Kardinaal Mercier Square, by OMGEVING landscape architecture urbanism, Jette, Brussels, Belgium. It is necessary to consider function and aesthetics equally when looking at a well-designed project in landscape architecture. Take the city square: The square has always been the apple of its city’s eye. So many activities happen around a square — people hanging out, enjoying, relaxing; a square portrays the vibe of the city. Designing a square involves many challenges. Some sites might focus on a vibrant and playful space or on a new outlook. Others might demand functionality in order to revive urban networks and uplift the city’s image. One such example is Kardinaal Mercier Square, in which the designers stressed the square’s functionality to strengthen the adjacent urban connections.
Kardinaal Mercier Square
The Kardinaal Mercier Square, designed by OMGEVING Landscape Architecture, is located in the center of Jette, one of the greenest of the 19 communities of the Capital Region of Brussels, Belgium. Once a town hall, Jette now houses a police station, a train station, a major tram and bus stop, a church, a library and schools. The square is the center for all of these civic activities, providing a major challenge for the design team. The team had to arrange all of these activities spatially while at the same time separating pedestrian traffic from motorized traffic to ensure easier accessibility.
Balance Between Spatial Organization and Functional Coherency
To improve the public transportation infrastructure, Jette’s train station will be renovated and transformed into a communal hub of the Regional Express Network over the next few years. This will provide for easier accessibility throughout the capital. The emerging demand for better accessibility of the new station and efficient mobility around it gave the incentive to rethink and redesign Jette’s main square.The existing eastern passage under the track was upgraded, while a new western passage has been introduced, allowing passengers to move between the platforms and the square. Tram and bus transportation — another important part of traffic in the area — was reorganized through the design of a joint stop on the southern side of the church. Parking provisions are planned in the center of the square for people who have physical challenges. The design team’s approach toward the area under development is quite appreciable because of its flexibility. Although the motorized traffic has been planned for the center of the square, the direction of the movement of vehicles can be changed at any time without compromising the basics of the design theme.
Organizing the Traffic
The square has been redesigned as a thoroughfare for police, ceremonial vehicles for the church, and the town hall. Lowered stripes at various places were added to allow for the loading and unloading from buses and the maneuver of fire vehicles. In addition to the cluster of parking facilities along the northern side for the residents, short-term parking facilities for cars and other vehicles will soon be introduced.
The Integration of Park and Square
An existing municipal park is seamlessly integrated with the square. Its entrance is marked by broad steps and white, hexagonal kiosks. The contrasting colors and the eye-catching structures rightfully represent the entry and serve the square’s purpose as an informal gathering place or a space for small-scale performances. Although these kiosks are beautiful, the designers could have scored points for energy efficiency if they had integrated photovoltaic cells with the exposed surfaces of the kiosks.
Variations in Paving
Variations in the paving of the square are marked with colors, textures, and patterns. Stripes of darker-colored pavers are designed to give direction toward the police station, church, and library. The charm lies in the fact that these darker-shaded stripes provide a visual demarcation while at the same time changes in hues and textures in the paving create a vibrant space.Although the design might have done justice in solving the traffic problems with the separation of motorized vehicles and the circulation of pedestrians, the use of hard surfaces throughout the square and the limited number of trees might lead to environmental issues. The use of such impervious surfaces not only leads to a rise in temperature but can also be a major cause of stormwater runoff. Instead of a hard surface on the pedestrian walkways, permeable paving could have been used.
The Square: A Meeting Place for All
The square offers space to carry out civic activities and events, such as music festivals, the brocante market, and the Christmas market, bringing in people from throughout Jette and Brussels. The elongated wooden benches entice people to relax and to enjoy the setting while providing a recreation space for school children during lunchtime. Different terraces are designed to allow people to picnic and gather, making it a vibrant space. Overall, this project teaches us how the design of a square can help rebuild the urban network and widen its impact on the city image. For those who are facing problems in balancing the urban connections with the multiple activities of a square, this project can be helpful in generating ideas to solve different sorts of problems. Go to comments
Full Project Credits For Kardinaal Mercier Square
Project Name: Kardinaal Mercier Square Landscape Architecture: OMGEVING Location: Jette, Belgium Budget: € 3,800.000 Date of Construction: 2007-2013 Awards: 1st prize in the international competition Client: Beliris Project Size: 4 hectares Project Team: Luc Wallays, Koen Moelants, Maarten Moers, Peter Swyngedauw Facebook: www.facebook.com/OMGEVING LinkedIN: www.linkedin.com/company/omgeving Website: www.omgeving.be Recommended Reading:
- Becoming an Urban Planner: A Guide to Careers in Planning and Urban Design by Michael Bayer
- Sustainable Urbanism: Urban Design With Nature by Douglas Farrs
Article by Farah Afza Return to HomepagePublished in