Sweco plans and designs the communities and cities of the future. The results of our work are sustainable buildings, efficient infrastructure and qualitative industry & energy projects. With 14,500 employees in Europe (of which 1.000 in Belgium), we offer our customers the right expertise for every situation.
Urban.Habitat brings together various expertise within Sweco Belgium: spatial planning and design, nature and landscape, traffic and public space, environment and water management. Urban.Habitat ensures that we can tackle complex projects in an integrated way and that everyone finds each other in a project. In urban development and public space design, we have high ambitions in terms of integrated design quality. On one occasion we take on design tasks ourselves, the other time we involve external designers.
Thanks to this way of working, a new culture has developed within our organization. After all, Sweco is a large, multidisciplinary agency. This development brought together a greater variety of knowledge and expertise, but also required a lot of organizational integration. The scaling up of the interdisciplinary study bureau was accompanied by the increasing complexity of the assignments. Cooperation is therefore also the slogan in our teams.
We have shaped integrated, process-based and designing work in interdisciplinary teams that work in all parts of the country under the name Urban.Habitat. Urban.Habitat focuses on projects on the interface between city, landscape and mobility. That division is not a reflection of a sectoral approach for us. In fact, different programs come together in a spatial design process.
For example, we do not view infrastructure projects as purely technical tasks. We are expanding the commitment to solutions for mobility, ecology, landscaping and urban functioning. An urban development project is primarily about creating a quality living environment, but only makes sense if accessibility is also solved, or if it offers an answer to the climate challenges. So everything is connected with each other. This awareness of the strong interaction between city, landscape, mobility, culture and users forms the starting point for all projects where we support our research, design and planning teams.
Sweco Belgium redesigned the main squares and small streets in the centre of the village as a coherent and connected public area. Two squares restore the link with the river. The use of natural stones for all public space creates a unity in perception of the network of pedestrian streets and squares. The uniformity is broken in an informal way by the irregular pattern in the pavement, which has been achieved by using stones of six different sizes. In both squares, only a limited number of strips are paved regularly. They are perpendicular to the square, forming gutters that delineate the remaining few parking places. The main parking facilities have been moved to the entrances of the village. On the central square near the church, the views on the river and the green open space have been restored. To keep the space open, only four trees were planted: three Gleditsia triancanthos ‘Sunburst’, with a small and transparent tree crown and one Morus alba ‘Fruitless’, a tree that is depicted in the town’s coat of arms. A ramp provides the opportunity to relax near the river bank and to approach the water’s surface. In the narrow streets, the pavement goes uninterrupted from door to door, giving the street back to its inhabitants. On another square in the heart of the village, a fountain offers a playful element. The waterjets of the fountain form a right-angled pattern and fill this slightly incised plane with water. The reflection of this surface refers to the mirror in the so-called “Wall of Imagination”, a creation by the Belgian artist Sir Roger Raveel.
Chief author: Sweco Belgium and Christian Kieckens Architects bvba | Other members & Profession: Kristof Van Impe (landscape architect), Thomas Timmermans (engineer), Wim Marquenie (architect), Christian Kieckens (architect) | Project design date: 2005-2008 | Construction completion date: 2008-2009 | Machelen-aan-de-Leie, 9870 Zulte, Oost-Vlaanderen, BELGIUM | 5000 m² | €1.400.000 | Project manager: Grontmij Vlaanderen NV | Construction company: Cochuyt – De Smet | Client (Public Administration, Private Company,..) Gemeente Zulte, Centrumstraat 10, B-9870 Zulte
The vision for the revaluation focused on the Stationsstraat as bearer and backbone of the shopping area. The street, 600m long and 14m wide, was designed as green, urban shopping promenade. Its profile was completely redrawn with levelled square construction from façade to façade for maximum quality of life. The paving is an uneven mixture of 4 shades of granite which was selected carefully in combination with bluestone accents. The focus is on the use, comfort and a powerful image perception by the user.
By placing the utility lines with care, enough space was created for planting trees. This underground space including substrates was provided with the necessary ventilation, irrigation and drainage for optimal growth conditions. An assortment of multi-stemmed, large-sized trees was carefully compiled in close consultation with the greenery department of the city, Daniel Ost (florist) and Kristof Swinnen (landscaper), both originating from Sint-Niklaas. The selection was made based on various aspects: winter green, blossom, leaf shape, autumn colouring, decorative bark, etc. Beside the trees, some sculptured solid Buxuses were made which not only give a strong image, but also guarantee the continuity of green in winter.
Project: Redesign of Stationsstraat | Designers: Sweco Belgium (Kristof Van Impe (landscape architect), Thierry De Wilde (engineer), Guy Bourdet (architect) | Client: City of Sint-Niklaas | Sint-Niklaas, Belgium | 10.000 m² | 2012-2013
The Clementwijk district is being extended with a sustainable green residential area. The district will offer accommodation for 700 dwellings – a mix of different dwelling types for different groups of residents – and a natural and adventurous district park of four hectares. The scenic qualities, a strong canal structure and for the Waasland, typical ‘convex fields’ were structuring factors in the design. Sweco developed a master plan on the basis of sustainable principles. The ambition is to create a residential area with an attractive public space that optimizes living quality of the neighbourhood and its surroundings and at the same time gives an identity and recognition. The slogan for the neighbourhood is green – car free – energy efficient – playful. The starting point for the layout is the preservation of scenic and ecological qualities. In the Clement district, the micro-relief of the ‘convex’ fields and the canal structure form the basic grid for the residential areas. The five developing parties have opted for a mixed allocation of the residential area to the various public and private developers. This results in the district having a variety of buildings and housing.
Water is a key imaging component: water for buffering, water reservoir, circulation … with particularly close attention to play, experience and nature. The district is easily accessed by bike and public transport. The squares in the district are mostly residential spaces with benches, parking for bikes, lighting, and a tree here and there.
Landscape Architecture: Sweco Belgium | Client: City of Sint-Niklaas | Partner: Fris in het Landschap | Sint-Niklaas | 28,62 ha | Design: 2008-2012 | Realisation: 2013-2014
The former Waterschei mining site has been developed as a location for non-environmentally harmful companies in a park-like environment. The unity between the science park and the protected mine buildings is realized by conceiving the whole as a bar code. In the development of the Waterschei business park, the aim on the one hand, was to preserve the most important landscape and ecological qualities – the Stiemerbeek valley and the harshness of the current moorland – on the other hand, the existing imposing mine buildings have been preserved as architectural heritage and placed in visible sightlines. The mining history is brought back in a contemporary way through the use of materials, sightlines, the integration of water surfaces in mining subsidence areas and the choice of indigenous tree species.
Business Park | Waterschei, Genk
The historic Voer, a tributary of the Dijle, has been reopened again after more than a century of being covered. The Kapucijnenvoer is now a pleasant, green place to be. The chaotic traffic situation has been tackled and a safe link has been created in the bicycle axis between the city centre, the students’ sports apartments and the Arenberg Campus.
The Kapucijnenvoer is located on the edge of Leuven city centre, where the Voer used to flow into the city and out into the Dijle. At the beginning of the last century, the river supplied water for the inhabitants and the industry of the city, until it became overgrown and made way for a meagre grass field. The Kapucijnenvoer eventually evolved into an important traffic axis to and from the city centre, owing to its location in the extension of the Boudewijnlaan, a connecting road to the E314. However, its implementation was chaotic and without much appeal. The poor condition of the “Voerkoker” (Voer tunnel) under the eastern roadway was the reason to start thinking about the site. This resulted in a concept for partially reopening the Voer and reconstructing the Kapucijnenvoer.The project combined various objectives: creating a clear traffic situation, making the Voer visible again in the townscape, improving water management and increasing the image value of the Kapucijnenvoer.