The Kiel Park, on the site of the former cemetery of Antwerp, is the only substantial green space in the Kiel district. When BoschSlabbers started planning for the Kielpark in 2003, most of its monumental trees were in bad shape. The park had overgrown, creating a somewhat gloomy, introverted environment. In addition, park infrastructure had also broken down, and facilities no longer met modern requirements. Kielpark might still have been the district’s green lung, but it had definitely stopped being its beating heart.
In 2003, the then Flemish Bouwmeester Bob van Reeth organized an international competition with the aim of upgrading the Kiel district. At the end of December 2003, the jury declared BoschSlabbers and its project partner Cuypers-Q architects, as winners.
– Jury competition Kiel Park, chaired by Flemish Bouwmeester Bob Van Reeth
BoschSlabbers further developed the competition design, in intensive dialogues with the population, youth and senior councils, and the sports associations involved. This provided more insight into specific wishes of future users. In addition, it led to broad support for the plan. As a result, the design has gained many co-owners, all committed to its realization.
A considerable share of the Kielpark is intended for sports activities. However, the park not just there for athletes. It has something to offer to all residents of the Kiel: young and old, athletes and non-athletes, men and women, migrants and native Flemish people. A place that promotes contact and connection.
First, Kiel Park’s main entrance was completely renovated. People literally had to find their way back to the park. The entrance was opened up spatially, which means that upon entering, a long view into the park is offered. This also strengthens the park’s connection to adjacent buildings.
The entrance has been extended towards the renovated playground, which also houses the food pavilion. Together they achieve a very attractive visual effect. It has enhanced the park’s appeal for (grand) parents with young children, for older children, but also for people who just want to sit on the terrace among the foliage.
The park’s visuals are dominated by its lawns and large trees, intersected by gracefully curved paths. They are pleasantly wide and tightly paved. They invite you on a stroll through the park, but are also ideal for skating. Spacious lawns also provide room for outdoor sports and games. On summer days, they are an invitation to barbecue with friends. In short, this green lung exudes life again.
The refound life is not only visible in the park’s increased use, but also in its ecology. The design gives full attention to the park’s ecological value. Parts of the dense vegetation have been preserved, to provide shelter and breeding grounds for songbirds. However, a significant portion of the dense vegetation that made the park opaque has been removed. This allowed light to enter the bottom of the park again, which allowed the development of an interesting herb layer under the trees and shrubs.
Bringing back openness to the Kiel Park offered opportunities for flora and fauna. Now, birds and bees fully enjoy its newly planted trees, its beautifully flowering and fragrant shrubs, its flower bulbs and its varied, flowering herb layer.
The regained openness of the park creates an alternation between light and dark, between sun and shadow, between coolness and heat. It also makes long views possible. As short sightlines alternate with long sightlines, transparency forges the park together. As a result, there is literally more to see in the park, and people feel safer. The park has opened up to its surroundings and a promenade visually connects the park to the new shopping plaza in the district.
Natural playgrounds and the possibility of chance encounters in the park reinforce the district’s informal character. Football, walking, cycling, jogging, rollerblading and playing: anything is possible in the Kielpark. Organized sports take up a large part of the surface. A large playground as well as a café-restaurant ensure that the Kiel Park truly functions as the district’s heart and soul.
Title: Masterplan reconstruction Kiel Park
Location: Antwerp, BE
Size: 14 ha
Client: City of Antwerpen
Cooperation: Cuypers-Q architecten
Duration: 2003 - present
Type: garden design, planting plan, implementation supervision
Image credits: BoschSlabbers
Project code: ZS 03-14