Overleie is a neighborhood with a clear identity which, despite the various areas that it comprises, is readily identifiable within the city of Kortrijk. Located, as the name suggests, across the river in relation to the center, it is a neighborhood halfway between the mostly tertiary uses of the center and the residential character o f the peripheries.
For a long time it was a powerful economic engine thanks to an industry focused on linen that took advantage of the characteristics of the Leie river for its own development. Declining throughout the twentieth century, it has become a part of the city full of large obsolete manufacturing structures, some local commerce with little push and many residential parts.
The transformations that the city center has experienced over the past decades (upgrading of public spaces, renewal of commerce, implementation of creative activities...) have not yet altered Overleie's drowsy status quo. But some recent developments will undoubtedly change the situation.
The implementation of a museum dedicated to the industry that made the neighbourhood a reference, the transformation of some old factories into residential buildings, the public opening of a part of the Guldenspurencollege Campus and, above all, the transformation of the banks of the river Leie into a significant public space, are critical steps for the full recovery of the neighborhood.
Faced with this window of opportunity, one issue became capital: what is the best methodology to channel the momentum of all these changes and articulate a global proposal for Overleie that takes into account the social, economic and cultural factors? And what is the best way for this proposal for the neighborhood to be, at the same time, coherent and flexible in order to allow its realization and evolution over time without being spoilt?
Two mechanisms have been put in place. At first, the creation of a masterplan that would provide an overview. Secondly, a series of workshops through which delve into the provisions of the masterplan for the various areas of the district. In both cases, it was posible to count not only on the intervention of several specialists who contributed their specific expertise in the matters to be considered, but also on the political representatives and the enthusiastic neighbours interested in taking control of their future.
The masterplan, in his usual conception, is not by itself a tool for immediate implementation. The margin of interpretation it offers is too broad to avoid significant conflicts in its application. Both the administration and the promoters need, however, clear rules that allow them to develop the city. The workshops thus become an intermediate instrument between the Masterplan and the Project and provide a mechanism for urban design that leads to proposals that can be implemented with relative agility; proposals defining a solid image of the whole, clear rules for the construction of buildings and a well-defined public space.
A few key Ideas
The quality of public space as a means to achieve other multiple objectives is a common feature of all planned interventions. Its potential as a trigger for phenomena that transcend the public space itself has been demonstrated in operations such as the design of the banks of the Leie river. Now It has to extend its beneficial effects to the whole neighbourhood. Beside her, a few key ideas are behind the various proposals.
Maintaining the identity is one of them.
It's about consolidating a mainly residential neighborhood, with proximity businesses serving the citizens that live there and with a small percentage of urban commerce at strategic points of the communication nodes which interlink the territory. Some offices are also planned, while one of the old factory structures is dedicated to a textile museum, decanting the neighborhood- city relationship towards the neighborhood without forgetting the urban values that can contribute to its revival.
424 new housing units are foreseen to respond to the currently existing social diversity in the neighborhood, planned in such a way that the various types of users are combined in the various expected developments. These new homes consolidate existing residential structures and expand the types available in the new spaces that are at stake, so that in the "new Oveleie" houses, apartments and more complex forms of residence are created.
This new construction runs parallel to the restoration of the ancient dwellings for workers (beluiks) and the rupture of their isolation in order to create entities that are integrated in the rest of the urban fabric.
Permeability is another one of the key ideas.
Overleie is, by definition, beside the Leie river. This grants it a privileged position that no other parts of the city can have. But it is necessary that this advantage does not result only for the benefit of those in the front line but has also a positive impact on those who are farther away. Hence a series of public spaces perpendicular to the river that underpin this permeability and fragment the current big building blocks.
The consequences of all this on the morphology of the urban fabric are clear and are complemented by the opening of new axis and paths that facilitate the permeability from the core of the district, the Sint-Amands square, to the most remote of its parts. Thus, built blocks become more porous and friendly.
These new itineraries are related to mobility in the neighborhood -understood not only as a vehicle itinerary but also as accessible routes for pedestrians- which affects mainly the streets. They are today not only of poor spatial quality but also undifferentiated -all have a similar treatment. It is necessary to understand the value that streets have as a public space, establish a hierarchy among them and adapt them to the various roles they play in the urban fabric.
The set of proposals emanating from these principles and developed along the workshops are not yet a final proposal as they are not yet projects; they are proposals to remove ambiguities, prefigure one clear city pattern and allow flexible development that suits the resources available and the conditions imposed by the passage of time.