Five approaches to revitalising the district
The project’s urban design has been developed with reference to five main approaches for the revitalisation of the district, presented below.
1. A landscape-based approach
The project is uses a landscape-based approach that emphasises the Gare du Midi district’s position within the broader geographical setting of the Senne valley, which should be made more visible. The focus is on the north-south axes, emphasising links with the city centre in particular. In this way, the landscape design will help restore coherence and a clear orientation to the area, by contrast with the existing buildings which have tended to disorient passers-by.
2. Public space
The landscaping approach will put public space at the centre of the project design. The Midi district will be reconceptualised as an ‘exchange platform’: an extensive area with integrated facilities, mainly for use by non-motorised transport, forming the key to the district’s overall visibility.
3. Extensive ‘sub-face’ space
Because of the presence of the station, the overhead railway lines and the largely underground intermodal hub, the district is characterised by numerous ‘sub-face’ spaces (under the railway lines and underground) which require sensitive treatment in both urban planning and architectural terms. The project organises the relationship between these different levels, gives careful consideration to the issue of lighting and with the station lobby organises a generous space offering visible and clear links with all modes of transport available in the station. This lobby space enlarges the area of the station towards the present Rue Couverte and helps restore visibility to it by highlighting the mobility function above all else.
4. Urban form
The urban form is conceptualised at two levels, expressed in the high and low skylines. The high skyline links the district at citywide level; the low skyline is about the connection with the street, with ground-floor activities and with the wealth of interrelationships that can be established between the buildings and public space.
5. Two timeframes
The project is divided into two parts corresponding to two operational timeframes (2018/2020 and 2025). The first part consists of the various transformations that can be initiated quickly, helping to bring about a rapid image makeover for the district: the definition of new purposes for the Grand and Petit Quadrilatères (the spaces under the railway lines and under the inner ringroad); Brussels Mobility’s Constitution project (the conversion of the pre-metro into a metro line and the creation of an underground stretch of tramway under Avenue Fonsny); the Victor (Atenor/BPI) and Fonsny (SNCB-NMBS) real estate projects; adjacent public spaces, etc.