyclart collective, a non-profit group with its headquarters in the district, offered to act as an intermediary between the public administration and various groups of local young people who were asking for the creation of a public space of a sporting nature. Among the young people was the BRUSK [Brussels skateboarders] collective, who asked for assistance from Recyclart to promote initiatives in favour of skateboarding. In a few months, the municipal department in charge of the environment convened an ideas competition among students from architecture and landscape design schools. The winning project outlined a participatory process open to local residents with the technical advice of an architecture studio specialising in the creation of theatrical and exhibition spaces.

description

The intervention lays out flat, smooth and hard concrete paving suitable for skateboarding on most of the triangular square. Before reaching the south-western end of the platform, the paving folds to form a tangential surface area which creates large concavities optimal for skateboarding. In order to avoid overloading the platform with rubble, the ground was reshaped with shuttering that leaves an empty space between the structural base and the concave surface areas. The shuttering is made of large blocks of high density polystyrene, carved according to the capricious geometry of the surface area. The raised zone ends on a long, narrow terrace which overlooks the railway lines, now above ground. Here a large transparent screen made of mesh and metal profiles protects any stray skaters from a possible fall onto the lines. Moreover the screen is the only lighting support for the whole square. A series of circular parterres with wooden benches relieve the hardness of the space and keep visitors away from the skateboarders' route. A large forty-five degree slope sewn with grass and acacias muffles the noise of the surrounding traffic.

assessment

Although it does not reduce the traffic that isolates and hides the square, the action manages to bring new life to the space and connect it to the rest of the district. The physical and spatial disconnection is not re-established but saved by means of a very simple strategy. Equipping the space with a use as specific as skateboarding makes it attractive to a segment of the population who practice it enthusiastically. That intensive, specific use turns the square into a particular place, loading it with meaning and making it a focus of interest for everyone who wants to enjoy skateboarding, whether taking part or just watching.

David Bravo Bordas, architect

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technical sheet

CITY: Brussels (145,000 inhabitants)

COUNTRY: Belgium

BEGINNING OF THE PROJECT: 2003

BEGINNING OF WORK: 2003

END OF WORK: 2005

AREA: 2,251 m2

COST: 1,020,000 €

credits

DEVELOPER:

Institut Bruxellois pour la Gestion de l’Environnement

AUTHORS:

L'ESCAUT