The site of Tour & Taxis used to be a major transit hub for goods passing through Brussels, housing customs buildings, warehouses, and a large rail yard. This function started to decline in the late 1960s, and today a large portion of the 45-hectare terrain lies vacant. The ambition is to convert the site into a new neighbourhood in the centre of Brussels, with a new park of 12 hectares at its core.
A reading of the territory reveals a specific hydrography around Brussels. The territory isn’t defined by a pronounced topography hence the result is a finely branched hydrography draining rainwater to the river Senne. Although the main river runs underground, its tributaries are still visible. The parks and green spaces of Brussels seem fragmented and dispersed. When superposed with the system of tributary rivers, a new structure is revealed. Almost all of the city’s parks and green spaces are connected to these secondary waterways.
The large parks of Brussels created during the 19th century reinforce and manipulate the topography of these secondary valleys. The combination of parks and green spaces, connected by their tributary rivers, creates a new image revealing the exemplary landscape of the city of Brussels. The site of Tour & Taxis, situated on the west side of the Senne valley, has the potential to be part of this system of tributaries, collecting rainwater between Bockstael square and the canal. The existing terrain, however, has been flattened and compacted with a layer of gravel to facilitate the staging of various events on the site, rendering most of the surface impermeable.
The first step is to scrape off the compacted upper layer and to filter it into its primary components: rough gravel, fine sand, and topsoil. The site is reshaped using these elements, without transporting additional soil from exterior sources. The newly created slopes guide the flow of rainwater to two central zones where the water infiltrates into subsurface retention basins created with the filtered rough gravel.
Subsequently a mix of 3,000 pioneer and 300 slow-growing trees have been planted. The pioneers assure an immediate vegetal presence on the site. Planted on a dense grid, they will act as a visual screen blocking off the view of the surrounding building construction which will commence after the completion of the park. Additionally, they will improve the quality of the soil, levelling the terrain for the slow-growing trees spaced further apart. Once the surrounding constructions have been completed the pioneers will be cleared to create a sequence of views and passages. The repurposing of the site’s existing materials and the phasing of vegetation typologies make this project a true evolutive park.