Ontwerpbureau Pauwels BVBA

Belgium / www.pauwelsontwerp.be

Michel Pauwels

Michel Pauwels received his Master in Landscape Architecture magna cum laude from the Horteco Vilvoorde in 1978. He completed his aggregation studies in 1980 (group T-Louvain) and obtained a degree Urban Planning at Sint-Lucas (Brussels) in 1982. After a five year teaching career, he decided to start his own design firm.

Michel Pauwels founded Ontwerpbureau Pauwels bvba in 1985. The firm is based in Louvain, Belgium, Mercatorpad 5. Today, Ontwerpbureau Pauwels bvba can rely on an enthusiastic, dynamic and dedicated team comprising 7 landscape architects/town planners, a graphic designer, a hydrologist and an administrative assistant.

Managing Director Michel Pauwels together with his right-hand, Heidi Heijens, and their team opt for a wide inclusive approach in their landscape design projects. The basic principle being the integration of the project in the scenic context with respect for the harmony between image, meaning (symbolism) and use. Functionality is essential but always associated with refreshing originality and ecology; sustainability, rational maintenance and price/quality ratio are key words. Through its partnership relations with national and international landscape designers and architectural firms Ontwerpbureau Pauwels bvba avoids in-house navel gazing.

Ontwerpbureau Pauwels bvba stands out for its experience in large-scale and complex projects requiring a wide team approach, its excellent cooperation with government administrations, its accuracy and punctuality together with its broad experience in water-related projects (the use of water in all its aspects).

Our philosophy

Irrespective of the type of collaboration, Ontwerpbureau Pauwels’s aim is to develop sustainable projects in partnership with other team members and its customers:
– Starting from the uniqueness of the property and the characteristics of the surrounding landscape;
– Working out a logical and functional concept;
– With sustainable and well defined materials;
– An ecological approach of the water concept: special attention for infiltration, buffering of rainwater on site, whether or not for re-use;
– The use of indigenous plants, the right tree in the right place in terms of location, form, crown size and rational management;
– With attention to affordable and attainable maintenance and management;
– With attention to safe environment (plant height, lighting,…);
– Accordant with ambient and architectural lightning;
– Whenever possible, integrating existing art or working in close collaboration with the artists.




Dijle Delta is an integrated inner-city project. The project developer, the city, the water administrator (VMM) and the two design teams Ontwerpbureau Pauwels and OKRA/ARA form the four pillars of this project. In a constant dialogue they modelled a seemingly inextricable tangle of decaying inner-city industrial sites to one cohesive concept where water, light and space were given full priority. The pearls in the crown of the concept are the two arms of the river Dijle, revealed and reevaluated after years of a hidden life under a thick concrete slab. By carefully combining water and park a pleasant “breathing space” arises within this stony and densely built area. Smooth sloping green banks and a flood zone with water plants offer the river space to overflow periodically.

The design of the park environment covers several areas. The Square “feestzaal” is an open, paved square combining resting space and pedestrian/cyclist push-through. Along the river bank the square transforms in a hanging “theatre” with natural stone steps and built-in wooden benches. On the opposite side of the river, the Square “island” offers a low-traffic zone on top of an underground parking lot. Patio planters with ornamental grasses and multi-stemmed trees form a separation between the public space and the private terraces. The Sluispark was created in close consultation with the residents, who experience this park now as an extension of their home. Walking, hiking and cycling routes divide the space into green fields offering peace, relaxing and adventure. A playground, a nut orchard, green seating plateaus and a water playground with playful spring fountains attract attention. Throughout the summer, the central square with a seating stage is used for various events.


Commissioned by the city and the river manager (VMM), the temporary association Ontwerpbureau Pauwels/Buro voor Vrije Ruimte/Delta Consulting transformed a meaningless, urban green zone in the inner bend of the river Dijle into an attractive and contemporary place to relax.

The design team set itself some important objectives:
– to make the Dijle into a prominent landmark: for too long the river remained invisible 3 m below street level;
– to create a multifunctional public space for all ages;
– to preserve valuable park trees and obtain seasonal experience.

They came up with a park in two levels: the first on street level, the second on water level. The level difference of nearly 3 meters is captured by terrace platforms. Taking the existing trees into consideration, the quay wall was “cut open” at three places to integrate sun orientated wooden terraces that “cascade” down from the street level to the water. The level of the lowest terrace platform is thus calculated that the river can overflow temporarily. The “tension” between the coming and going of the Dijle offers this place an extra dynamic. On the opposite side of the river a hanging terrace gives a completely different perspective over the river. The terrace plateaus form comfortable seats, a few simple wooden benches are included. A walking path interconnects the terraces and makes them accessible for wheelchairs, strollers and disabled persons. The Dijle Terraces, as this park is commonly known since the opening, are in use since spring 2011. They attract a lot of public, not only during sunny days (picnickers, readers, lovers, musicians, canoers and others) but also during high water days as the water floods the lower platform and the well-known Leuven statue of Fiere Margriet seems to float on it.


Referring to the former use of this terrain (a military base) the central, green entrance boulevard has a rigid and geometric (military) shape. It gives access to the various training spaces and the main building. The infrastructure around these buildings is adapted to their use by police- and firefighter trainees. Between the buildings and the ecological walking path, theme gardens are laid out. A winding walking path cuts through successively a berry-, bee-, butterfly- and bog garden. In the joints of the pavement grow flowery plants. Geometric gabions are drawn up, they refer to the military fortifications. The terrain behind this all is conceived as a public, ecological landscape park, furnished according to the principles of harmonious park and green management and the policy document on biodiversity of the Province of Flemish Brabant. An educational trail leads the visitor along and through a variety of biotopes:
– Water and land biotope for amphibians: the rainwater of the PIVO ecological site is buffered in canals and open wadis.
– Bird attracting shrubs and bushes: indigenous trees massifs
– Insect tower: nest, hiding, sleeping and hibernating place for insects, birds, little mammals
– Bee Hall and insect hotel
– Flowery grassland
– Pools: natural water buffers for excess rainwater and water for the fire drills
– Source area/swamp area with wooden walking boards

From the viewing platform, one has a magnificent view over the entire park and the surrounding area.


The new regional hospital rises solitary in the beautiful, almost untouched green valley of the river Maas. The continuation of the existing patchwork of green meadows and arable land, water ditches and canals bordered with (oak) trees in the landscape design, guarantees an optimal integration of the hospital building in the environment.

At the request of the residents, a broad green buffer with a variety of indigenous forest plants has been created to separate the hospital campus and the residential area. The rural side was kept open: the combination of a ring ditch, undulating water features and open wadis form a natural border buffering the rain water for the entire campus. Underground buffer basins collect the rooftop water for re-use within the buildings. Waste water is completely separated. The mobility on campus is hierarchically structured. A double entrance leads to a large oval where the traffic is directed either to the car parks, the emergency service, a kiss-and-ride zone or the bus stop. A separate bicycle path through the campus and the bicycle network of the area interconnect. The car parks for visitors and staff are situated along a green parking boulevard and under the building. Concrete walkways wind through the park zone. The design of this landscape park offers patients a direct contact with nature and aims for a cost-saving maintenance. It is designed as an open, flowery grassland, with loosely planted solitary trees. Prairie planting with multi-stemmed solitary shrubs enliven the patio spaces between the buildings. Specific species in each subspace gives them their own identity. A dense variety of native park trees greens the car parks and screens them visually. Special attention was paid to Art in the Park.


To comply to the new legislation concerning the keeping of large cats, the Royal Society of Zoology Antwerp decides to transform the historic panoramic perk of the donkeys and camels into an attractive, contemporary lion’s kingdom. This fact, together with the important fact that the Antwerp Zoo is situated in a classified 19th-century landscape park, posed a fascinating challenge for the designers.

The lions are not hidden away behind bars, but live in a very natural looking rock ‘gap’, with subtle references to their original habitat, the Kalahari Desert. Using the existing rocky elevation, two water features were designed, an upper and a lower pond. A mountain stream clatters down between them. Retaining walls in natural rocks cover the difference in height. The two overhanging rock walls, 4,5 m high of the gorge are artificial, but integrate completely in the existing historic rock landscape of the adjacent areas. The lions share their new living space with a group of meerkats, who enter the gorge by a sophisticated set of tunnels that all start in their own life space. The gorge opens to the park below and connects to the park’s historical viewing axis. An adventurous, educational path winds around the lion’s gorge. Two elevated viewing terraces and the restored historic panorama bridge offer visitors a varied view of the behaviour of lions and meerkats. The security of the visitors is guaranteed by the (deep) water features, the high inclining cliffs and the distance to the lion’s habitat. The vegetation that is used here is on the one hand typical for a natural rocky landscape. On the other hand, it is closely connected to the surrounding historic park landscape. The existing, valuable dendrological park trees were retained and integrated in the project.

Published on September 6, 2018

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