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.
EXPERIENCE ON THE WATER
On the Kapucijnenvoer today, it’s all about enjoying views on the water again. The reconstruction has restored a historical element that refers to the urban and economic development of Leuven. The opened Voer has been shifted to the western line of façades. The relief difference was accommodated by creating a quay, which functions as a residential balcony for the row of houses. The upper and lower quays provide additional experiential value. Along the Voer, a central green park zone has been constructed under a gentle incline. For this, a small area has been removed from the traffic lane. At both ends, some intimate spots have been added under a few massive trees. A mineral space rounds off the tops. In the north, this space forms the transition to a narrower inner-city profile of the road.
A BEAUTIFUL ENTRANCE FOR LEUVEN
Moving the Voer from a tunnel beneath the roadway to an open position on the east side creates more experience in the quiet part of this wide space. The roadway has been moved to one side and on the side of the old slaughterhouse there is a wide walking and cycling lane. This creates an important link for vulnerable traffic. Along the water, a clear bicycle axis now runs from the city centre towards Arenberg Castle. The slightly deeper location of the waterfront creates a natural distance with the busy two lane road.
The technical difficulty of the project manifested itself mainly in the substructure. The alluvial subsoil appeared to be sensitive to settling and beneath the less permeable upper layers with peat, the water bearing gravel layers were under tension. It took a lot of thinking to find a sustainable, technically and economically feasible solution for this. The quays are constructed of brick masonry, topped in Belgian bluestone and with a simple steel railing. The squares at the top are laid out in black basalt in mosaic format.
The project involved the City of Leuven, Aquafin, the Flemish Environment Agency (Water department) and the Roads and Traffic Agency. The sometimes conflicting wishes of all parties were combined in one coherent proposal. Much attention was paid to the participation of clients and other stakeholders such as De Lijn. Where possible, the social preconditions were anticipated, such as accessibility, phasing and nuisance limitation.
Entrant office name: Urban.Habitat_division of SWECO Belgium nv
Role of the entrant in the project: main contractor
Project location (Street, City, Country): Stad Leuven, Kapucijnenvoer, 3000 Leuven, BELGIUM
Design year: 2008-2010
Year Built: 2011-2016