The Tuinen van Stene (Gardens of Stene) forms one of the most important new parks in Ostend: a multifunctional agricultural park that provides space for urban agriculture, water storage, nature development and recreational co-use. The project led to the uprise of a new public culture in Ostend, focused on renewed socio-economic and cultural relationships between city and landscape.
For a long time, the Tuinen van Stene were a forgotten landscape. The unique landscape consisting of small-scale grasslands, watercourses and micro-reliefs had long been hidden between shops on the adjacent main road, the large-scale polders, the polder village of Stene and the 20th century urban expansions of Ostend. A superposition of landscape and urban fragments that bore no relation to each other. With this project, the city of Ostend wanted to give the area a new meaning.
The idea for the Tuinen van Stene was formed in the Masterplan Groen Lint: a 35km cycle route around Ostend as a new suburban public space, activating a series of productive landscape parks. This idea was further elaborated within a pilot project in which both the programmatic and spatial preconditions were defined. In concrete terms, this led to the design and realization of the four components defining Tuinen van Stene: the Polder Garden, the Water Meadow, the Field and the Food Platform.
A shared design approach is what unites these four components; throughout the entire design one can detect a set of punctual interventions. On the one hand this approach reinforces existing characteristics of the landscape, and on the other minimal elements add to landscape and its functionality and use. These elements are precisely positioned and the design and materiality contributes to the experience of the surrounding landscape and enables a certain degree of flexibility of interpretation and use.
The Polder Garden and the Field were developed on the higher grounds in the area. They form a semi-public space in which planting beds are located on which vegetables are grown through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). At the head of the crop fields, linear strips with picnic tables, concrete workbenches, bike stands, wheelbarrows, etc. facilitate the use of the crop fields. As part of the Polder Garden, the community garden has a more socio-educational aspect to it. The Polder Garden is surrounded by a new moat structure, which forms a transition between public and semi-public space and increases the water-storage capacity of the site. A pipeline for rainwater is planned, which can be used to ‘harvest’ urban rainwater and top up the canals in dry periods.
The Water Meadow is located on the lower grounds in the area, which are surrounded by canals whose banks have been softened. This is in function of increasing the water storage capacity and the ecological potential. Barrages in the canal structures make it easier to control the water level in the area. Little lanes have been restored in some meadows. This micro-relief contributes to the creation of wet-dry gradients, which offers potential for a biodiverse grassland development. The grasslands are ecologically grazed by sheep. An informal walking route is planned through the water meadow landscape. The walking route is also accessible to agricultural vehicles which, via a new bridge over the ditch, can enter the area.
The Groen Lint (Green Ribbon) forms a public space at the edge of the area, which strengthens the spatial and functional relationships between Tuinen van Stene and the context. Along the cycle route, punctual interventions contribute to the experience of the site. A platform, made of wood and concrete, offers a resting point along the route with a view of the lower-lying grassland and the lanes. A pergola, made of steel and planted with climbing fruit, serves as a meeting place and outdoor classroom for the students of the adjacent secondary school. Wooden balustrades with white slats are a recurring element throughout the entire project. They form beacons in the open landscape and guide the recreational user through the area.
The impact of Tuinen van Stene can not be overstated. Not only has the City of Ostend developed a new park typology, the project is also a catalyst for new dynamics. Farms are being redeveloped around the site and, on the scale of the city, the food strategy that has been drawn up contributes to a new relationship between the city and the surrounding countryside.
Other landscape architecture offices involved in the design of landscape: ADR architectes Georges Descombes
Project location : Steensedijk 121, 8400 Oostende (Belgium)
Design year: 2016 – 2017
Year Built: 2018-2019Entrant name: Tractebel