The Limburg Investment Company (LRM) is developing the old be-MINE mine site, which is 32 hectares in size, in Beringen. The site is being repurposed as a tourist-recreational project. Urban functions such as housing, work, shopping, and catering are interwoven in a balanced way. Not only are new functions accommodated on the former mine sites, but new plans are also being made for the open space around the buildings and the surrounding landscape. This is based on an image quality plan drawn up by Sweco / UAU Collectiv / Buro Landschap. The mine buildings are gradually being put back into use with new functions, and the open space is being redesigned accordingly.
With the image quality plan, we pay tribute to the identity of the place, determined by industrial heritage (where you can feel the mining past and sniff the history), by the new urban functions (tourism, recreation, housing, school, etc.), and the ecological structure that has developed. An important principle here is ‘Designing with nature’. This principle aims at the design of the landscape and environment based on ecological principles, based on a clear and sharp analysis of the soil, climate, hydrology, etc. We would like to take you to the historical ‘Forecourt’, one of the recent realizations of the open space near the historic bathhouse complex.
The former mine sites have a history, and since their closure, they have been neglected. In the last decade, we have begun to appreciate their value as a location for urban activities by repurposing the buildings. The developing nature also creates a unique synergy between history and nature. This combination offers opportunities to preserve the history of mining heritage and embed it in our society. The social life in the city, the interaction between past and present, embedded in a unique ecological landscape context, gives the mine site a meaningful place in our society. The design for the (partial) spaces is based on that social and ecological importance and focuses on a tailor-made range of amenities.
A recent realization is the Forecourt, the space around the old main buildings. Historically, this was an open space that formed the entrance to the site, now used for large events. Therefore, the existing open character is preserved with respect for the different visual axes. The nature that ‘takes over’ the place is strengthened. It does not focus on a ‘gardening’ of the site, but on development opportunities for pioneer vegetation. The typical image of archaeological heritage in a green context is preserved.
At the entrance and terrace of the Mine Museum, the principle is temporarily broken, and room was made for prairie planting. The prairie garden, linked to the two old trumpet trees, forms a colorful oasis and is a strong contrast to the larger natural places on the site where vegetation can simply grow freely. Here, there is a strong focus on a collection of perennial plants with color and special inflorescences in different seasons, plants that are drought-resistant and can take root in the typical barren, rocky ground on the site.
Three paving materials are chosen for the Forecourt. The majority of the square is finished in a fine gravel coating with a hardened sublayer. For this choice, we looked for a material that can withstand heavy traffic (in the context of events) and a material with a soft character in ‘look and feel’ that fits within the concept of natural, spontaneous overgrowth. The gravel (without the hardened layer) is also continued in the areas where no paving is necessary and runs between the trees and the different vegetation strips. This results in a consistent image.
At the location of the Mine Museum and the terrace, a richer material is chosen. Flat stones (granite cobbles with a flat top) ensure good accessibility for everyone, including wheelchair users and people with mobility impairments. On the axis between the Beringen-Mijn Cathedral and the water castle, a slightly elevated Corten steel path crosses the Forecourt to emphasize the main visual axis on the be-MINE site. This elevated path is accessible to everyone. It leads visitors to and from the various functions such as the current Mine Museum, the event location in the former power plant, the swimming pool, climbing wall, etc. Moreover, this Corten steel promenade also connects be-MINE with the adjacent Houtpark.
By choosing Corten steel, the path is not only a functional axis, but is an eye-catcher as well in itself. The use of this Corten steel, referring to the many rusted elements (the ravages of time) in, on, and around the buildings, is also continued in all street furniture.
Landscape Architecture: Sweco Belgium
In collaboration with: UAU collectiv – Buro Landschap
Executed in 2019
Completion year: 2020
Area: 2 ha
Photography: Manu Versluys