The presence of two emblematic heritage sites within the perimeter of the Sustainable District Contract CQD Abbaye, made up of the Forest Abbey (1105 and LB Dewez 1764) and the Town Hall (JB Dewin 1926-36) attests to the key role played by this fringe of the Brussels territory, where the urbanisation of the valley of the Senne began, but also to the growth of industrialisation at the beginning of the 20th century, which was the catalyst for the rise of the city of Brussels. In the current state of affairs, these major heritage sites do not enter into dialogue with each other and have no relationship with the adjoining public spaces, rendering not only their use by residents difficult but also the position of the neighbourhood within the municipality and the region.
The basic dossier proposes a solution by putting three aspects to the fore to be able to manage the analysis and the project concurrently.
The DRAINAGE BASIN aspect refers to the hydrographic characteristics on which the development of the neighbourhood and valley is based, and the necessary introduction of intervention rationale to tackle the water issue with a unified approach between the upper and lower levels of the municipality. Taking the water into consideration makes a start towards resolving the flooding issues suffered by a great part of the developed environment whilst at the same time aiming to make water a key aspect of the design and planning of the public spaces, giving these gathering places an attractive and recreational dimension.
The MIXED FABRIC aspect recognises the social and functional diversity that characterises this neighbourhood’s successive transformations. This will be reinforced by creating shared facilities (crèche, youth centre) in addition to reorganising communal services close to the Town Hall, whilst at the same time adding to the cultural activities around the Abbey as part of the Feder project. Additionally, there will be actions to support local business (especially by reorganising Rue Vanpé), and at the job centre (Place Saint-Denis) to strengthen the presence of socio-economic activity in the neighbourhood.
Finally the CIVIC CENTRE aspect proposes to resolve the paradoxical situation of a location central to the history of Forest yet on the fringes of the local and regional territory by reorganising the emblematic heritage sites around the perimeter (the Abbey, the Town Hall and Place Saint-Denis) into a sequence of public spaces that highlight the presence and efficiency of the various public transport routes (bus, tram and train) and active mobility as well as the spatial relationship with the neighbouring landscape.
It is by organising themed walks with the residents, keeping a presence within the neighbourhood and arranging workshops with managers of the various communal services as well as regional stakeholders that these challenges inherent to each aspect have been able to be fleshed out.
The operational aspect of the intentions unveiled by this themed approach translates into the implementation of projects to transform the built environment and the public spaces, at the same time as programming socio-economic activities and institutional or citizen initiatives, all of which are underlined by three courses of action (WATER LINES, PERIPHERY OF THE ABBEY AND MIXED NEIGHBOURHOOD), paving the way for an integrated project for the whole neighbourhood and redesign at a local and regional scale.
At the end of the implementation phase of the CQD programme (2015-2018 and 2019-2020 for the completion of the building sites), the section of the Brussels road located between the site of the Abbey (cultural hub) and the Town Hall (administrative hub) will house the tram and bus stops collected around a shared space that puts public transport first and sends car traffic to Boulevard de la Deuxième Armée Britannique. This intervention perfectly places the area formed by the Abbey/Town Hall at the crux of a multi-modal platform that favours active mobility (cyclists and pedestrians) between the upper and lower part of Forest, from Place Saint-Denis to the platforms of the metro station of Forest-Est, moved to the back of the Town Hall.
Within this proposal, the access embankments to the railway network present the perfect opportunity of organising open spaces for use by the neighbourhood, offering a panoramic view across the historical heart of Forest, whilst creating the launch pad for the potential ‘Parc des Deux Rives’, the milestone in creating a connection with the landscape between Uccle and the centre of the Brussels region through active mobility.
The series of public spaces on which the water lines are positioned incorporate water as a central element to land planning. It creates a fluid line between the access to Forest-Est station and the downtown areas, facilitating throughflow in Place St-Denis.
Additionally to intensifying administrative and cultural activities within the perimeters, the reorganisation of public spaces, as proposed by the basic dossier, will increase the user-friendliness and accessibility of the area formed by Place Saint-Denis, the Abbey, the Town Hall and the station of Forest-Est. This will in turn confer the historic nucleus of Forest the status of a true Civic Centre, a central hub of collective activity for the neighbourhood and municipality, and map their relationship with the surroundings and city.