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Market place Willich – The new living room of the city

The Market place Willich project is an interesting contemporary urban transformation that achieves the revival and reactivation of a market place which has seen better days. The city of Willich is located in the immediate vicinity of the cities of Düsseldorf, Krefeld and Mönchengladbach in North-Rhine Westfalia in Germany. The revaluation of public spaces was the central point of action for inner-city development. A core project for the city center of Willich was the transformation of the market place. Combined with a changed traffic management, the existing functional and design deficiencies were to be eliminated in order to create a new attractive town center with a high quality of stay. The design concept should consider both the technical requirements and the possibilities of the city of Willich. Decisive for the structure of the city center is the unusual, Y-shaped floor plan, which is formed by the axes Bahnstraße, Peterstraße and Kreuzstraße. The streets meet on the market place. The market place is the central square in the district. It is characterized by the heritage protected monumental church of St. Catherine from 1901 on the south side of the square.

The market place is roundabout 35 by 80 meters and surrounded by two to three storey buildings. The space is surrounded on all sides by commercial ground floor uses. In the past there were outdoor dining areas on the square. They were limited by the road and the parking areas. Because of difficult traffic requirements there wasn’t enough outdoor space for all cafes and restaurants. The market place is the space for the weekly market and other events, like the annual heritage festival or other city festivals. The market place with the heritage protected St. Catherine church is the landmark and unique feature of the city of Willich. It represents an important public space for locals and also for tourists. The appearance of the market place at and around the church as well as the traffic requirements doesn’t do its meaning justice. With the redesign of the market place and its adjoining areas, the design draft pursues the intention to create a high-quality public open space that ensures a high level of quality of stay. It’s design meets the demands of multi functionality and the cultural historical value of the adjacent buildings. Like a living room the space should provide space for a variety of uses. The design, developed from the church and the surrounding buildings. The urban space is clearly divided into rest, recreation and action areas. These areas are designed as inlays in a homogenous urban ground of natural stone slabs. They maintain the continuity of the urban space and link them to the surrounding paths. The design goal of the city’s new living room is to create an inviting and distinctive atmosphere, achieved through simple, high-quality design. Generational offers and accessibility are just as much a fundamental idea of planning as flexible usability for example for the weekly market, the heritage festival or other events. The fittings and the furniture were designed especially for the new market place. To strengthen the quality of stay, a meeting place is created in form of a long table along the church. A generously dimensioned table stretches over 12 meters and invites to communicate and linger and foster the interaction between young and old. The central place is kept free for use as a multi functional area. In the south area, a fountain field is created which can be observed from the seating areas but also invites you to experience the water feature. From the pavement the water sometimes leaps out as a spurt sometimes as a spray at different heights. During market and event days as well as in the winter months the water feature can be switched off. Tree plantings are planting as groups of trees in the form of Gleditsia triacanthos ‘Skyline’. Here the visitors can sit in the shadow underneath the trees and enjoy the atmosphere of the new market place. A group as Gleditsia triacanthos ‘Skyline’ trees also emphasize the space of the outdoor gastronomy of the cafes and restaurants and provide an atmosphere to enjoy their drinks. Between the individual tree spots parking spaces for bicycles are provided. The street spaces along the Peters-, Kreuz-, Bahnhof- and Hülsdonkstraße are designed uniformly and have the same surface as the square. The illumination of the plaza takes place with the existing lighting which is mainly reinstalled on the walkways along the buildings. The lighting concept is designed in a way that at night the perception of the space is reversed: the square, during the day generous, bright and a open lounge area, is rather dark at night. The focus of perception as well as of use shifts to the peripheral areas. The main features of the square like the seats underneath the trees, the long table and the water feature are indirect illuminated. This provides a pleasant atmosphere during the night.

Photographer: Nikolai Benner Landscapephotographer

Project location: Market place Willich, Hauptstraße 6, 47877 Willich, Germany

Design year: 1. Prize 2015; 2015 – 2019

Year Built: 2019

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