Uniform village image
The village centre of Roborst (Zwalm), located in the Zwalm valley, is still characterized by the historical coherence of the church square and castle grounds, with nearby motte. The undulating topography makes the location in the landscape very striking. Therefore, it’s also logical that in 1996 and 2001 protections were laid down for monuments such as the castle and coach house, the graveyard wall and entrance pillars, the four lime trees on the church square and the Borstekouterstraat (the characteristic cobblestone road with side verges, church square and cemetery). The castle grounds and village centre have also been a protected village scene since 1996. From early 20th century illustrations, the characteristic village image is clearly visible, built around the church, graveyard wall with entrance pillars, lime trees. The driving lane and gutter are made of hardened (Belgian) cobblestone. This village image has remained highly uniform to this day, with typical 19th-century village buildings next to the castle’s 18th-century service buildings, the fenced-in 19th century mansions and some on the edge of the village centre.
Distortion of the image of the public space
Within this uniform village image, public space is a formative component. The intrinsic value here lies in the shape, the layout and the materials. It’s true that the public space has been repeatedly redesigned over the past hundred years. At the beginning of the twentieth century, only the driving lane had been constructed using hard cobblestones. The space between the driving lane and the building was mostly still bare tamped down ground. Later, the surfacing was extended from façade to façade, without the use of coping stones. In the most recent redevelopment of the village centre, a choice was made for a construction from façade to façade. The materials used were natural stone (driving lane), prefab concrete (gutter) and concrete paving stones (footpaths and square). Owing to a succession of problems with the substructure and the joints, damage occurred and cold asphalt was repeatedly used as a stopgap. The increasing problems with the surfacing led to a decline in the quality of the public space on the one hand and to a potentially unsafe traffic situation on the other. A new reconstruction was needed.
As already indicated, the strong historical image value of the village lies in the coherence of the forming components and the structure of the heart. The public space is there, shaping without intruding on the foreground. With the ‘restoration’ of the public domain, it was important to restore this image-supporting role. This demanded a certain restraint from the designer, but also a clear choice in, for example, the use of materials and road profile. The design of the public space was restricted to a few subtle interventions, such as the repositioning and re-dimensioning of the driving lane in combination with a sustainable and historically correct choice of materials. A recuperation of Belgian porphyry cobblestones was used for the driving lane and gutters. All other surfacing (footpaths, parking spaces, square) have been laid out in a recuperation of Belgian ‘gresplatinnes’. Furthermore, the existing lime trees and the statue of the watercress plucker (referring to the nearby watercress cultivation) are integrated in the whole. The entire graveyard wall is also being taken care of and provided with new masonry, grout and render. After the redevelopment, there will once again be a connection and unity between the public space and the surrounding estate.
The course is ours
Numerous tourist walking and cycling routes call in at Roborst. For example, also some spring classics with the Tour of Flanders in particular. The tour (and many cyclists) again get a nice cobblestone stretch under their wheels. A few bends, a slightly ascending climb to the village square surrounded by rolling countryside with freestanding farms and old trees as spectators at the edges … The cobblestones are there, waiting for the race …
Entrant office name: Urban.Habitat_division of SWECO Belgium nv
Role of the entrant in the project: main contractor
Project location (Street, City, Country): Gemeente Zwalm, Borstekouterstraat, 9630 Zwalm, BELGIUM
Design year: 2011-2015
Year Built: 2016-2017