The Stationsstraat is the main shopping street in the centre of Sint-Niklaas and is the central axis between the Grote Markt and the train station. The profile, use of materials and the present green areas of the old site puts the focus on the traffic situation in disadvantage of the quality of life. The big variations in materials in contrast to a heterogeneous patrimony results in a busy and fragmented image. This called for a redesign.
The vision for the revaluation focused on the Stationsstraat as bearer and backbone of the shopping area. The street, 600m long and 14m wide, was designed as green, urban shopping promenade. Its profile was completely redrawn with levelled square construction from façade to façade for maximum quality of life. The paving is an uneven mixture of 4 shades of granite which was selected carefully in combination with bluestone accents. The focus is on the use, comfort and a powerful image perception by the user.
The Stationsstraat was redesigned as a car-free zone tailored to the pedestrian and cyclist. The direction of travel from the Grote Markt to the Stationsplein was maintained. Motorised vehicles are directed in a safe and subtle way. Cyclists can cycle in both directions: in the direction of travel as mixed traffic or against the direction of travel on a clearly indicated bicycle lane. This bicycle lane will be linked with the wide pedestrian zone.
By providing a few automatic bollards, the flexibility of making this street partial or completely car-free is guaranteed.
A complex range of requirements, above-ground as well as underground, were distilled to what seemed a very simple design. A virtually central functional lane contains the parking zone, the loading and unloading zone, green areas, space for existing and new terraces, street furniture, etc. and is the thread through this redesign. Three water features are incorporated in this lane, including one mirror fountain at the level of the Salons of Fine Arts.
By placing the utility lines with care, enough space was created for planting trees. This underground space including substrates was provided with the necessary ventilation, irrigation and drainage for optimal growth conditions.
An assortment of multi-stemmed, large-sized trees was carefully compiled in close consultation with the greenery department of the city, Daniel Ost (florist) and Kristof Swinnen (landscaper), both originating from Sint-Niklaas. The selection was made based on various aspects: winter green, blossom, leaf shape, autumn colouring, decorative bark, etc.
Beside the trees, some sculptured solid Buxuses were made which not only give a strong image, but also guarantee the continuity of green in winter.
The functional lighting gives enough light and provides a sense of security. Moreover, decorative lighting gives the needed atmosphere. This was subtly integrated into a few benches, the terraces and the three water features. The lighting also shows off the quality of the public space both during evenings and nights.
Project: Redesign of Stationsstraat
Location: Sint-Niklaas, Belgium
Designers: Sweco Belgium (Kristof Van Impe (landscape architect), Thierry De Wilde (engineer), Guy Bourdet (architect)
Client: City of Sint-Niklaas
Year of realisation: 2012-2013