Kanal.Playground / Kanal.Brussels

Context

Festival Kanal Play Ground lanceerde in 2013 een oproep naar artistieke en architecturale voorstellen, installaties en provocaties voor de Brusselse kanaalzone, die gerealiseerd of tentoongesteld zouden kunnen worden op het Festival Kanal 2014. COLLECTIVEU zocht naar een globale, verbindende visie voor de kanaalzone en haar omliggende wijken: kanal.brussels.

A discovery

An introduction

  1. The lower areas of the Brussels Region, in the valley of the Senne, are heavily fragmented by large transport infrastructures: the railway tracks, the main roads and the Kanal. These infrastructures edge different districts (neighbourhoods) that have limited interconnections and limited links with the city centre.
     
  2. The “Kanal districts”, with an important number of young inhabitants, all lack qualitative open spaces, public spaces and green spaces. The building blocks have a high density and are often almost completely crammed.
     
  3. The Kanal is more than a mere fracture through the city. It is surrounded by a unique area, with a large amount of open spaces and abandonned industrial sites, creating an ambiguity that is unseen in the urban context of the Brussels Region. This linear and open “Kanal space”, delimiting the densely populated districts, has a large multifunctionality and is therefore perfectly fit for the missing qualitative spaces of the surrounding districts. This currently unused, misused or underused space is sometimes a small area on both sides of the Kanal and sometimes a vast area penetrating deep into the districts. Open air activities, (sub-)local events, greenery, sports facilities, etc. can easily be introduced into the Kanal space, creating a Kanal Playground.
     
  4. The Kanal space is also a Kanal Connector, both in a transverse and longitudinal way. The existing bridges don’t attract people. A critical mass of functions and people is introduced to create Hotspots along the Kanal, each with its own identity related to the different districts. Equally important is the longitudinal connection along the Kanal. Slow traffic paths and a newly introduced boat service connect the different hotspots and districts and even links them with the green outskirts of the Brussels Region.
     
  5. The railway delimiting the Kanal zone can be used as a transport loop, with train stops for every district, interconnecting them and linking them to the surrounding city. Parallel to the Kanal, the Senne space (not always visible as such), plays a similar role, on a smaller scale. It has the potential of creating a green thread from north to south, integrating existing and future green areas. Other locations like squares, wasteland, etc., some of which already under developement, can be turned into a connector.

A vision

The hotspots

Tour & Taxis

Sainctelette

What > a peaceful and quiet space on the water, in contrast with the bustle above.
How > wooden structures next to the water make it possible to quietly read a book or relax after a hard day’s work, in the centre of the fuss at Sainctelette, or even listen to a chamber orchestra, playing its repertoire on temporarily floating platforms.
Why > because of the lock at Porte de Ninove, there is a large difference in height between the water of the Kanal and the adjacent streets. The high and solid quay walls make this space just next to the water to be shut off from the surrounding city in a wonderful and surprising way.

Graaf van Vlaanderen

What > uniting both sides of the Kanal into one walking zone between Porte de Ninove and Sainctelette.
How > a network of intertwining diagonal bridges.
Why > the current hierarchy of the widely used right bank and the undervalued left bank should disappear, making them both benefit their complementarity.

Sluis - Port de Ninove

What > the central hotspot in the Kanal zone, with a public transport transferium, connecting the two boat lines (Brussels Sluis - Halle and Brussels Porte de Ninove - Vilvoorde) with the tram and bus network, in a new context of an urban park, offices, housing and the new MAK. The poetic no man’s land next to the lock should remain ambiguous and can host dance performances, world music concerts, etc.
How > an easy and safe passage in between the different public transport stops.
Why > being the heart of the Kanal zone, this space needs critical mass.

Duchesse de Brabant

What > reduction of the parked cars on the square and in the adjacent streets, so these spaces can be used more intense by the inhabitants.
How > an empty plot nearby can be used as public parking.
Why > the existing pedestrian bridge is both an attraction and a place to reflect, but only for those who find there way through the parked cars.

Abattoir

What > defining sports and playing areas in the hall of the Abattoir.
How > paintings on the floor.
Why > the Abattoir is already used in a diverse way, being a market three days a week, giving place to artwork and accomodating exhibitions and concerts, while a masterplan for the complete site is being concluded. Other nearby areas like Biestebroeck and Port de Ninove will benefit much more from small interventions than this already multifunctional space.

VUB / EHSAL

What > a connection between EHSAL and Port Sud, and between this new creative cluster and the adjacent neighbourhoods (being Molenbeek and Cureghem).
How > a new pedestrian/bicycle bridge over the Kanal, at the entrance of the university on one hand, and a green walkway on both sides of the canal, linking the bridge with the adjacent neighbourhoods on the other hand.
Why > currently there is no interaction between inhabitants of the district and students at EHSAL, next to (or because of) a lack of green public space. By reinventing the currently unused (semi-)private open space, EHSAL is no longer an island in its neigbourhood, but a creative hotspot and a meeting place for inhabitants, students and people passing by.

Biestebroeck

What > rethinking an unused or misused space.
How > small scale interventions cultivating the existing potential qualities of the ambiguous space.
Why > Biestebroeck has the most urgent need for a Playground and a Connector.

Lighthouses as totems. Totems as lighthouses

To intensify its longitudinality, lighthouses will be constructed all along the Kanal. Placed on the intersection of two or more districts (hotspots), they become a symbol for the surrounding districts, and a point of recognition for those who pass by.
Inhabitants of the different districts will participate in the design and construction, making the lighthouse a totem, a symbol representing their identity.

The totems act as orientation points, both longitudinal and transversal, making them lighthouses for the Kanal zone and the surrounding city.

Biestebroeck

Inhabitants of the districts surrounding the Biestebroeck hotspot are in urgent need for green, open and public space, for a Playground. Small scale interventions in the Kanal space cultivate the existing potential qualities of this unused or misused grounds to create a place for human interaction and creativity. Responding to its ambiguity, a great variety of uses is possible. Biestebroeck is the perfect location for a big open air swimming pool. The surrounding quays become a permanent beach and sports area, where a rowing club has its home base. And why not Brussels Beach 2014? Vacant plots serve as local vegetable gardens, green playing areas and meeting spots. The hotspot serves as a Connector to the neighbouring districts and the city centre, providing access to the existing trams and busses, the reopend railway station and the new boat line. The city centre is only a couple of boat stops or a nice walk along the Kanal away, open landscapes emerge after only 5 minutes of biking. Biestebroeck is an extraordinary hotspot along Kanal.Brussels!