‘De Kaaien’ is an urban design project for the conceptual integration and redesign of the waterfronts of the city of Aalst, Belgium. The river Dender runs along Aalst’s medieval city, its industrial districts, and some of the city’s parks and ecological reserves. As new projects emerge with considerable speed, the city has asked ORG SQUARED to design a unifying framework for an elegant, resilient, and coherent urban waterfront for a stretch of 3 km.
Last weekend the city proposed the plans to the public. For the occasion a large model of the masterplan was animated with a light mapping installation
The team created a set of rules to guide the transition of this former industrial area, and define a new urban identity to express the city’s renewed relationship with the river. The toolbox developed by ORG2 includes a spatial framework, as well as financial and legal instruments. Together they create a innovative and powerful model for public-private collaboration, that ultimately will lead to the creation of a new mixed-use, high level urban environment.
The masterplan proposes a clear and continuous structure of public space, green river banks and esplanades . An alternating sequence of pockets, squares and parks sets the stage for the new developments, opening up views on the river and linking different neighborhoods. On the quays and squares, car traffic is limited to create a large pedestrian area. Two new pedestrian bridges connect the left and right bank of the river.
The characteristic existing warehouses and industrial structures -preserved where possible- provide a template for the new additions. This coherent architectural language gives a unique identity and expression to the Dender Area. At strategic locations, modest high rise is allowed. These landmark buildings introduce a new typology in the low rise city, and anchor the urban waterfront in the river valley.
Over the next 20 years, some 2.000 new homes and 20.000m² of retail space can be built within the framework, along with all necessary public amenities, schools, sports facilities, cultural venues…etc The project proposed by ORG Squared describes the critical qualities and conditions for this long term development, while leaving sufficient flexibility to anticipate future demographic, economic and political changes.