Latz + Partner: In former times, there existed a lake in this place, the largest one of a chain of water surfaces. Parts of it were backfilled already in the second half of the 19th century what enabled the Place Saint – Croix in front of the church Saint – Croix and a promenade, being at that time the core of the quarter. In the late thirties of the last century, the other sides of the square were completed with the Foyer Ixellois, a complex of social housing and the National Radio building. Today, after the construction of underground garage and rainwater reservoir, the location of the former promenade is paved with the same material like the new public square. This guarantees both a continuity of material and a visual continuity and strengthens the connections between the square and the promenades along the church and the lakes.
Water features, informally planted tree groups and the choice of the species as well as structure and bluish – grey colour of the surface remind symbolically of the place‘s history and form a link to the neighbouring park and adjacent public spaces (Pessoa Square and Place Sainte – Croix). The “vegetation” is composed of natural and artificial elements – willows and maples connecting to the plants at the lake, willows and chest-nuts to existing green spaces in the north, and the light glass and steel canopy sheltering the tram and bus junction.
The challenge was to integrate the necessary traffic lines circling the square, the roofed tram and bus junction, the entrances to the underground garage and other tech¬nical infrastructure in a way, that the main function of the square as an area mainly for pedestrians, for play and rest of the residents as well as for diverse uses like the weekly fruit and vegetable market, would have absolute priority.
The consistency of the surface made of blue granite, which covers the whole area between the facades, enlarges the place‘s dimensions and gives it a generous spatial impression. Moreover, this consistency seems to soften the difference between the poorer neighbourhood of the immigrants (Portuguese and Moroccan quarters north of the square) and the middle – class side (wealthy residential zones at the southern edge of the lakes). Students of the Architecture School La Cambre and visitors of the Flagey Cultural Centre contribute to the heterogeneity of this quarter south-east of Brussels’ city centre and its cosmopolitan vibrancy.
Considering such a dynamic and diversified social and urban structure, we saw only one solution for the transformation of this site: to create a freely accessible and generously laid out open space with no restriction, which enables and enhances co-existence; to offer a “neutral” surface for the play between solid and transparent as well as permanent and temporary elements; to enable a multifunctional platform which doesn’t limit its visitors to certain uses but motivates them and lets them act unaffectedly; to avoid a thematic characterization of the space by too strong gestures.
Due to the fact that the paved surface of the square and the tarmac surface of adjacent streets belong to the same colour palette, the furniture represents the limiting line: The modular system of the “Flow Bench”* is used at the north-western and south-eastern side to frame the place with swinging rows of wooden seats, with backrests varying in height. They offer a certain protection against the traffic with differently combined components, and the pleasure to enjoy sun or shade where situated under trees. Moreover, by bringing together most different people of different origin the bench has become a symbol for the feeling of together-ness in a European town.
With reference to the place’s history, the fountains embedded into the stone surface represent one of the key elements. Their water provides an additional irregular texture above the homogeneous surface of the square and refreshing coolness on hot summer days.
The liveliness of the new place shows that Flagey’s socio – cultural mosaic has found a space to express itself.
*design Tilman Latz, distributor City Design Italy
Landscape Architecture: Latz + Partner
Team Members: Latz + Partner, D+A Interantional (Brussels), Struct. Engineering architectures: Greisch Liège, Constr. Management: Bagon-BGroup Brussels
Location: Bruxelles, Belgium
Design year: 2005
Year of construction: 2005 -2009
Area: 2,4 hectares
International Awards: Green Good Design 2011 Award,
Concours Construction Acier 2010 (for the tram roof)