Kortrijk Weide is positioned at the edge of Kortrijk’s city centre between a bundle of railway tracks, the Lys and the local ring road. The project definition incorporates the history of this unique location to help and define the design. The project site, a former customs warehouse, has been transformed into a dynamic and green meeting point for the citizens of Kortrijk.
For long, Kortrijk Weide was a forlorn spot in close proximity to the city centre. It served as a parking lot and its character was mainly defined by traces from the past. In 2013 the question arose to develop a vision for the site. The historic importance and the spatial references to the past were indicated as crucial elements within this framework. Not to soil traces from the past we decided to deploy a design strategy in which the juxtaposition of elements was vital: old versus new, nature next to artificial elements, greenery opposed to hard surface… This strategy eventually led to the composition of three characteristic spatial elements: the urban belvedere, the ecological park and the railway garden. The urban belvedere plays an important role in opening up the site and connecting the various activities along its edges (swimming pool, warehouse, youth centre, party hall, school…). Since the belvedere serves different audiences it clearly needed to act as a meeting point within the site. The square for events is exactly this, and serves as the heart of the urban belvedere. The square is defined by two materials (re-used cobblestones and concrete), which allows openness and flexibility in use. In an everyday situation this space will serve as a parking lot, but occasionally large and small events can take place. The square is dimensioned in such a way that parking and events can be organized simultaneously in different settings.
The ecological park has become a piece of urban nature along the borders of the Lys. A minimal path structure, executed in a combination of cobblestone and concrete, makes the park fully accessible. Appropriate seating elements (benches, picnic tables and a wooden deck) linked to the path structure provides for pauses in the landscape. The park meadow is the heart of the park. Here, the focus lies on scattered groups of trees, a varied natural undergrowth and gradients from wet to dry. This extensively managed park ensures an increase in biodiversity. The existing canal has been transformed into a proper water garden. By means of a cascade system of small dams, rainwater from the urban belvedere is buffered and slowly drained towards the Lys. The dams offer opportunities for informal water play. The fire pit serves as a pivot in the design and acts as an orientation point between the water garden and the park meadow; a covered pavilion that provides access to the water. Because of the open roof structure, made of wood and concrete, the boundary between inside and outside is minimal, which enhances the experience of both water and park. The balcony and terrace give shape to the transition between the ecological park and the urban belvedere. The balcony offers a clear overview of the park and the Lys. The height difference between the balcony and the park is bridged by means of stairs and a slide. From the staircase, it is possible to walk towards the terrace. The terrace, including the water playground, creates a link between the outdoor space of the swimming pool and the park. By reusing existing cobblestones, an existing concrete slab and a relocated sand pit, an informal space has been created that is open to play and casual encounters.
The railway garden is a sheltered and sunny linear space behind the existing railway shed. This garden is defined by its lush planting and is structured by a kinked path that connects to the railway in a number of places by means of platforms. The stone slab against the shed was retained as a reference to the past and serves as a habitat for the wall lizard. Picnic tables, graffiti walls and a climbing wall accommodates a more recreational use of this zone.
Combined, the urban belvedere, the ecological park and the railway garden define Kortrijk Weide. A new dynamic hotspot close the city centre, where urban life and a more formal use of space go hand in hand with ecology and informal activities.
Architecture offices involved in the design Denis Dujardin
Nelson Mandelaplein 1,
8500 Kortrijk (Belgium)
Design year: 2014 – 2017
Year Built: 2018 – 2019Entrant name: Tractebel