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The Redingenhof project encompasses the redevelopment of two streets in a residential area and the adjacent school grounds in Leuven. After a call for projects issued by the Flemish authorities to depave more and to set up test beds, the inhabitants themselves took things into their own hands. Together with the school, the city authorities and the design team made up of 51N4E and Plant en Houtgoed, they are working on the greening of the playground, the catchment of rainwater, and the creation of vegetable gardens – and this, over and beyond private and public plot borders. A test set-up in 2019 showed what the direct impact could be of more greenery and biodiversity, and as such bolstered support for a permanent depaving.
It is eight in the morning, and the first residents of Volmolenstraat are already on site with their tools. The municipality closed off the street as part of the summer’s ‘play streets’ programme. The temperature is already 25°C. The objective today is simple and goes further than the mere reservation of the street for a few hours of play: gathered around the temporary arrangement of the street as a greener zone with more plants, neighbours and passers-by are going to test a layout together for the transformation of the space. One of the key moments for the depaving project of Redingenhof supported by 51N4E and Plant en Houtgoed.
To the south of Leuven, five residents and the school have teamed up to depave the playground and part of the street. They have answered a call for subsidies of the Flemish Region. Volmolenstraat, which serves as the setting for this venture, lends itself well to the exercise. Of asymmetrical design, it includes semi-detached houses with a front yard on one side, and three-storey apartment buildings on the other. On the ground, lots of asphalt. The Redingenhof school campus too is mostly paved. By broadening the frontyards, one can easily create a green swale, at once planted and humid. On an urban scale, the project is connected to the area of the Dijle valley, a system of open and permeable spaces, from Arenberg to the garden of the Grote Begijnhof and the Dijle Park.
The Redingenhof project is part of the Ontharding (Depaving) programme launched by the Environment Department of the Flemish authorities. This experimental programme is developing several test set-ups in parallel, grouped in three typologies: the quick-wins (which can be carried out immediately), the systemic projects (which seek to tie depaving to other issues), and the coalition-based projects (which seek to gather and organize actors around depaving). Open to the whole of civil society and not only to professionals, these test set-ups have been developed over a period of three years and monitored by a quality chamber. The number of initiatives and contexts seeks to generate a field of knowledge whose definitive outlines are not yet known and should eventually lead to a policy that seeks to reproduce and increase the number of these operations. Underlying the depaving slogan are more systemic and cross-cutting themes on the management of our urban environments in an altered future climate context (biodiversity, water management, etc.).
Redigenhof is a coalition-based project. Coalitions, alliances and agendas are words we have heard before, and they sometimes seem to belong to the jargon of certain urban-planning practices. And yet the objective in Redingenhof really is to bring the interested parties together, to understand who is ready to accept and build a depaved public space project, and finally to organize these alliances. Based on the demand of the residents’ collective, the offices 51NE4 and Plant en Houtgoed then outline these operations: a method consisting of on-site collaborative actions intended to stimulate the bonds between the public and private actors and to test transformation hypotheses. The actions are of a varied nature: a core sampling to sound out the nature of the ground, the trial layout of the plants on the occasion of the summer ‘play streets’, the construction of a mock-up of the swale on site, etc. Throughout the process, the school served as a home base for the meetings. In the long term, citizens, city and experts aim to carry out the actual ‘depaving’ of part of the street and the school.
Location Leuven, Belgium
Programme Depaving of public space: two streets and a nearby school campus
Involvement architect Stakeholder and process management, coalition-building
Client Samenwerking Ontharding Redingenhof vzw
Partners City of Leuven, Atheneum Redingenhof, local residents, 51N4E, Plant en Houtgoed
Total floor area 1,200 m²