Brent Vanheyst

Brent Vanheyst

[RE]CONNECTING. UHasselt (Belgium)

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EAP 2021 Brent Vanheyst

The aim of [RE]CONNECTING is to not only give new economic boosts to outdated industrial areas and introduce sustainable mobility but also, and perhaps even more important, transforming these grey areas into places where nature is integrated and where connections with the surroundings are created. The project outlined in this presentation is conceived as a starting point to rethink urban planning. How can we transform industrial areas? How can we reboost cities? How can we allow growth whilst not taking up more open space? [RE]CONNECTING consists of three design strategies that are implemented on one of the many outdated industrial areas present in Belgian context. These strategies are adding a slow traffic network, integrating green infrastructures, and finally inserting a collective program where people and nature come together.

Houthalen-Helchteren is a city that flourished in the 60s and 70s thanks to local mining activities and the upgrading of the Grote Baan as an important mobility infrastructure. When the mining activities were shut down, the city searched for a new economic boost. The same spot that established a first economic boost was reused in this attempt. The mining waste dump that could have become an ecologically very valuable area was transformed to a plateau of industrial activities. This plateau has now caused numerous challenges for the city. There is a strong lack of social connection with the area, a high traffic pressure due to the lack of a slow traffic network and finally there is an ecological barrier due to spreading the industrial area out from the E314 highway to the city center.

By transforming Center-South into a future-proof area, a third and final boost can be given to Houthalen-Helchteren not only focussing on economic needs but also on social and ecological level.

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