Title: A stop on the line
Landscape Architecture: 100Landschaftsarchitektur / Thilo Folkerts in cooperation with studio basta
Location: Kortrijk-Rollegem, Belgium,
Copyright photographs, drawings and text: (c) Thilo Folkerts
In 2011 the Westflanders’ intercommunal association Leiedal launched the initiative Lelijke Plekjes (Ugly Spots) to revalidate the public spaces of the affiliated communities and to transform the ‘ugliest spots in the region into visual draws in a creative manner’. The Rollegem site was selected as one of ten project sites for long term designers’ interventions. As of 2012 the project “A Stop on the Line”, recommended for realization by the competition jury, is the first project to have been build.
Until a few decades ago even the most rural parts of Flanders were serviced by a regional train and tram network – the buurt spoorwegen. After its demise, the network is now being transformed into bicycle and leisure paths. The linear remnants of the train tracks that are reused in the new transport and leisure network quite often lack references to the former context. As a consequence ‘strange’ places appear that seem to have no story to them. The Lelijke Plekjes initiative gives the opportunity to clarify and communicate the historic background of these sites and to add a narrative vein to the current achievement of newly reconnected municipalities and landscapes.
The area around the Rollegem youth centre was recently upgraded functionally. A new access road to the rear facing parking garages of adjacent houses was constructed, including a sidewalk that connects the zigzagging forms of the garages and garden walls with dark asphalt. Between this access area and the youth centre runs a bicycle and pedestrian path – in the same simple asphalt surface. A number of intermediate green areas are kept as extensive meadows. The situation is characterized one the one hand by the meeting of a clear (linear) layout where the path follows the former tram line and on the other hand by a diffuse and unclear situation where old and former paths meet and run off into many directions. It seems as if the place has lost its story, its plot line. The thread is loose.
The project aims to refocus the site along the theme of station; of meeting, coming together, communicating and exchanging. In this, the youth centre has an opportunity to expand its activities toward the outside and to gain a place, platform and screen to communicate to the public. Along the linear structure of the bicycle path, the youth becomes something like a station. Set between the bicycle path and the access road, a new ‘platform’ brings together the two surfaces that before were nonsensically separated by a narrow strip of ruderal vegetation. The paths become a square. More importantly, however, the platform abstractly re-enacts the situation of the former tram stop. Essentially only a simple volume, it becomes a socially functional element in public space. The platform, set at seating height, can be used for sitting or as a stage. Incorporating the existing streetlights and signs, and rearranging the hedges next to the youth centre’s entrance the project simply creates a newly cohesive context from pre-existing elements. After construction of the platform the path has now officially been fitted with street signs reading Tramstatie Pad.