Bocholt KuBAaI

Bocholt is an old textile town. The world-famous blue-and-red chequered tea towels were produced here for over two centuries. Along the river Aa, a small-scale industrial landscape emerged, with its typical shed roofs, brick walls, chimneys and production relics. Despite its central location, the area is virtually unknown to the local population: for decades, the River Aa formed the back of this part of the city. The team of Bureau B+B and SeARCH drew up a long-term vision for the redevelopment of this 35-hectare area between Bocholt’s city centre and the Aa lake. The result is a clear roadmap and design strategy to transform the area into a lively, multifunctional city district, the Kulturquartier.

In the plan, the river regains its central position in the city: the river connects the area with the centre and with the Aa lake. Until recently, however, the river ran hidden behind factories. With paths, decks and bridges, the water has once again been made experienceable. Bicycle routes are connected and footpaths run along the river. The Aa will be widened in several places so the quays no longer overflow at high tide.Nature-friendly riverbanks have been constructed where waterplants and reed purify the water. The rough vegetation emphasises the contrast between industry and ecology; the Aa river will become the lifeline of KuBAaI Bocholt.

The industrial heritage is also awaiting redevelopment. Bureau B+B and SeARCH mapped out the traces of the industrial past and revalued them. The starting point of the design is the preservation of the current raw, industrial atmosphere, the scale of the buildings, the architecture and the spontaneous vegetation. By doing so, the industrial oasis and intimate atmosphere of the area will be retained and, at the same time, made accessible. The narrow streets between the factory complexes, the walls along them, the wild vegetation, the different paving surfaces, and the large gates will remain the image-defining elements for the area. Together with the Aa river, this collection of relics is the starting point for the transformation of the area. Following the streets, new bridges will connect the two banks. The eye-catcher is the ‘podium bridge’, which was inaugurated in 2019. This bridge links the new Textile Museum with new paths, lanes and tracks that make the area accessible and connect the town centre with the Aasee as well as the residential areas around the planning area. The Kulturquartier transforms in three phases:

Phase 1: Opening up

The first phase consists of opening up the area and making it accessible to pedestrians and cyclists. Along the Aa river, paths and places to stay will be created from the town centre to the Aa See. Several bridges will connect the north and south banks.

Phase 2: Activating

After the area has been made accessible, people will be enticed to discover the area. The new Textile Museum will get an attractive terrace. Empty factories provide space for temporary events: a secret garden, a guerrilla café, a skate park, a book and flea market, a concert, a dance festival, an open-air cinema, etc.

Phase 3: Programming

The final phase of the transformation consists of adding a new programme. Old factory buildings can be converted into housing at an early stage. The pioneers who settle here will accelerate the transformation process. More housing will follow, and in the southern part, there is room for culture and education: the expansion of the Textile Museum, a music school and an Eventhall. The northern part is entirely reserved for housing. The building blocks will vary in size so that different housing typologies are possible; urban and suburban, collective and ground-connected, family homes or special housing forms.

The plan by Bureau B+B and SeARCH shows how a rich history and hidden qualities can be a good basis for future developments. The plan is a generator that initiates a gradual transformation with small interventions, convincingly adding new layers to an existing area.

Landscape Architecture: Bureau B+B
Client: City of Bocholt
Location: Bocholt, Germany
Design first phase: 2013-2018
Implementation first phase: 2018-2019
Programme: Master plan, bridges, public space
Size: 35 hectares
In cooperation with: SeARCH, Arup
Images: Ossip van Duivenbode, Bureau B+B

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