commercial street in the historic centre, kortrijk
The ultimate aim of remodelling these commercial streets in Kortrijk, Belgium, is to redefine its historic centre. This town, like many others in the Flanders region, has in recent years seen citizens move away to a residential periphery based on the suburban model. The remodelling of its commercial streets is, then, a key factor in an urban revitalization project that looks beyond public space.
The commercial activity of this centre is a vital element in its enhancement, but this driving force of activity cannot be taken apart from other functions that today contribute to forming an urban area complete with facilities, such as the various churches, the Dormitoire museum complex and the Béguinage, Sint-Niklaas hospital, the school of Onze-Lieve-Vrouw Bijstand, the Academy and the green area of Begijnhofpark. Added to these are numerous interventions already carried out by the municipality with a view to reassessing the town centre. These include work on the squares around the Church of Sint-Marin, the underground car park and the remodelling of the theatre square, and the project for the Grote-Markt.
The project exploits the potential of this conjunction to create a synergy between the streets to be remodelled and the town’s other public spaces. It is not a question merely of giving the centre a facelift by remodelling its commercial streets, but of using this operation to give it structure and effect an overall improvement. Although the operation necessarily involves clearing the streets of poorly positioned street furniture and replacing prefabricated 1960s paving now in a dreadful state of repair, it cannot be reduced to a cosmetic operation.
Although traffic may, in differing degrees and intensity, be authorized, the streets in question are to be fundamentally pedestrian. They will be given a sober treatment with the aim of exuding a degree of calm that will serve to highlight the continuity of the various spaces. Rather than the public space itself seeking the limelight, it is what is going on around it that is important. This calls for the use of noble materials that will continue to be freely available and age well, and which also respond appropriately to the functional duality of these streets, making them both convenient for pedestrians and resistant to occasional traffic.