The Dutch-Belgian team DELVA Landscape Architects – plusofficearchitects have been selected to produce the development plan that forms the basis for further development of the area around Heulebeek and Leiemeersen, an area that borders the edges of the city centre of Kuurne, Belgium. Together with the municipality and the Leiedal community the designers are looking at the possible development of the 35 ha area. The design will not only involve designers but also local residents and key stakeholders in the development of the vision through a number of workshops and participation events.
The Vlas park concept that DELVA – plusoffice are proposing, combines the open space – where there is room for nature development and agricultural activities – with recreation, history and ecological principles. Kuurne is historically connected with the water, although this is currently not visible or readable. Through reopening views and creating new visual relationships Kuurne will once again lie on the Leie river.
The chief ambition is the realisation of an attractive village ring that connects Kuurne with its valuable open space. Landscape structures form the contextual basis for the landscape plan. By identifying promising places to create access to the currently inaccessible terrain a physical connection can be made between the village and its landscape, between the landscape park and its larger surroundings. The municipality has bought some areas of ground for this purpose and will investigate what else is possible.
There is also a future for the four built-up clusters that are located in the area. Three of these were built during the time of the flax industry and still have a spatial relationship with the open fields. A fourth cluster is concentrated around the historic farmhouse. For each cluster a vision will be created on three levels of scale. Firstly, we will look at the position of each cluster in relation to the each other, the surrounding space and the proximity of other functions and routes. On this scale, the development plan gives a thematic layout to each cluster and the rolls that they can play within the centre. The second scale looks at the internal structure of each cluster, the manner in which the buildings are joined together, the building-DNA as it were. Each of the clusters is indeed differently organised and it is often a benefit to continue this organisation when you are considering redevelopment, demolition or new-build. Finally, on the scale of the individual buildings, the development plan formulates a series of principles on how to deal with the existing volumes.
The landscape context is special in nature. The stream valley and its estuary and an open field that exudes heritage, and all this against the southerly village edge of Kuurne. A classic village park in this place could be a medium for answering a number of questions. This suggestion goes further, much further. The different current assignments of water, ecology, recreation, social sustainability and heritage will result in a working landscape park. An area where water will be purified, where there is room for spontaneous interpretations such as events and where recreation is in the DNA of the park. In short; the Blue Lung of Kuurne.