Bringing the parking spaces on the Grote Markt in Vilvoorde underground created an opportunity to think about a new role and identity for the heart of the city. This now vacant space, surrounded by the town hall, the municipal library and various catering establishments, had the potential to once again become the meeting place of the city. The renovated square was festively opened at the beginning of 2019 as a result of winning a design competition in 2015.
Because of its location, fully within the historical centre, the Grote Markt is the heart within the network of squares and shopping streets. With the location of an underground car park in two storeys (200 spaces), the Grote Markt is the first impression of the city for visitors. As a result, an upgrade was necessary. The renewed Grote Markt transformed from a public car park into one large car-free events square, with intimacy at the edges created with benches, new trees, bicycle sheds and terraces. The centrepiece is a water playground within the pavement in front of the neoclassical town hall. This creates attractivity and a certain distinction and cosiness at times when no major events are taking place. On the north side where the former Cloth Hall used to be located, a contemporary city canopy was constructed, matching the surrounding buildings with its roof shape and colour. The canopy creates a better frame for the square, forms a nice transition between the main shopping street (Leuvensestraat) and the Grote Markt, and is also a covered utility area, which offers numerous possibilities for events.
The design aims for a homogeneous and quiet square space with a subtle distinction between a light-coloured frame in natural stone strips and a central space in large natural stone tiles. By making clever use of the existing differences in level, long (sitting) steps are located on the west side with a view towards the town hall. The difference in height also made it possible to provide new large trees on the square for a natural filtering of sunlight. These trees are placed in continuous long tree bunkers on the roof of the underground parking. There have always been trees on the Grote Markt so it was important to keep this quality, even with the underground construction.
In close collaboration with the French lighting architect Roland Jéol, the Grote Markt and the surrounding façades and monuments have been included in a specific lighting design. The lighting is mainly based on atmospheric lighting that illuminates the courtyard, the gargoyles, the canopy and the patrimony. The choice was made to provide all the lighting on the façades or in the pavement of the square, so that no additional barriers are present on the square. The city canopy is illuminated by indirect lighting of the ceiling, which increases the readability of the volume and accentuates the floating aspect of the roof.
Name of the project: Grote Markt Vilvoorde
Other designers involved in the design of landscape: D+A Consult, Atelier Roland Jéol, Util, OM/AR architecten
Project location: Grote Markt in the city Vilvoorde – Belgium
Design year: 2015
Year Built: 2019